Every year, we celebrate the International Day of Action for Academic Integrity, organised by the International Centre for Academic Integrity. This day focuses on raising awareness for academic integrity across the global academic community. Formerly, known as ‘Contract Cheating day’, the name change stems from a community initiative to focus on positive action for academic integrity, rather than more negative connotations of cheating and misconduct.
In a field of growing technological advancements, there is a fundamental need for students, staff, faculty, and academics to champion academic integrity together in their institution and beyond. But where do we start?
It’s helpful to start with understanding what academic integrity is. TESQA defines academic integrity as “The expectation that teachers, students, researchers and all members of the academic community act with: honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibility.” Comparatively, the ICAI definition defines academic integrity as “a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. From these values flow principles of behaviour that enable academic communities to translate ideals into action.”
Often the lion’s share of upholding academic integrity lands on students, who are always reminded to act with integrity when carrying out assignments. Our Academic Integrity course reflects this, offering training for students in how to confidently engage with and show academic integrity in preparation, assignments and university work. However, this definition reinforces that the impetus falls on all stakeholders – including staff and workplace leaders – to instil positive shared values, lead by example and actively show academic integrity.
Values and the Bigger Picture
Upholding academic integrity transcends the requirement to spot signs of cheating within institutions. The values highlighted within the definitions above are integral to a successful academic community which supports each other. Promoting honesty and trust, for example, encourages students not to take shortcuts in assignments, but also protects the reputations of academics and institutions who may unknowingly grade a compromised test. Instilling academic responsibility into students from the outset teaches them to support their personal growth and skill development.
Switching the Mindset on Academic Integrity
Most people who breach academic integrity do not set out to deliberately do so. Misconduct can be a consequence of poor academic practices, taking shortcuts, or simply lack of knowledge. Staff at institutions should acknowledge that students need support to complete academic assignments and should be prepared to step in when they sense that students are at risk of breaching integrity.
Tips to show support to students:
- Offer training to students to adequately prepare them for assessments, such as discussing citation guidelines to avoid unintentional plagiarism
- Encourage an environment where students can actively ask questions
- Make sure assessment guidelines are explicit at your institution and that you’ve studied them yourself. Forewarned is forearmed!
Educators should aspire for students to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and a steadfast commitment to completing work with integrity. However, one should strive to educate first, before (or solely) focusing on detection and prevention. You can discover more about opportunities and potential challenges for educators in the staff-orientated modules of our online Academic Integrity course.
ICAI’S Theme: “Championing Academic Integrity in the Age of AI”
In a world when artificial intelligence and generative technologies are growing in popularity, we find ourselves in a time of uncertainty. Rather than villainising technological advancement, it’s important to have open and honest conversations on how to incorporate tropes of artificial intelligence into the lecture hall. For example, unauthorised inclusion of content generated by Generative AI in an assignment can be considered a breach of academic integrity, but exploring Generative AI tools for specific purposes that align with institutional guidelines (with acknowledgement), can demonstrate innovation whilst maintaining integrity.
Ultimately, artificial intelligence holds an element of mistrust within the academic community. Choose to condemn it, and you lose out on a prime resource. Choosing to respect, trust and consider its merits opens the academic community to a viable and adapted future. For the benefit of the academic community, educating students on responsible use of artificial intelligence is thereby crucial for maintaining academic integrity and research advancement.
Fostering a culture of academic integrity takes a whole community. Improving the culture necessitates a shift to proactive approaches by institutions to recognise that all staff and students are responsible for upholding principles of academic integrity. Equally technologies like artificial intelligence are a key addition to the academic community and should be explored openly within institutions. After all, both students and artificial intelligence will form a part of future industries, fields and research. Instil values of academic integrity early, and the next generation of researchers will be dependable, and show integrity in all areas of their work.
If an academic’s role is to contribute to society, then all of us, students and staff alike, have a moral responsibility to make sure that work and research matters at all levels, and is framed by academic integrity.
Academic Integrity Training
Our Epigeum course, Academic Integrity, recognises that integrity is a community-led process, by offering tailored training modules which cater to both students and to staff and provides guidance on all topics discussed within this article. A new edition of the course is being developed currently, with a range of content which takes into consideration artificial intelligence’s role and challenges in higher education today. To find out more about the course and how it can demonstrate your institution’s commitment to fostering a positive academic community, visit our course page below.