Academic Integrity: Best Practice Principles for Teachers

On 1 December 2021, the ANU introduced the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, Academic Integrity Policy, and Academic Integrity Procedure, together with a suite of supporting documents, to replace the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015. This signals a change of approach from detecting and punishing misconduct, to supporting a culture of academic integrity. This involves educating members of our community about academic integrity while maintaining rigorous processes for detecting and punishing misconduct.

These Best Practice Principles lie outside the formal regulatory structure of Rule/Policy/Procedure, but provide ways of thinking about academic integrity and give guidance on and support the development of best practice. They also give guidance on ways to think about the interpretation of formal documents.

Scope

This set of best practice principles, focused on learning, gives guidance for teachers on embedding academic integrity in course and assessment design. They complement the Academic Integrity Best Practice Principles for Learners, with which all teaching staff should be familiar as they give guidance on what students may or may not do, unless the class outline explicitly justifies a different position for the class. Neither set of principles covers any issues that may arise after an assessment item has been submitted, for example where concerns about potential breaches of academic integrity are raised in relation to a submitted assessment item; these are covered in the Rule, Policy, Procedure, and e-Form.

1. Embedding Academic Integrity

Each community has its own set of values: its own moral code. The core moral code of our academic community is Academic Integrity. It is also foundational to our community’s standing in society. Academic Integrity is binding on all members of our community, regardless of whether that member is staff or student, and regardless of discipline. There is not “student academic integrity”, “staff academic integrity”, “FoR 13: Education academic integrity”, and so on. As such, although we expect to see differences of what constitutes good academic practice across demographics and disciplines, we should not see differences in what constitutes Academic Integrity.

Both as a community and as an educational institution, we need to induct new members into our community by teaching our values, including Academic Integrity. This is consistent with the Vision for Teaching and Learning at the ANU: “Our students are future ready, capable of solving problems not yet imagined to improve their lives, the lives of others and their communities.” It is also consistent with the education practice of ANU being research led: we teach students to think like researchers and to learn scholarly best practice.

Best Practice Principle: We have a responsibility to teach academic integrity to our students, and to nurture their development as ethical scholars. We should not expect more of our students than of ourselves.

Best Practice Principle: Always have the mindset that a primary focus of a teacher is to model and embed academic integrity in their teaching and to educate and support their students in demonstrating academic integrity; the focus should not be to stop cheating.

2: Teaching about Academic Integrity and Scholarly Practice

A core function of our academic community is to educate others. As such, we have a fundamental role in ensuring that all members of our community are educated about academic integrity and scholarly practice.

2.1 Epigeum Academic Integrity Modules

The Academic Integrity Implementation Working Party agreed to adopt the Epigeum Academic Integrity Modules developed by Epigeum (Oxford University Press) as an online component of this education. ANU was a founding member and has a perpetual licence to the Epigeum Academic Integrity modules. Additional online or in-person materials may be prepared by or within Colleges.

Although the modules form a basis for education about academic integrity and scholarly practice, they do not replace either the education and training necessary to embed and contextualise them within individual disciplines or the ongoing embedding of academic integrity. What they do is ensure a common grounding for students regardless of their degree or discipline, which is important given the number of cross-disciplinary and cross-College students at ANU; they also emphasise that the core of academic integrity is not discipline bound.

Staff should be able to discuss the Epigeum Modules with students. A number of Epigeum modules will assist staff with teaching academic integrity skills.

Best Practice Principle: ANU staff should complete the Epigeum Academic Integrity modules so that they are familiar with this foundation given to all ANU students.

2.2 In class

Teaching staff should set cultural norms from the outset of each course. This is not only about designing curriculum and assessment to model, teach, and support academic integrity, but also speaking about it in class, especially in the lead up to the due date for assessment items. It is best practice to also highlight sources of support for students who may need them.

It is essential that teachers embed academic integrity in the design of courses and assessment items.

It is critical that best practice is modelled. As part of this, all teaching materials should follow best practice in academic integrity.

Best Practice Principle: All teaching materials, including lecture notes and lecture slides, should reference the knowledge, ideas, and scholarly output of others where appropriate, following the standard practices of the discipline as students are expected to use them in their assessment. An overarching statement such as “these slides are based on the textbook” without giving specific references is not best practice.

3. Assessment design to support academic integrity

Assessment design plays a key role in supporting student academic integrity. Poorly designed or ambiguous assessment may work against academic integrity. It is important to set cultural norms from the outset, by designing assessment and curriculum to make it clear what is expected.

Although a broad overview of the type and weighting of assessment is given in the University Handbook at programsandcourses.anu.edu.au, the design of that assessment is the responsibility of the course convener, and the implementation of that assessment the responsibility of the teaching staff and students.

We should not be prescriptive about the design of assessment, but should encourage best practice and its dissemination relating to assessment design to support academic integrity. An example of assessment that supports academic integrity is progressive assessment where there are various submission points for different parts of what is effectively a single academic output throughout the semester as this may assist with time management skills; this is explicitly addressed in section 2.4 of the learner version of these principles where it is explained why this is not ‘self-plagiarism’. An example of summative assessment that does not support academic integrity is using assessment taken directly from an instructor’s manual issued by the publisher of a textbook, or taken directly from a previous year’s examination paper; however, these may be appropriate for formative (self-)assessment.

Best Practice Principle: Assessment should be designed to support academic integrity.

3.1 Examinations

Sharing examination papers (and other assessment items) from previous years and using them as a revision tool is likely to reduce the incentive for students to seek and share them through sharing websites, and also for students seeking these sites to get access to the papers, which has the undesirable outcome of normalising these kinds of sites for use for other assessment.

Staff should note that even when care is taken to lock down examination papers, it is possible that, for example, a group of students may agree that each person in the group will memorise a particular part of the paper and then the paper is reconstructed from memory after the examination.

Best Practice Principle: All past examination papers should normally be available to all students enrolled in a course by the first day of teaching, through either the library website or another university website. For copyright reasons third-party copyrighted material such as case studies, diagrams, code, etc. may be removed but the full citation for that material must remain so that the material can be identified. In rare cases where the papers are not available by the first day of teaching, a rationale for this should be given in the class summary.

As past papers should be made available, original exam papers need to be written each time a class is taught. It is acknowledged that writing unique exam papers for first year courses where the content doesn't vary significantly between offerings is a substantial challenge, but this is a challenge which our staff should be able to meet. If there are instances where this is not possible, this signals that a closed-book examination is not an effective assessment mechanism.

Best Practice Principle: All examination papers should, as a whole, be original each time a course is offered, and the questions should be written by the course teaching staff. For clarity, staff may use case studies, diagrams, code, etc. developed by others, giving a full citation for all such materials, as the basis of those original questions. A small number of questions may be reused for the benchmarking of cohorts noting that this is not a reason not to make past papers available.

3.2 Assessment design

Assessment design can be used to mitigate some of the reasons for breaches of academic integrity.

As per the introduction to section 2 of the Learner principles, In assignments, acknowledgement of broad contributions of others may appear in an acknowledgements section at the beginning of the academic output, and acknowledgement of specific contributions of others appears in references in the text and/or in footnotes or endnotes. Students should be encouraged to write both. Student academic output has constraints of word count or timing, and if we want full acknowledgement then having to reduce the scale of the rest of the assessment item would be counterproductive. It is therefore recommended that a separate section or note that is a broad acknowledgement not be part of the word count or timing.

We should not discourage collaboration, and so we must ensure that policies, procedures, and guidelines do not discourage it other than clear cases where it is appropriate to prohibit it, such as during invigilated examinations. To prevent students discussing assignments is no different to trying to prevent scholars discussing their academic output prior to publication, where authorial attribution is equally important.

A separate document is in preparation that will provide case studies drawn from throughout the university on innovative assessment design that supports academic integrity.

3.3 Protecting assessment materials

Where materials are inappropriately uploaded to third-party websites, it greatly assists the university legal office to have those materials removed from those websites if there is a clear ANU logo and a clear copyright notice on the assessment materials.

Best Practice Principle: Always include the ANU logo and a copyright statement on all assessment materials distributed to students and/or teaching staff.

4.0 These Principles

Effective date: 1 December 2021

Responsible Officer: Dean, Academic Quality