Prevention is better than cure – when it comes to catching plagiarism

It is better to remove the opportunity to plagiarise rather than have an assignment that presents the opportunity for students to plagiarise

The keynote from the founder of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas at this years Ireland and UK Moodle Moot provided several examples how online services and products can be used to produce assignments that will not be detected by the standard text matching services that we have all grown to rely on. With these advances in technology and the ubiquitous access to information through the internet plagiarism and academic integrity is a huge concern for education institutions. We all need to work together to reduce the factors that comprise academic integrity – the pressure, the opportunity to cheat and the rationalisation that students may have to cheat. It is a multifaceted problem and therefore requires a multifaceted set of solutions. For the purpose of this blog post I’m going to concentrate on one of those solutions – the design of assessments.

While there have been tremendous advances in text matching software like Ouriginal and TurnItIn in recent years – it is really a case of “the horse has already bolted” to coin an old phrase. If the gate was never open in the first place the horse would never have escaped. If the assignment was designed with Academic Integrity in mind it makes it more difficult for the student to plagiarise. I’m not saying impossible , just more difficult. Remember assessment design is only part of the solution.

 As part of an Erasmus project we have had the opportunity to work with partners in Georgia, Austria, Sweden and the UK to help academics design the opportunity for plagiarism out of assignments.

One of the outputs from this project was the “12 Principles of Academic Integrity” in relation to design of assessments.

  1. Set consistently high academic integrity standards which values university, programme and student/graduate reputation
  2. Provide detailed information direction on how students might avoid breaches of academic integrity and ensure consistency across a programme team
  3. Regularly update and edit assessments and programme assessment strategies.
  4. Use marking criteria and rubrics to reward positive behaviours associated with academic integrity;
  5. Design assessments that motivate and challenge students to do the work themselves;
  6. Ensure assessments are authentic, current and relevant;
  7. Adopt a scaffolded approach to assessments for learning with feedback points throughout the assessment process;
  8. Consider assessment briefs that have open-ended solutions or more than one solution
  9. Design in elements for students to record their individual pathways of thinking demonstrating students own work
  10. Design assessments which allow learners to prepare personalised assessments (either individually or group based)
  11. Build in a form of questioning or presentation/viva type defence component
  12. Co-design assessments or elements of assessment with students;

These principles are derived following a comprehensive review of the literature which focussed on two main questions:

  • What approaches to assessment design are used to promote or maintain academic integrity?
  • What recommendations are being made on using assessment design to support academic integrity?

Over the next few weeks I will share examples how an educator may through using a variety of learning technologies integrate these principles into their assessment design. For now I will leave you short interview with Professor Phil Newton. Phil is the Director of Learning and Teaching, having oversight of all taught programmes within the Swansea University Medical School. His research interest is in the area of Evidence-based Education, particularly Academic Integrity. I had the pleasure of interviewing Phil a while back and want to share his words of wisdom again.

About Mark Glynn

Head of Teaching Enhancement Unit, Dublin City University

Posted on May 10, 2022, in assessment, Moodle, Staff deveopment, TEL. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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