Academic integrity – more than just plagiarism.

Tumisu / Pixabay – Right or Wrong?

 

Academic integrity is often espoused and bandied about across educational institutions, especially in the first few weeks of every scholastic year. 

La Trobe university describes it as shared values and behaviour that includes but is not exclusive to honesty, fairness and responsible practices. This concept of honesty in academia is a two way street.  Educational institutions such as schools and universities are obliged to award credit and acknowledge honestly conducted work. Students are responsible for ensuring that their work meets the required standards mandated (LaTrobe, 2019).  The onus of practices that promote academic honesty need to be equally addressed by students, staff, executive and organisations. It is not simply the role of a student to avoid plagiarism, but also the role of education to provide them with the skills and knowledge to do so.  Additionally, society needs to realise that academic integrity does not start and finish with plagiarism.  Plagiarism is just an aspect of authentic academia. Other practices include the creation of assessment tasks that limit the risk of dishonest practices and organisations to adequately address infringements in their policies with appropriate levels of censure that are age and stage appropriate.  The role of teacher librarian is multifaceted when it comes to academic integrity. Due to their dynamic position, a TL is able to address academic honesty from a student and classroom teacher (CT) lens and from a department and school perspective.   

Academic honesty starts with the classroom teacher.  If teachers continuously utilise reputable sources in their teaching and learning, as well as consistently reference them correctly; then they are modeling good practice. Students (and teachers) need to be aware that academic honesty is not just for assessment tasks.  Its for all tasks. Like all skills, good research behavioural practices such as using databases, encyclopaedias and journal articles are essential in formulating evidence based assertions. Using disreputable sources does not bode well for your postulations. W. Edwards Deming was quoted in Forbes (2016) that “without data you’re just a person with an opinion”.  My experience as a scientist holds me in good authority in championing this point. In the fields of science and mathematics, opinions hold little value. It is the data from rigorously run experiments that define our thinking process. Poorly run experiments with inconclusive data have no value; as do opinions with no justification and evidence. Opinions are fine when limited to coffee preferences but not in academics. 

The other aspect of academic integrity within the TL’s and or CT’s realms, is the explicit teaching of information literacy.  Information literacy is defined by the ability to find, seek, use and create information and traditionally the domain of TL area of expertise (Kuhthau et al, 2012).  IL needs to be taught and then subsequently assessed in order for students to reach proficiency (Jacobson et al. 2018; Qayyum & Smith, 2018, p257; McGrew et al. 2018).  It is not passively acquired by the act of completing a research task – but rather, these skills need to be integrated into daily practice to boost competency (Kong, 2014).  Part of these practices include the direct instruction of correct referencing techniques.  As mentioned before, plagiarism is AN aspect of academic honesty, it is not the entirety.

Whilst it teaching information literacy and the finer points of referencing is essential, it is important to note that the assessment task itself can be a liability to honest practice.   Introducing mandatory evidence of progress, drafts and log books are other useful methods in ensuring authenticity of work. Assessment tasks that are repeated at yearly intervals for indefinite periods of time are also very problematic.  This is due to the fact that its simplistic to assume that students do not try to seek aid from older siblings and or cousins. Having a maximum time frame of 2 years allowed for a particular task reduces the likelihood of younger relatives plagiarising from older siblings.  Another point to note is that nuances of language in assessment task construction can reduce the likelihood of plagiarism. Requesting students to analyse, justify and relate to their community requires higher order thinking skills and is harder to successfully pass off as own work due to the nature of the questions.  TL can be of great assistance to teachers in the construction of assessment tasks. Ezard (2019) pointed out that co-creation and collective capacity is the fundamental basis of true collaborative practice (cited in Templeton, 2019). Collaboration between departments and the library can result in a positive sharing of expertise and knowledge resulting in tasks that elicit deep understanding and truly engage the student. 

Departmental heads and school administrators have the last word on academic honesty in a school situation.  The school policies are the framework in which the academic integrity of the staff and students is based upon.  Therefore it is up to the executives to ensure the policies are current with contemporary practices which includes the rapid evolution of technology and the challenges that it brings.  They are also responsible to clearly define what constitutes minor, moderate and major infringements and their appropriate consequences. Staff need to realise that a major infringement in middle school is not the same as a major infringement in senior school.  A suggestion would be construct a hierarchy of violations that is clearly distributed to students and teachers. This transparency reduces the likelihood of students citing ignorance in their defence. An example of such a hierarchy from ANU, Canberra and Andrews University in Michigan are available for your perusal.   

Much has been said so far about how teaching staff can do to promote academic honesty.  But in all honesty, students need to also be aware of their role in this dual relationship.  Students need to follow the referencing guidelines set by their institution. Whether it be APA, Harvard or MLA citation styles, students need to conform.  They also need to refrain from reusing earlier work and badging it as new work. Many students feel that this cannot be plagiarism as its their own material.  But what they are unaware of is that they can reference previous works. The most common ways in which students are academically dishonest is collusion and unequal group work.  Collusion as Monash University (2019) points out is the “unauthorised collaboration on assessable work with other people”. Frequently unauthorised partners include parents, older siblings, tutors and friends.  It is dishonest to present the collaborative efforts of multiple people off as individual work. Group work is a minefield where academic honesty is concerned. It is very common for one or two people in a group to carry the team.  This unequal distribution of work is often due to a participant’s absenteeism and or disinterest. Unfortunately, there is no suggestion I can offer as I have been guilty of doing too much in past group assessments in order to pass/complete a task.  In my opinion, (no facts), I believe that group tasks should not be used for summative assessments tasks due the inequitable nature of collaborative groups.  

Academic honesty is not just for students to follow when submitting their assignments.  Rather it is a mindset, a code of conduct, developed during schooling years and manifested in adulthood.  As a code of conduct, infringements of this nature need to be treated similarly to infringements of other conduct related behaviour.  Simply assigning punitive measures is not conducive to learning and reducing future occurrences.  Instead, it is more productive to create a situation in which academic integrity is the norm and best practice for both students and teachers.  Academic honesty is more than just plagiarism.  Its is the authenticity of your work and the extension of self. 

References

Ezard, T., (2019) Leading the Buzz in your school. ASLA 50th Conference. Canberra

Jacobsen, R., Halvorsen, A., Frasier, A., Schmitt, A., Crocco, M., and Segall, A. (2018). Thinking deeply, thinking emotionally; how high school students make sense of evidence. Theory & Research in Social Education. 46, 232-276. DOI 10.1080/00933104.2018.1425170

 

Jones, M. & Silberzahn, P. (2016) Without an opinion, you’re just another person with data. Forbes – Media and Entertainment. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/awsmediaandentertainment/2019/09/12/how-to-thrive-in-todays-disrupted-media-markets/#7862807770ed

 

Kuhlthau, C., Maniotes, L. & Caspari, A. (2012). Guided inquiry design: A framework for inquiry in your school. Libraries Unlimited. USA.

 

Kong, S. (2014). Developing information literacy and critical thinking skills through domain knowledge learning in digital classrooms: An experience of practicing flipped classroom strategy. Computers & Education. 78, pp.160-173,  DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.05.009

 

Latrobe University (2019). Academic Integrity. Student Administration. Retrieved from https://www.latrobe.edu.au/students/admin/academic-integrity

 

Monash University (2019). Academic integrity, plagiarism and collusion. Student Administration. Retrieved from https://www.latrobe.edu.au/students/admin/academic-integrity

 

McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., Ortega, T., Smith, M., and Wineburg, S. (2018). Can students evaluate online sources? Learning from assessments of civic online reasoning. Theory & Research in Social Education. 46, 165-193, DOI 10.1080/00933104.2017.1416320

 

Qayyum, M., &  Smith, David. (2018). Changing research behaviours of university students with progression through a course. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association. 67: 3 pp256-277 DOI: 10.1080/24750158.2018.1502243

Templeton, T. (2019). Co-existing or co-operating. Trish’s trek into bookspace [blog]. Retrieved from https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/trish/2019/04/18/co-existing-or-co-operating/

 

Module 3 – Managing collections thriftily

Gellinger / Pixabay

Our school library has nearly 100 000 print texts on its shelves.  Unfortunately, even though our library is well stocked, it is underused by our school community.  Resources were acquired based upon the presumption that was what the students and teachers wanted.  Instead the books, databases and audiobooks have languished on shelves and data servers, completely under-utilised.   I have previously mentioned this phenomenon of Tsunkudo. So whilst I am not going to rehash the other post, I will focus this blog post on budget aspect of managing a collection.  SMLS (n.d.) lists three roles a TL must consider when they are managing a budget for resourcing; a collaborator, a steward and a thinker. This blog post will elaborate further on these roles and how it relates to collection development.  

When a teacher librarian is being a collaborator with resourcing, they start with the community they are resourcing for.  Our school is currently suffering from Tsundoku so in an effort to change this we are collaborating with the staff and students to access and source resources that will ‘spark joy’.  The first section we addressed was the Religious Education collection. As a Catholic high school in the MSC tradition, Religious Education is mandatory till year 10 and then most senior students continue to study the subject till year 12 in varied formats.  Therefore it is an essential part of the collection. Unfortunately most of the current range of print books are outdated and unappealing for the student body. In an attempt to alleviate this lethargy for library services, we organised several brochures and sample book packs delivered to the school.  One of our team members organised the RE departmental meeting to view these samples so that orders could be made.  The HOD of RE and the Library managed to thrash out an agreement where the funds would be shared between both departments but the books would reside in the library to ensure equity of access.  As our school is affiliated with the MSC order, we managed to secure some funding from them to access newer editions of Jules Chevalier biographies and other MSC materials.  This additional funding was ample enough to cover the purchase of a two print biographies as well as one in an audiobook for our differentiated learners. Ideally, one print copy would stay as teacher resource for new staff that may need an understanding of the MSC ethos and the other would be in the general collection. This collaboration has allowed us to purchase a greater range of resources and fulfill the needs of our community.

A teacher librarian in a stewardship role is responsible for the management of the library (Cambridge dictionary, n.d.).  As such, they are responsible in ensuring the value of the collection is maintained whilst responding to the needs of their community.  In this role, a TL uses a variety of methods in which to select resources for the collection. They can range from book lists such as Magpies, teacher recommendations, popular best seller lists as well as SCIS, Scootle and other educational blogs.  Acquisitions of resources are naturally dependent on the parameters of the selection policy. An astute TL will be able to identify resources using the policy and add them to the collection.  

Lastly, the teacher librarian needs to adopt the role of a thinker in managing the collection.  Some schools allow for dialogue between the principal and TL about the budget allocation for the year.  Other principals just delegate funds and leave its dispensation to the discretion of the TL. Either way, the TL has to manage the collection in whatever funds are available.  A clever TL is aware of the curriculum and is aware of the teaching practices across the school. This knowledge of curriculum and student learning, when combined with an ability to engage with multiple staff members, maximises the scope of funds available.  In our school, the Dance teacher and the Food Technology teacher were both doing units of work on multicultural practices in Year 8. So my HOD organised sample book packs to be delivered for both teachers to peruse.  The result was that both teachers have combined their funds to obtain a series of books about nations and their cultural practices. This combination of departmental monies has enabled us to address the needs of two departments, increased value to our collection, and all without us having to spend our budget allocation.  My HOD was rather pleased with herself at this point.

References

Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.) Defintion: Steward. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/steward

Piemmons, A., (2010) Student Voice, Student Choice: Students as part of the budgeting process.  Georgia Library Media Association. Retrieved from https://glma.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/student-voice-student-choice-students-as-part-of-the-budgeting-process/

School Library Media Specialist (n.d.) Program Administrator: Budget management. Retrieved from http://eduscapes.com/sms/administration/budget.html

Co-existing or Co-operating? – Module 4.2

Schools are generally thought to be institutions of learning. From the days of Aristotle, young people were sent to learn about the mysteries of life from their revered elders. Today’s schools are very different from their ancient counterparts but the essential core is the same. Schools are learning organisations with their primary purpose to educate the new generations and prepare them for their future. Kools & Stoll (2016) identify seven dimensions that characterise a school as an organisation of learning. These include; a shared vision; staff learning opportunities; promotion of collaboration among staff; establishing a culture of inquiry and innovation; information collection and knowledge exchange; partnerships with community and modelling positive leadership (Kools & Stoll, 2016, p11). All these dimensions serve to build a positive teaching and learning environment for both students and staff.

Humans are social in nature and learning is a social construct. When individuals learn in a social context, the knowledge is constructed as a group has more significant learning outcomes than when knowledge is constructed individually. Most educators agree that the efficacy of learning is improved in collaborative groups, but they rarely extend that principle to themselves collaborating with their peers. Kools & Stoll (2016) even go as far as to argue that the practice of teaching is larger than an isolated teacher in their classroom. They surmise that collaborative practice encourages a professional growth experience in which teachers learn and teach simultaneously with each other. It is in the sharing of expertise and knowledge that has the greatest potential.

Unfortunately true collaboration is often missing in a school dynamic. Team activity is commonly confused as collaboration (Kools & Stoll, 2016, p40). Ezard (2019) points out that co-existence and coordination are often mistaken for collaboration as well. Rather, it is in the co-creation and collective capacity that is the basis of true collaborative practice. For a partnership to be symbiotic, there must be a willingness to think and act together. Ezard (2019) highlights three main requirements of a collaborative relationship including, a growth mindset, a compelling environment and authentic dialogue. Lack o these will only inhibit teaching and learning practices.

The reality is that many classroom teachers are reluctant to work in partnership with their teacher librarians and or any other staff members outside their department for a variety of reasons. One reason is that teachers are often pigeon holed into subject silos or year level cohorts. Their level of expertise is viewed at only applicable to that year level and subject. The other major reason is fear. Fear of failing, fear of judgement and shame. Many teachers reject a culture of observation as they fear they will be deemed as falling short of an ideal practitioner. This is especially true in a world where many teachers are on contracts and wish to still have employment in the next teaching cycle. There is a true sense of fear that any mistakes or miss-steps could result in unemployment. So these teachers often hide themselves away in their isolated silos and inadvertently distance themselves away from collegian relationships as a protective mechanism. This distance, and lack of connection further exacerbates the inability to collaborate. After all, collaboration without connection is just compliance (Ezard, 2019).

Time is another most common reason why staff do not collaborate. It seems futile to ask staff to work together constructively but not actually give them release time to do so. This is especially true for primary schools where teachers rarely get any time off during the day to co-create units of work. Another aspect that executive can assist with collaborative practice is to create a safety net for staff thus allowing them to try new pedagogical practices. Teachers who have job security are more likely to be willing to take risks and try new teaching and learning programs as they do not fear unemployment. Heads of department and senior teachers can encourage the try a variety of teaching styles and thus enable, enourage and motivate them into trying new ventures. Staff that know that they will have a safety net if they fail are more likely to attempt big and wonderful things.

Teacher librarians can affect a collaborative change in other ways. Firstly they can use their position in the centre of the school and as a curriculum leader to create multidisciplinary units of with in collusion with their peers. Due to their access and knowledge of resourcing, TL are able to obtain resources that require teachers to co-create their units of work. TL are also able to create productive learning environments, by promoting learning in an environment that embraces opportunities. They can also be curious rather than defensive when assumptions are challenged. TL can co create a vision that appeals the the whole school, by modelling best practice. Due to the nature of the position, TL can set an example of classroom observation and encourage staff to face their fears of judgement and shame. Ezrard (2019) suggests changing the dynamics of shame and failing to compassion and learning. Afterall, it has been proven that regular classroom observation only seeks to improve the increased professional learning of the teacher.

Whilst teacher librarians can affect some level of change, the biggest influence of collaborative practice within schools is in leadership. Executive teachers can influence teaching and learning practices a great deal as they are the ones that control a great deal of the factors that affect staff, for example, collaboration time for teachers. Teachers get to meet each other and have a dynamic productive relationship.

Ezard, T., (2019) Leading the Buzz in your school. ASLA 50th Conference. Canberra

Kools, M. and Stoll L. (2016), “What Makes a School a Learning Organisation?”, OECD Education Working Papers. No. 137, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlwm62b3bvh-en