University support to avoid plagiarism – Student’s perspectives

Angelique Chettiparamb and Lucy Newton, Henley Business School   

a.chettiparamb@reading.ac.uk; l.a.newton@henley.ac.uk

Overview

Four enterprising and enthusiastic students from different programmes in Henley Business School enquired into the effectiveness of School/University measures to enhance and promote academic integrity. The students were Eilish McDonald, Hetvi Shah, Prinal Shah and Tillie Hunter The project leads were Dr Angelique Chettiparamb (Real Estate and Planning) and Dr Lucy Newton (International Business and Strategy).

Objectives

  • To review the support mechanisms available to students at School/University level to help promote and sustain academic integrity in programmes within the Henley Business School.
  • To engage with other students to understand their level of engagement with training and support mechanisms relating to academic integrity available across the University.
  • To suggest ways of improving student support mechanisms to promote and enhance academic integrity of students in Henley Business School.
  • To build positive fruitful student/staff partnerships
  • To strengthen the student voice in policies, procedures and practices adopted to enhance academic integrity in the Henley Business School.
  • To foster personal and professional leadership among participating students.

Context

Developing academic integrity is a challenge across the University. The challenge is likely to increase with the rise of ‘essay mills’, the increasing pressures on students to achieve and the now widespread adoption of plagiarism detection tools such as Turnitin. Dr Chettiparamb and Dr Newton, as previous and current Directors of Studies in Henley Business School, led this project to understand the challenges of maintaining academic integrity from a student perspective.

Implementation

This project was funded (£500) from the UG programme budget of the Henley Business School by Dr Carol Padgett. It followed from a Teaching and Learning Development Fund (TLDF) project on academic misconduct involving student focus group discussions.

Steps in implementing this project were:

  • Four students from diverse programmes across Henley Business School were chosen from those who had previously volunteered in the TLDF project.
  • The students were briefed about this project.
  • Students themselves defined aims, deliverables and methods of inquiry.
  • The students identified and evaluated available material to enhance academic integrity across Henley Business School/University.
  • Participating students interviewed their fellow students to capture and understand different student perspectives and challenges relating to maintaining academic integrity.
  • The academics leads met the students in regular follow-up meetings to ensure support, provide encouragement and continue productive partnerships.
  • The students presented well-received insights and recommendations to key T&L staff in Henley Business School, to CQSD and to Student Union representatives.
  • The student’s perspectives and the student experiences were recorded for later dissemination.

Impact

Students were tasked to present their perspective on current support materials and activities available in Henley Business School/University and suggest improvements in order to help enhance academic integrity. Areas of improvement that they suggested were:

  1. a) A booklet written by students and for students from existing material with practice exercises.
  2. b) More peer student support to ensure that academic integrity is fully embedded;
  3. c) More academic tutor support for aspiring and promoting academic integrity as well as positive staff-student partnerships;
  4. d) Briefing sessions and in-class exercises (rather than online alone) to strengthen academic values and support academic integrity.
  5. e) Significant and sustained Students’ Union involvement in raising awareness across the University;

Points a) b) and d) are being addressed through two follow-on projects initiated by the academic leads and funded by Dr Susan Rose, School Director of Teaching and Learning, Henley Business School. We understand that the Students’ Union is considering point e).

The student’s presentations led to inspired discussions, de-brief meetings with wider staff and agreements to take forward their ideas through additional on-going student-led funded projects.

Reflections

The activity proved to be successful and inspiring as it forged new staff-student dialogues, empowered Eilish, Hetvi, Prinal and Tillie and enabled the student voice to be heard in policies, procedures and practice. It has spawned further projects, continuing and refining dialogues with students on embedding academic integrity.

As academics, the project has enabled us to see ways and means of effectively fostering academic integrity in tandem with students. This has proved to be a sustainable and rewarding approach to improve academic integrity. It has kindled further interest in the subject and encouraged us to disseminate our experience more widely. Through the project, the students have also facilitated inter-school and inter-disciplinary dialogues at staff as well as student levels.

The students themselves have benefited from the project in a number of ways. They have gained confidence through multiple interactions with staff and student colleagues and have presented in different formats to various audiences. Their journey has scaled from within Henley Business School, through the University of Reading to beyond the University of Reading. The students have taken ownership of the project and as a result have constructed their own learning experience.

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