09 February 2012

StudentsResearch academics from around the world will be meeting at the University of South Australia this week to discuss the implications of the results of the largest student academic integrity survey ever conducted in Australia.

The colloquium to be held at City West campus on Friday February 10 will bring together academics from Australia, New Zealand and the United States including internationally renowned researcher and author Dr Tricia Bertram Gallant from the University of California, San Diego.

The academic integrity survey was completed by more than 15,300 students across six Australian universities as part of an Australian Learning and Teaching Council funded project, Academic integrity standards: Aligning policy and practice in Australian universities (2010-2012)  led by UniSA's Dr Tracey Bretag  [project partners include Tracey Bretag, Saadia Mahmud and Margaret Green at UniSA, University of Wollongong (Ruth Walker and Margaret Wallace), University of Adelaide (Ursula McGowan), University of WA (Lee Partridge), University of Newcastle (Colin James), and La Trobe University (Julianne East]. 

“What was unusual about this survey is that instead of focussing on student cheating or academic misconduct which is more usual, we wanted to learn more about what students think academic integrity is and how the university can best support them to avoid making an academic integrity breach,” Dr Bretag says.

“What we found was that while students generally reported a good awareness of academic integrity, the results also showed there is room for improvement in helping students understand academic integrity issues.”

The survey showed that more than two thirds of students agreed that they had a good idea of what academic integrity meant, 89.2 per cent were satisfied with the information they received, and 68 per cent were satisfied with the support they received.

However, over a third of respondents (37 per cent) said that they were not sure if academic integrity breaches were dealt with ‘fairly’ at their university.

“While a majority of student respondents indicated their knowledge of academic integrity and how to access their universities' policies, a much higher number expressed confidence in how to avoid academic integrity breaches,” Dr Bretag says.

“Also international students expressed a lower awareness of academic integrity, academic integrity policy, and confidence in how to avoid academic integrity breaches as compared to the overall responses.

“And interestingly, of all student groups surveyed, postgraduate research student respondents were the least satisfied with the information they had received about how to avoid an academic integrity breach.”

Dr Bretag says the survey results offer an important opportunity to explore the student perspective and inform the higher education sector in relation to communicating with and educating students about academic integrity.

“I think the results suggest that universities need to move beyond the mere provision of information by providing a range of approaches and activities to engage students in learning about academic integrity,” she says.

An article based on the findings from the survey is now being prepared for submission to the Studies in Higher Education journal, following feedback from the Colloquium.

Following her visit to Adelaide for the colloquium, Dr Tricia Bertram Gallant, a member of the reference group for the ALTC project, will conduct a series of seminars on Creating the ethical academy in Adelaide, Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

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