Whilst detection and the application of penalties are key tools in combatting academic misconduct by University students, assessment strategies also serve to prevent academic misconduct occurring in the first place. Reducing academic misconduct helps to improve student outcomes and reduces time spent by staff on detecting and processing suspected cases. Combatting academic misconduct is a sector-wide activity which has become even more important with a rise in the commissioning of assessments from online essay mills and other sources, as well as the use of AI e.g. ChatGTP for assessment outputs.

Key Principles

  • Make it clear - what academic misconduct is and how it can be avoided - through in-class or directed assessment activities.
  • Reduce the imperative - through assessment support, assessment deadline planning and making extensions accessible to those with extenuating circumstances.
  • Make it personal - by requiring students to reflect on their assessment development and outcomes as part of the assignment task.
  • Make it bespoke – by focusing the assessment on specific areas/topics/case-studies which differ from previous cohorts and/or between students in the same cohort.

Good Practice

Use of pre- assessment activities to support students in producing original and timely assessments including:

  • In-class activities to develop ideas and check understanding e.g. Mind mapping, seminar discussions, action learning groups, knowledge organisers.
  • Formative assessment for feedback opportunities e.g. progress presentations, drafts, assessment plans and draft reference lists.
  • Integrated study skills support e.g. research techniques, note taking, paraphrasing, referencing and planning assessment work.
  • Providing timely assessment advice – at least 4 weeks before the submission date.
  • Using quizzes and other activities to highlight the differences between academic misconduct, quotations and paraphrasing.
  • Evaluating AI generated text and references as an in-class activity.

Use of assessment design and methods to reduce the attractiveness of commissioning or plagiarising other work including:

  • As part of the assessment, requiring students to reflect on the outcomes of the assessment – in relation to their personal, academic and/or professional development.
  • As part of the assessment, requiring students to apply their learning to their own practice (for students in work or undertaking work-based learning
  • As part of the assessment, requiring students to assess their own attributes and behaviours, if relevant
  • Requiring students to respond to a “live”/authentic or simulated project brief
  • Using a bespoke case-study to assess learning outcomes Requiring students to select a recent/relevant/local case-study to assess learning outcomes
  • Using in-class/live activities where validated/approved e.g. Presentations, vivas, vlog’s debates, timed activities e.g. exams, OSCEs, role plays, interviews etc.
  • Updating the assessment requirements for each new delivery, and leaving assessment methods broad on validation documents where possible to allow for variety.

Office for Students (OfS): Considerations

The need to tackle this issue has been highlighted by the Office for Students (2022) which states in its B Conditions of Registration that:

B2: The provider must take all reasonable steps to ensure … a. each cohort of students registered on each higher education course receives resources and support (including) iii support relating to understanding, avoiding and reporting academic misconduct.

B4: The provider must take all reasonable steps to ensure … a. students are assessed effectively (which includes) iii. assessments being designed in a way that minimises the opportunities for academic misconduct and facilitates the detection of such misconduct where it does occur.

Further Reading

Egan, A., (2018). Improving Academic Integrity through Assessment Design. Dublin: Dublin City University, National Institute for Digital Learning [online] available from: http://doras.dcu.ie/22683/1/11193_Full%20Report-LR.pdf

Holden, O., Norris, .M and Kuhlmeier V. (2021). Academic Integrity in Online Assessment: A Research Review [online] available from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feduc.2021.639814/full%20

QAA (2018). UK Quality Code for HE Advice and Guidance: Assessment. [online] available from: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code/advice-and-guidance/assessment

Turnitin (2019). How to Promote Academic Integrity in Your Classroom. [online] available from: How To Promote Academic Integrity In Your Classroom | eBook | Turnitin