A Model for Supporting Consistent, Fair and Accurate Reporting of Academic Integrity Violations

Topics: Blog, Spotlight

At the March 2019 ICAI Conference, the sessions were amazing. An important theme addressed in several sessions was the challenge in faculty consistently reporting academic authenticity violations.

What can be done to obtain faculty buy-in to follow campus policies?

While this theme of inconsistent faculty reporting is a concern in many institutions, Western Governors University (WGU) has effectively removed this barrier with a disaggregated faculty model. As part of the standard process, all student submissions at WGU go through a comprehensive originality review. The teaching faculty member does not evaluate any student work; instead, there is a separate team of faculty whose sole focus is rigorous, objective evaluation. WGU’s disaggregated model supports consistent, fair, and accurate reporting of academic authenticity violations.

From a student perspective, they may work with a teaching faculty member if help is needed. Then the student submits a paper or other assessment activity that is delivered to the evaluation faculty member to evaluate. Every submission is run through a rigorous academic authenticity review. Below is an illustration of the process.

The assessments are created by the program development faculty, a group that does not include teaching faculty members. The teaching and evaluating of performance assessments are separated and work independently of one another but are aligned and calibrated. Within the disaggregated assessment faculty model, Course Instructors and Program Mentors are the only faculty members directly engaging with students as they master required competencies, while unbiased evaluators focus solely on reviewing assessments.

Beyond the disaggregated model, WGU’s Learning Management System minimizes bias by masking students’ names from the view of evaluators. That’s reinforced through policy in the student handbook, recommending that students should not put their names on any submission. Additionally, the students and faculty rely on rubrics for every performance assessment that create a consistent evaluation model. All the evaluators in the department participate in calibration activities to ensure consistent, fair, accurate, and quick evaluations for students.

WGU adheres to a competency-based education (CBE) model with a focus on developing knowledge and continual learning. The idea of submitting an assessment is not necessarily a one-and-done event. Rather, the student is allowed multiple submissions to demonstrate competency. There is customized feedback from the evaluator and, upon request, from a teaching course faculty member. Even the proctored objective assessments allow students more than one attempt, providing students who were unsuccessful in their first attempt with a study plan noting the competencies and objectives that need additional review.

At WGU, the faculty and staff members are committed to a proactive approach in enforcing and supporting the academic authenticity policy. We are teachers at heart and adhering to the policy supports student learning and development. We are partnering with students on a path to learning at WGU and beyond. Because our model is a different approach to resolving the problem of inconsistent reporting of integrity violations, I welcome your questions or comments.

About the Author
Christine Gee holds a bachelor's degree in business economics with a mathematics major, a master’s degree in teaching as well as a master’s degree in mathematics education. She has ten years of experience as a faculty member in the Mathematics Department at Western Governors University (WGU), and Christine transitioned to the Academic Authenticity Team three years ago. The team she leads was recognized by Turnitin as the 2017 Global Innovative Award winner, and placed 7th for the 2017 Enterprise Learning Award for Innovation in Assessment Delivery. Christine’s main interests include equal access to education, animal rights, the environment and plant-based initiatives.