An Investigation Into Academic Integrity.

By Joe Riedl|May 26, 2017News|

Portland Community College’s Academic Integrity Task Force put together a report on the school’s “current practices and values as related to student academic integrity,” which can be found here. The investigation surveyed more than 1400 students and 200 staff members whom answered questions about academia and student integrity. Spewed out was over forty pages of surveys and charts, numbers and graphs aimed at better understanding the seriousness of cheating on campus, how it’s handled, if it’s taken seriously, etc…

“Part of what the Task Force is hoping to do is to create a better climate and culture of academic integrity,” said Robin Shapiro, Librarian at Rock Creek campus and head coordinator of the task force.

The questions were not just concerned with cheating on exams. Instead they delve into the greater “academic integrity” bubble which consists of plagiarism, group collaboration, falsifying lab data or citations and policies concerning the matter. Here’s what we found:

Students generally seem to understand the policies when it comes to academic integrity. When asked “How would you rate the average student’s understanding of campus policies concerning student cheating?” half of students reported “high” or “very high” understanding. Only 12% of faculty reported that student understanding of policy is either “high” or “very high.”

More than 1 in 10 students reported not ever being informed about cheating policy. When asked “Have you been informed about the academic integrity or cheating policies at Portland Community College?” 12.1% of students said no.

Students don’t really see cheating at PCC. Students were asked if they have “seen another student cheat during a test or examination at PCC.” nearly eight in ten students reported “never” seeing it.

Cheating is seldom reported. Students were asked if they’ve ever reported another student for cheating and over 90% said no. This could be because, as reported earlier, it’s seldom witnessed.

Some faculty don’t want to deal with cheating when they see it. When asked if faculty had ever “chosen not to address an incident of cheating,” over a third said yes. A follow-up to that question revealed that in most of those cases there was a lack of evidence, but in some instances the instructor felt that the system was too bureaucratic or they feared student reprisal.

Faculty are generally satisfied with the way cheating cases are handled. The faculty was asked how satisfied they were with the cheating cases that they reported to their advisors. 33.3% said that they were “satisfied” and 28% said that they were “very satisfied.”

We’re angels when it comes to academic integrity. 92.6% of students said they’d “never” fabricated or falsified a bibliography. 90.1% of students said they’d “never” gotten questions or answers from someone who’d already taken the test. 93% of students said they’d “never” copied another student’s answers while taking an exam. 91.6% of students said they’d “never” copied another student’s homework.

Students and faculty do not believe cheating on a test is the most severe form of cheating. Although it came in a close second, cheating on a test did not prove to be the most severe form of cheating according to students and staff. 97.5% of faculty and 87.1% of students reported that “submitting a paper purchased or obtained from a website and claiming it as original work” is “Severe Cheating,” a higher percentage of votes than any other form of cheating.

Many students do not think cheating is a serious problem at PCC, but faculty disagree. When asked “How strongly do you agree or disagree with the statement ‘cheating is a serious problem at PCC’?,” about half of students responded with “disagree” and 41% said they weren’t sure. Less than ten percent of faculty disagreed with the statement.

Your friends may not mind but your parents sure as heck would. Students were asked how strongly their parents would disapprove if they cheating and out of 1346 surveyed, 951 said that they would “Strongly Disapprove.”

Through the investigation, the task force concluded that there are a number of concerns when it comes to academic integrity including, “lack of understanding of PCC’s reporting and sanction system for academic dishonesty, worry that reporting a problem would result in retaliation via instructor evaluations, uncertainty about how students would be affected if dishonesty was reported, and a general belief that reports gathered dust in a file drawer and would not be used to identify patterns of behavior.”

“At present, responsibility for creating and enhancing a culture of academic integrity at PCC is distributed among faculty, students, staff, and administrators. No leader is responsible for ensuring that the entire PCC community receives the education and support to grow a flourishing academic integrity culture,” read the final report.

Shapiro, as the task force lead, says that “there has to be one home at PCC for academic integrity. We’re leaving it up to the president and board to decide where that will be.”

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