Image by George Eastman House via FlickrA couple of years ago Vickel Narayan and I wrote a paper entitle Pedagogy, policing or preventing plagiarism? A little more recently we were asked by Jude Barback (incoming Editor of New Zealand Education Review) to comment on academic integrity and “the issue of governance and disciplining of tertiary educators”. This really got me thinking…with all the focus on students plagiarising, who does watch the watchers? What happens when educators plagiarise? And what sort of Professional Learning and Development could be offered to help avoid unintentional instances of academic dishonesty?
The questions and answers below are pretty much the thoughts we shared with Jude, and although the focus is Unitec NZ the discussion is likely to be relevant for a wide range of education institutions. These are followed by a short video from Rodd Lucier entitled “Creative Commons: What Every Educator Needs to Know” which illustrates some of the issues as well as providing some practical solutions and guidance.
Please join in the conversation by adding your own thoughts in the comments 🙂
1) There seems to be emphasis on plagiarism by students, but are there any policies or guidelines for dealing with plagiarism by lecturers?
The only policies and guidelines that exist (at Unitec anyway) are general rather than with specific reference to plagiarism by lecturers (even though “the temptation to…[plagiarise] is as great for lecturers as it is for students” (Hunt, 2010, paragraph 1). As these links illustrate, this is a big issue:
- Lecturer plagiarised student’s work;
- Malaysia lecturers hauled up over plagiarism;
- Ministry agrees on more severe penalty over plagiarism by UPM lecturers;
- Creative theft has found its way up to the highest level.
The Unitec Code of Conduct for lecturers states: “The Code is written as a set of general principles rather than detailed prescriptions”; and “While academic freedom is a right, it carries with it the duty of academics to use the freedom in a manner consistent with a responsible and honest search for, and dissemination of, knowledge and truth”. The Code also refers to more general points of respect, fair treatment and privacy. There are separate guidelines around research ethics, and for the supervision of postgraduate students – but again, discussion of academic integrity appears to be around student behaviour, with more general discussion of strategies for supervising postgraduate students.
The central focus at Unitec NZ, and other institutions appears to be captured in the following:
One of the most interesting moments in all of the professional development sessions that Vickel and I facilitated was when lecturers were asked to run a piece of their own work through Turnitin. There were observable levels of stress, and, for example, anger when the box to exclude references had not been ticked and a negative report was received. In the discussion following this exercise, a few lecturers said that they had not previously used plagiarism detection software on their own work, and had found this particular experience extremely negative…although they could see how it might be used in a formative way while they were writing papers. We did not, however, cover explicitly the bigger issues of academic integrity, especially those that are present with the supervision of postgraduates.
2) Are you aware of how lecturers/teaching staff are disciplined if need be?
No lecturers / teaching staff have been, as far as we are aware, disciplined for plagiarism. It is likely, however, that Unitec NZ would follow similar procedures are Cardiff University in the UK (see below), and investigate a lecturer / teaching staff member under the terms of the Code of Conduct, and Research Ethics to ascertain whether there has been misconduct.
3) Is there any mechanism available to Unitec students (or other tertiary students that you know of) to find out if their lecturers are professionally competent?
Unitec NZ has a couple of formal ways of evaluating lecturers / teaching staff including the Student Evaluation of Quality (SEQUAL), but it would likely be difficult for an potential student to find the results, especially for individual lecturers. There are ways of researching lecturers, but they tend to be informal or Department-based. So, for example, the Department of Business studies runs a blog; and has also videos such as Unitec Management and Marketing Lecturer – Denisa Hebblethwaite. Informal means could also be contacting students who have previously studied with a lecturer, and Unitec NZ is working on putting together an alumni.
Links to the video
Blip m4v direct link (video file)