2010 Teaching Improvement Project

Academic Honesty: Supporting student learning and quality teaching through best practice use of text matching tools

Developing academic honesty and avoiding the consequences, for the institution and its students, of plagiarism is a critical issue in current teaching and assessment practice at the University of Sydney. In 2009 the Academic Board recognised this and revised the university's previous two policies on plagiarism and added a new feature covering the use of text matching tools (TMT). The development of the policy was accompanied by considerable debate amongst staff and students. It was apparent that current uses of TMT are highly variable across the university and while some practices may support student learning and constitute quality teaching, many do not. There also appeared to be considerable variation in what tools were used. In some cases academics use 'Google' to check if students' texts match published work, some faculties have faculty licences for 'Turnitin' or equivalent programs and some faculties have developed their own software. The project is a collaboration between faculty experts, the ITL, the Learning Centre and has the support of the SRC and the Chair of Academic Board who has expressed his interest at being involved. It will (i) report on current TMT practice across all faculties (a requirement of the new policy) and (ii) through collaborative inquiry based in the faculties, identify how different uses of software impact on the quality of teaching and the quality of the student learning experience and student learning outcomes. Building on this (iii) the project will develop and disseminate best practice guidelines and resources to support teachers in using TMT in ways which enhance the quality of both teaching and learning.