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Confusion about collusion: working together and academic integrity

Sutton, A and Taylor, D (2010) Confusion about collusion: working together and academic integrity. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36. ISSN 0260-2938

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Abstract

An increasing emphasis on developing students' transferable skills, such as group working and IT, is creating challenges in ensuring the academic integrity of individually assessed coursework. This study investigated the frequency with which students engaged in a range of study behaviours for individual assignments, with a focus on the extent to which they exchanged information or worked in informal study groups. Over 1000 responses were gathered from students at pre‐ and post‐92 universities engaged in either business or psychology degrees. Four behavioural factors emerged from the data: trust, cooperation, use of IT and conscientious practices. Results indicated that students engage in practices relying on trust and cooperation less often than other practices, implying a concern with avoiding issues of academic misconduct. This was supported by focus group discussions where students described their strategies for working together whilst ensuring the quality and integrity of their own work. Comparisons between academic disciplines revealed that business students were more likely to engage in sharing and group‐work behaviours than psychology students, as were students at the post‐92 university. Comparisons between years found no significant differences. Recommendations are made for improving student understanding of collusion whilst still encouraging the development of skills important to employability.

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