Developing a school wide Academic Honesty Policy II

In November I shared the first stages of my thinking about developing our academic honesty policy. In this post I want to follow-up, to document the most recent steps.

Last Monday, while trying to find my mind, which I appeared to have left somewhere between the UK and China, I lead the second inset session on academic honesty. Running inset when you are jet lagged isn’t fun – especially when all the team is equally as tired!

During this session, I followed a very similar model to October’s inset, using chalk talk as a way to elicit thoughts and ideas about the academic honesty policy.

I am keen not to simply impose my ideas about academic honesty on the teaching body but to encourage by in, I want to grow a policy as a team. It may seem like this is a little esoteric, but having a shared understanding of the why’s, what’s and how’s of teaching academic honesty is a really important part of what we do as educators. Understanding the issues of good practice in this area impacts on many other aspects of classroom practice and should engender a change in the way that we approach planning of units, lessons and tasks.

We started the session with a Quizlet live game of academic honesty terminology before moving on to practice the chalk talk again. I was inspired by my Christmas reading of Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21C and so started with the question:

–What is more important:

–developing students knowledge of facts or ability to critique and discuss facts?

Following from that we rotated around the three questions of:

  1. Why teach academic honesty
  2. How teach academic honesty
  3. When teach academic honesty

Finally, the team was asked to present the discussion points and ideas on the question sheets that they started with to the rest of the group.

Before ending the session with a call for volunteers to join a working party, I shared the results from the staff citation survey that I conducted in November. These results certainly gave me some food for thought as there were some good arguments presented for not having a centralised citation policy. Most staff thought it would be a good idea to have a centralised policy but the arguments against it were that essential that students should be exposed to a variety of different ways, no one way is right, students joining the school may have learned different systems and should be allowed to demonstrate that learning. All valid points and I must have admit shifted my thinking on this one a little.

Another advantage of decentralising the policy could be that departments take responsibility for agreeing a policy together and therefore think about and implement a procedure that is useful for them. Considering that only one member of staff has taken me up on my offer to form a working party to develop a policy, this could be another avenue for ensuring buy in to the new policy. I may ask HODs to formulate a policy and to let me know what system they are going to teach to ensure that we avoid the attitude of “let some other department deal with it”.

Now I need to think about how to take this forward so that we can launch a policy next August. I have now had staff contribute to the triage of where the school is at. Now we need to decide what to put in the policy and write it and I need to think of how best to achieve this, if teachers don’t volunteer to join the working group?

Developing a school wide Academic Honesty Policy I

One of my focuses this year as Diploma Programme Coordinator will be to work with the schools educators to devise a secondary wide academic honesty policy. This is the first time I have had to lead a collaborative project across the secondary and I am spending a lot of time thinking about how best to implement this.

The easiest thing, and the first thing that I considered, would have been to simply lift policies from previous schools (with permission of course – oh the irony!) and adopt it in the new context. On reflection I decided not to go down this path because doing so would have meant we lost a good opportunity for collaboration amongst the team and would have probably also ensured that we didn’t get the buy in and subsequent up-skilling, that we need if the policy is going to be successful.

Teaching academic honesty is one of those things that I think it is easy to expect everyone on the teaching team to be able to do and assume that they know how to do it when in fact there may well be understandable knowledge gaps within the team. Different people also respond to their own knowledge gaps differently. Not admitting to knowledge gaps is an behaviour that can develop insidiously in educators due to perceived peer, parent and student expectations. The culture of a school may well be one where, admitting ignorance is something that is frowned upon. I am also aware that simply admitting ignorance isn’t enough. People need to be motivated to fill the gaps once identified and this process takes effort. We all avoid the effortful path at times.

For this project, I decided to go down the long road and start afresh. I want buy-in from the team and I want to identify skill needs amongst the team so that we can begin to help teachers develop their own skills in this area, as well as develop a deeper understanding of the IB requirements for academic honesty.

One of the things that I learned as a workshop leader with the IB is that all training sessions with staff should aim to help colleagues develop their teaching skills and share pedagogical techniques as a secondary objective to the primary aims of the session. Thus, when I utilised one staff inset session in October, I planned to use visible thinking routine “chalk talk” as a route to triage where the team was in their thinking and understanding about academic honesty.

I started this session by introducing chalk talk with a practice question. On a prior inset session led by another team member we had looked at Hattie’s research and so to transition from that I chose the question: “Is homework necessary?” to get the team used to the format of the chalk talk.

For the main event, I took questions from the IBO’s documentation on academic honesty and grouped them into categories. I prepared the session in advance by writing questions onto the back of the paper I was going to use. In this chalk-talk, instead of answering one question and rotating through each table, each table had a different set of questions that each group responded too as they rotated through them.

The results can be seen here:

Following from the chalk talk, I asked each group to summarise the discussion and responses prompted by the questions they started with. I gave them 15minutes to prepare a presentation for the rest of the team, and asked them to reflect on that instruction: how do they effectively get their students to collaborate on tasks like this? How do we teach students to work collaboratively or do we expect that they will be able to do it? We ended the session by sharing the general findings from each of the groups.

Following on from this session I have written and disseminated a survey based around some of the concepts surrounding academic honesty and citations, in order to give staff a chance to have some continual input into the formation of our academic honesty policy. In January I hope to be able to review the data collected from this chalk talk and survey to begin working on developing our policy but I am unsure of where to take this next to ensure collaboration and buy-in amongst the team. If you have any ideas I would love to hear them!