Alberta’s MacKinnon Report: Academic Integrity Implications?

September 5, 2019

Cover - MacKinnon report 2019When I reviewed my Twitter feed this morning, I saw comments and questions about how recommendations in a recently-released report from the Alberta government might impact academic integrity in our province. The document is the “Report and recommendations: Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances“. It was released by the Treasury Board and Finance branch of the Alberta government on September 3, 2019.

Naturally, when I saw the chatter on social media, my immediate reaction was concern. I looked at some of the news stories that had been released on the report over the past few days and my concern escalated into alarm. But before engaging in the social media debate, I opted first to consult the original report myself. After all, since I blog about the importance of consulting original sources, I thought it only fair to find and read the document before offering my commentary.

I reviewed the report this morning over two rather large mugs of coffee. I focused my attention on what the report said about education, casting a particular lens on the implications for academic integrity.

The report presents an overview of recommendations for K-12 education and advanced education:

On Education: The Panel recommends that the government should:

Recommendation 5: Work with education stakeholders to decrease the percentage of government funding that goes to administration and governance (currently 24 .6%) to a level comparable to British Columbia (17%).

Recommendation 6: Completely review and revise the current education funding formula to ensure enrolment growth is addressed and to provide incentives for sharing services and achieving better education outcomes for students.

On Advanced Education: The Panel recommends that the government should:

Recommendation 7: Consult with post-secondary stakeholders to set an overall future direction and goals for the post-secondary system along with appropriate governance models.

Recommendation 8: Work with post-secondary stakeholders to achieve a revenue mix comparable to that in British Columbia and Ontario, including less reliance on government grants, more funding from tuition and alternative revenue sources, and more entrepreneurial approaches to how programs are financed and delivered. This includes lifting the current freeze on tuition fees.

Recommendation 9: Assess the financial viability of Alberta’s post-secondary institutions. The government should move quickly to address the future of those post-secondary institutions that do not appear to be viable in future funding scenarios. (p. 6-7)

More details are provided on pages 33-38 for K-12 education and pages 39-43 for advanced education. As I read through the details of the report, I would say it seems clear that deep cuts to education funding seem imminent, including cuts to educators’ salaries.

With regards to K-12 education the report states, “A number of school boards that have very high to high expenses per student have student achievement outcomes that are below 50%” (p. 36). The report seems to indicate that a shift from a funding model that would fund schools based on enrolment numbers alone might shift to one based on “outcomes achieved” (p. 37). The report does not explicitly say this would be a pay-for-performance model. Nor does it elaborate on what these “outcomes” might look like.

The objection that has arisen in the media seems to centre around Recommendation #6 which talks about “achieving better outcomes for students”. I find the high-level language vague and leaves much open to interpretation.

When I turned my attention to the section on Advanced Education, I found this point jumped out at me:

Not all Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are successful at getting students to complete their studies and graduate over a seven-year period subsequent to beginning their course of study . Nine of twenty-six institutions fell below an average completion rate of 60% and one institution had a completion rate of 40%. (p. 40)

This would seem to indicate that we might expect a more intense focus on students completing their programs as a measure of success. If anything, I might be concerned that program quality or standards might end up being lowered in advanced education programs to ensure more students complete their programs, but I am speculating.

There are other aspects of the report that I found interesting (even concerning), but I will refrain from commenting on those, because I examined the report specifically through the lens of academic integrity.

In short, I think we need to pay attention. Funding cuts to education seem imminent. From what I read, it would seem that our government will put a more intense focus on institutional and student outcomes and achievement, but how that will unfold is unclear. In terms of the potential impact of all this on academic integrity, I was unable to draw informed conclusions at this point.

Let me be clear though, that I unequivocally support a commitment to student learning — and students having opportunities to learn — no matter where they live, how much money they (or their parents) have, or what their age is. Those are my values as an educator, a researcher and a human being, so naturally, I will be keeping an eye on this. I am interested to know how the report is interpreted and used as a tool for the government to make decisions. I believe the content of this report, as it relates to education, will no doubt impact students, parents, educators, educational researchers and administrators at every level.

I would encourage all Albertans, and educators in particular, to read the original report. Fill up your coffee cup (twice if you need to) and dig into it. There are places we can read between the lines, speculate and surmise. At the very least, the report seems to provide the government with a clear mandate to cut costs to the public sector, including education, but don’t believe me (or the media). Read the report for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Reference:

MacKinnon, J., & Percy, M. (2019, September 3). Report and recommendations: Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances. Edmonton: Treasury Board and Finance, Government of Alberta. Retrieved from https://open.alberta.ca/publications/report-and-recommendations-blue-ribbon-panel-on-alberta-s-finances

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Contract cheating: A view from three Calgary post-secondary institutions

May 24, 2019

LSAC - (Cover slide) Rossi, Eaton, Toye & Chibry

So excited to be presenting with my colleagues, Silvia Rossi (Mount Royal University), Maragaret A. Toye (Bow Valley College) and Nancy Chibry (University of Calgary) next week at the Learning Specialists Association of Canada national conference in Olds, Alberta. I am excited that sessions on contract cheating are getting accepted at national conferences in Canada. To the best of my knowledge this will be the first time that contract cheating will be talked about at this particular conference.

Check out our slides on Slideshare:

Handouts:

How to cite this presentation (APA, 6th ed.):

Rossi, S., Eaton, S. E., Toye, M. A., & Chibry, N. (2019, May 27). Contract cheating: A view from three Calgary post-secondary institutions. Paper presented at the Learning Specialists Association of Canada (LSAC) National Conference, Olds, AB.

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Research Assistant job posting – Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity – April 2019

October 24, 2018

University of Calgary logoWe are planning a national symposium on academic integrity at the University of Calgary. I’ll be sharing more details about the symposium soon. Right now, we are looking for a Research Assistant to help us with the planning, organization and management of the Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity – April 17-18, 2019.

A job description is below. We are expecting this role to have an increasing time commitment as we approach the actual event in April, so availability during March and April 2019 is critical.

This position is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, currently enrolled at the University of Calgary. Being currently enrolled as a student at the University of Calgary is a requirement for this position.

There is one position available and the person must be available to work in person on campus. A full job description follows.

Research Assistant – Job Description

Project: Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity – April 17-18, 2019

Start date: Immediate

Maximum: 12 hours/week (3 hour shifts) – Scheduled as per project needs.

Work term: Fall 2018 and Winter 2019 terms

Work location: University of Calgary, main campus

Job Description:

The Research Assistant is responsible for working as part of the symposium planning team that supports the Canadian Symposium on Academic Integrity

Duties include:

  • Attend and actively participate in team meetings.
  • Assist with symposium planning and logistics.
  • Assist with symposium promotion, including social media.
  • Maintain detailed and organized project documentation, including reports, team meeting notes, etc.
  • Manage a team of student volunteers.
  • Assist with the preparation and publication of peer-reviewed conference proceedings.
  • Communicate with conference participants, as needed.
  • Assist with clerical work as needed.
  • Other duties as assigned.

Previous Experience/Qualifications:

  • Must be currently enrolled as a student at the University of Calgary.
  • Previous experience with event planning and/or volunteer coordination is an asset.
  • Independent and self-driven candidate is ideal.
  • Ability to function independently yet collaboratively within a team.
  • Attention to detail is critical.
  • Exceptional communication skills required to interact with other staff members, conference participants.
  • Excellent oral and written skills in English.
  • Commit to being fully available in person for conference preparations April 8—16, 2019.
  • Commit to attending the symposium in person for full-days on April 17-18, 2019.

Additional Information:

This is a part-time, casual position. We anticipate this role will include a maximum of 175 hours, distributed over shifts of not less than 3 hours and not more than 7 hours, with a maximum of 12 hours per week. There will be no hours scheduled on weekends or statutory holidays.

This is an on-campus position and the successful individual must be available in person for team meetings.

Application deadline: Friday, November 16, 2018

Please submit your cover letter and c.v. to the Symposium Co-Chairs:

Dr. Sarah Elaine EatonDr. Jennifer Lock, and  Dr. Meadow Schroeder

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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 


“Growing our own teachers”: Rural individuals becoming certified teachers

May 30, 2018

I’ve been working on a project on rural teacher education for a few years here in the Werklund School of Education. This week, my colleague, Dr. Dianne Gereluk, presented on behalf of our research group at a panel at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Here’s a slide deck that summarizes the findings of our project:

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This blog has had over 1.9 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


Workshop: Essay Mills, Theses-On-Demand and Contract Cheating

March 27, 2018

I recently attend the 2018 International Center for Academic Integrity conference in Richmond, Virginia, where I moderated a panel on contract cheating. Panelists included Tricia Bertram Gallant (UCSD), Christopher Lang (University of Toronto) and Mark Ricksen (Turnitin).

Workshop description

How do you know if your students are buying their work from the Internet? How prevalent is this practice, anyway? How do you talk to your students about the issue of contract cheating? Get answers to these questions and more in this interactive workshop. Find out the latest research and get practical resources to help you with your own students.

Learning outcomes

Participants will:

  • Gain insights into how contract cheating really works (and how easy it is for students to buy papers or even a complete thesis online).
  • Learn what the latest research says.
  • Learn practical tips on how to detect contract cheating and how to talk to students about it.

This workshop is free of charge and open to everyone.

Contract cheating workshop

 

More info: http://www.ucalgary.ca/taylorinstitute/events-workshops/essay-mills-theses-demand-and-contract-cheating-latest-research-and-resources

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.

 

 

 


Why you shouldn’t post your teaching dossier online

January 30, 2018

Students and colleagues sometimes ask me if they should post their teaching dossier or portfolio online. My answer is immediate: No!

Those who know me know that I am a big fan of developing a strong online professional presence. I encourage students and colleagues to keep their LinkedIn, Twitter, and other online professional profiles current. But there’s something about a teaching dossier that’s different. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read an article by White & Conrod (2016) where they tell the story of how their teaching philosophies were plagiarized.

Your teaching philosophy is a key element of your dossier. Developing it is hard work. It involves some deep reflection, brain work and soul-searching. You dig deep into yourself to figure out who you are as an educator, what matters to you and why it matters. Honestly, articulating your teaching philosophy may be the single most difficult element of putting together your teaching dossier. When it’s done, it should be a reflection of who you are and what matters to you as an educator.

Other people may have similar philosophies, but in the end, your statement is about you and your values. It is yours and yours alone.

If you post it online, it becomes easy for others to cut-and-paste what you have shared. These may not be bad people. They may be too afraid or too intimidated to engage in the deep reflection required to develop a philosophy of their own. Who knows? My point is, don’t make it easy for others to steal your teaching philosophy.

Share your dossier selectively, with those who need it, such as employers or those evaluating your teaching. You might also choose to share your dossier with those who would benefit from it, such as students or junior colleagues. That does not mean you have to post it publicly online. You have other options:

Alternatives to posting your teaching dossier publicly online

  1. Share print copies of your work. This may sound old fashioned, but if someone does not require digital access to your dossier and a paper copy works just as well, why not? You might choose to add “Confidential” to the header or footer to make it clear you do not want it to be shared widely.
  2. Save a copy of your work in a digital format that is hard to copy. An protected .pdf isn’t foolproof, but it is an option. Another option is to save your work as a .jpg., but if you choose this route, be sure that the .jpg is high quality and easy to read.
  3. Save your work as a password protected or “read only” online document. Share the password or link with caution.

Again, share selectively and make it clear that your work is not for distribution.

I suspect that some people who are vehement believers in open access or the sharing culture may disagree with my stance on this issue. There are plenty of websites that offer tips about how to post your entire dossier online. Don’t get me wrong. I share lots of my work online, free of charge in an open access format. It may be OK to share parts of your teaching dossier publicly online, such as your previous teaching experience, but not all of it. The key is to think critically about what you want to share and how you choose to do that.

It is important to understand that the more publicly you share, the easier you make it for others to copy-and-paste your deep thoughts, rather than engaging in their own soul-searching journey. If you want to offer others a short-cut and do the hard work for them, that is an option. But if you’d rather not, think twice before posting your entire teaching dossier publicly online.

The point is for you to think critically about who you want to have access to your inner most values about teaching. In my view, your teaching philosophy is a key element of your identity as an educator. Don’t make it easy for others to steal your professional identity.

Reference:

White, M. A., & Conrod, J. D. (2016). Is nothing sacred? Our personal teaching philosophies have been plagiarized. University Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.universityaffairs.ca/opinion/in-my-opinion/is-nothing-sacred-our-personal-teaching-philosophies-have-been-plagiarized/

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This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


A Review of the Literature on Rural and Remote Pre-Service Teacher Preparation With a Focus on Blended and E-Learning Models

June 29, 2015

U of C logo - 2015Over the past several months I have been working with a team in the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary to investigate the benefits and challenges of a blended pre-service teacher education program. We did an extensive survey of recent literature and our work has been archived on the U of C’s digital space.

We are excited to share the results of our work. You can check it out here:

Eaton, S. E., Dressler, R., Gereluk, D. & Becker, S. (2015). A review of the literature on rural and remote pre-service teacher preparation with a focus on blended and e-learning models. Calgary: University of Calgary. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1880/50497

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If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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