Process Monitoring Group Work Assessments
|Lecturer:||Michael Farrell, DCU Business School (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|Subject:||AC229 - International Accounting Theory & Practice|
|Discipline:||Accounting & Finance|
|Level:||2nd year undergraduate|
|Mode of Delivery:||Classroom based lectures|
Academic integrity risks are similar to fraud risks in the business world. Fraud risks are often conceptualised through the fraud triangle: There must be a pressure to commit fraud, an opportunity to commit fraud, and a rationalisation for committing a fraud. Similarly, in an academic environment, students have pressures, opportunities, and rationalisations that could negatively impact academic integrity. As an individual academic, I cannot significantly reduce the pressures on students. However, I can affect the opportunities for cheating by strengthening the internal controls of my assessments. In addition, but to a lesser extent, it is possible for me to affect students’ rationalisation processes.
What was the learning and teaching challenge you faced?
I currently run a group assessment for second year Accounting & Finance degree students. The group assignment is a case study report of a stock-exchange listed company operating in Ireland.
All groups report on the same case company and I change the case company every year. The questions set for the assignment are very challenging but given the nature of the subject, and the level these students are at, the answers tend to be relatively objective which therefore increases the risk of plagiarism.
After some careful thought, I concluded that a key weakness of the assessment was that I had no visibility over the process that students went through in developing their final answers. The assessment was predominantly focused on outputs with nearly all the requirements & marks going towards the students’ final answers. I required an assessment deliverable that allowed me to examine the process students went through in developing their final answers so I could rationalise final answers against the development of those answers.
What was done?/What did you do?
I added a requirement to the assessment whereby groups were required to submit a copy of “minutes of groups meetings held” with their final report. I now had a mechanism to review the process that students went through in their assignment. This allowed me to correlate the assessment answers with the minutes submitted.
How did it work for you?
The requirement worked very well as a plagiarism control for the simple reason that it is far more difficult to plagiarise a process than an outcome. The lack of detailed meeting minutes alerted me to be more vigilant for potential plagiarism when reviewing a report. Furthermore, it provided me with an extra dimension with which to justify the marks awarded to each group for their report. For most groups, the quality of the report answers correlated with the quality of the minutes provided. In addition, for situations where a group’s report was between mark bands, the meeting minutes gave me an additional indicator/justification for my final grade decision.
What tips would you want to give to another lecturer implementing this practice?
A couple of suggested tips are as follows:
- Provide a template to students for how they should complete the minutes of their meetings. A standardised format will make them easier to review.
- Consider having separate word counts for the meeting minutes and the rest of the submission. It is far better for the lecturer to advise students on how to split up their word count than leaving it to the students to decide.
Reflections and future plans?
First off, I plan to implement the suggested tips I outlined above! I also plan to increase the number of marks on offer for the minutes from 15% of the assignment to 25%. I think the control works effectively and I am more than happy to increase its weighting for next year so that students give the requirement even more time. However, I am still glad that I went with a 15% value for the past yea; as a lecturer, I am always mindful of the potential unintended consequences that may arise when a decision is taken to change part/all of an assessment. It is often a lot less stressful to “leave well alone” but making small incremental changes is a “happy medium” as far as I am concerned.
Can you recommend further reading and/or resources (inc. rubrics, templates etc. as appropriate)?
- Interesting article relating the fraud triangle to student cheating: https://www.sheehancpa.com/pdf/student-cheating-and-the-fraud-triangle.pdf
- The specific wording I used in my assignment brief to students for the minutes of meetings was as follows:
“Include, by way of appendix to your report, a copy of all minutes of meetings held to complete this project. Your minutes should indicate the number of meetings held, who was in attendance, the issues discussed and how issues were dealt with. The minutes should include interesting findings, the big issues encountered, and how those issues were dealt with.”
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