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Handling Academic Offenses - The Role of the TA 

Do I have to report all academic offences?

YES. It is your responsibility to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence for a case to go forward. If an instructor or their Teaching Assistant suspects that an offence has occurred it is the responsibility of the instructor to look into the matter by conducting an initial interview with the student. 

Can a faculty member ask his/her teaching assistant to deal with academic offences?

NO. If a TA suspects plagiarism or other academic offences it is their responsibility to inform the professor/course supervisor before returning any work to the student.  They have no authority to make any decision regarding the work. They should refer the student to the professor if he/she has any questions. 

Who is responsible for imposing sanctions on students who have committed academic offences?

TAs and instructors are not empowered to impose sanctions. If, after the meeting with the student, the instructor feels that an offence has occurred, they are required to report it to their chair and/or through the chair to the dean.

What can TAs do to help encourage academic integrity?

·       Learn your students’ names and the names of their friends in the same class
Students often feel a greater sense of moral obligation when their course-work and participation in tutorials is not anonymous. Getting to know your students helps develop peer pressure to behave honestly. Honesty is further encouraged if you help your students to get to know each other as well.

·       Make your expectations clear – particularly regarding group work
Some students cheat deliberately but many are not quite sure where the boundary lies between collaboration and academic dishonesty. Give your students examples of what you would consider cheating. Tell them which parts of an assignment or lab they may work on together and which must be completed alone. Tell them that cheating will not be tolerated.

What detection strategies can TAs employ?

·       Be aware
TAs need to pay attention to the style and diction students use. Complicated writing styles and diction that seems above the ability of the student should make you suspicious.

·       Identical grammar, diction and calculation mistakes
If you notice that two or more students have made an identical (often careless or silly) mistake this is a strong sign that these students are working too closely.

·       Web search
You will often find that a web search yields a “hit” for the phrase you think is out of place. The proliferation of online resources makes it easier for students to cheat. Under extreme pressure even the most honest will be tempted to cut corners. Use the advanced features of a good search engine (e.g. Alta Vista, Google) to detect “cut-and-paste” text. Tell your students that you will be doing this.

Things a TA should NOT do

  • Make accusations on the work/paper without taking-it-up with the professor
  • Give the student a grade without consulting the professor
  • Make derogatory comments regarding the student’s work and/or ability
  • Name students when talking about cheating with the tutorial or lab

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