In this issue:

Academic integrity

The recent uncovering of dishonest practices in several large U.S companies has brought added relevance to concerns about academic integrity in universities. In May, I attended a conference at the University of Guelph, which had just completed analysing the results of a survey of faculty, teaching assistants (TAs) and students on the extent of academic dishonesty on its campus. The following is a summary of what I learned at that conference, with relevant references and website addresses.

The data on academic dishonesty

Cheating of various sorts happens at all universities, colleges and high schools.

  • Roughly half of high-school students plagiarize from the web.
  • There is a higher prevalence of cheating: in schools that do not have an honour code; in larger, less selective schools; if penalities are not severe; if faculty understanding and support is low; and if the probability of getting caught is low.
  • Students in engineering and business schools are more likely to cheat than those in other programs. (Data are not available broken down by faculty here at Waterloo for incidents of cheating and plagiarism, because of the possibility of the perpetrators being identifiable in smaller faculties; however, an individual in possession of this information says that our engineering faculty does not have higher rates of academic misconduct. This could be a result of the special programming and support provided to first-year engineering students by Bill Lennox, David Brush and their group.)
  • Men self-report more cheating than women.
  • Younger students and those with lower GPAs self-report more cheating than older students and those with higher GPAs. (The age factor is of special concern, with younger students entering Ontario's universities in the next couple of years.)
  • Students:
    • do not perceive cheating behaviours to be as serious as do faculty
    • view themselves as being "resourceful" if they can find old exams, and fault faculty for being "lazy" in reusing old assignments and exams
    • think some amount of cheating is "expected" and could be seen as preparation for a life in the business world (!)
    • feel that cheating is easy to get away with, and that penalties are light
    • would like more explicit instruction as to what degree of collaboration is considered acceptable for assignments.
  • Faculty often do not report academic misconduct because of the time involved in taking the case to higher levels.


Some suggestions emerged during discussion sessions and the two keynote addresses by Drs. Don McCabe and Robert Harris as to what faculty members and administrators could do to discourage academic misconduct and to promote academic integrity. 

Faculty should:

  • promote an atmosphere of trust in their classrooms
  • be cognisant of students' course loads, and make assignments of reasonable difficulty/length
  • take the time to instruct students in every course as to proper citation of sources, and what constitutes academic misconduct as well as the penalties involved when one engages in it
  • make explicit the degree of collaboration that is acceptable for each assignment, lab report, etc.
  • assign papers that are "plagiarism resistant"
  • change exams, assignments, and labs regularly; make old exams accessible to everyone
  • have secure assignment drop-off/pick-up procedures
  • invigilate carefully (e.g., ban hats in exams; check calculators for correct type; ensure a reasonable student/proctor ratio).

Administrators should:

  • take on the responsibility to educate all members of the university community as to the fundamental values of academic integrity in a clear and consistent way
  • give these messages (see previous point) high visibility and keep them coming
  • educate instructors and TAs as to their important role in making students cognisant of academic integrity and of the need for them (faculty, TAs) to practise what they preach
  • encourage student responsibility for academic integrity by ensuring strong student representation on relevant committees and tribunals.

Here at Waterloo, from September 2000 until August 2001 there were 77 cases of cheating and 58 cases of plagiarism that were reported to associate deans, all involving undergraduate students.

My impression is that we as teachers can do a lot to help students avoid engaging in dishonest practices. Doing this would not take a great deal more of our time or energy. We, and more importantly society as a whole, would reap huge benefits as a result.

  1. Notes: is a useful facts sheet to which one could refer students. It contains a definition of plagiarism, answers to frequently asked questions concerning proper referencing, and "Ten Golden Rules to Help You Avoid Plagiarism."
  2. This is one of "Ten Principles of Academic Integrity for Faculty" promoted by the Center for Academic Integrity ( These first appeared in the Sept. 1997 issue of Synthesis: Law and Policy in Higher Education, Gary Pavela, Ed.
  3. John Wainwright (DTA, 1976; Chair, Applied Math) once told me that his directions to students were very simple. He says "Feel free to discuss the assignments with your colleagues, but write the final solutions on your own, and acknowledge those who contributed ideas for your solutions."
  4. Dr. Robert A. Harris, author of  The Plagiarism Handbook and a keynote speaker at the Guelph conference, has an excellent website with more detail about how to help students avoid plagiarism:


McCabe, D.L., & Pavela, G. (1997). The principled pursuit of academic integrity.      AAHE Bulletin, December, 11-12.

McCabe, D.L., & Pavela, G. (2000). Some good news about academic integrity.       Change,  Sept.-Oct., 32-38.

Barbara Bulman-Fleming

Bringing analogies to life

How do you take an abstract concept and make it concrete for your students? Using analogies can help. But have you tried live demonstrations using your students as "props"? Computer science  graduate student Steve Engels, winner of Waterloo's Distinguished Teaching by a Registered Student Award, recently taught CS 134, an introduction to abstract concepts in computer science. He discovered that getting students bodily involved in his analogies greatly assisted him in explaining the material-and it kept students on the edge of their seats.

In one class, Steve covered data structures and wanted to illustrate the limitations of arrays. Eggs, a couple of egg cartons, and a student brought this concept to life. At the front of the classroom, he gave his volunteer a six-egg carton. Then he labelled each egg with a "data value"-a student's name-and gave the eggs to her one by one. She put them in the carton but looked confused when handed the seventh egg. Steve then explained the need for arrays that can grow, and he gave her the twelve-egg carton. The student "copied over" the values to the larger carton, then added more "data" until the larger carton was full. Once again, the thirteenth egg caused a dilemma. Steve pointed out that, as the demonstration had shown, structures with a predetermined number of storage spaces can cause problems in a database.

Student response to this and his many other demonstrations was quite favourable. Steve found that the demonstrations were a particularly effective way to keep students' attention in the large lecture setting, which resembles in some ways an entertainment context. "Students wake up more when they see other students go up to the front," he explained. "It's like when you go to a hypnotist, and the person beside you goes up and is made to squawk like a chicken. You laugh at their expense, but you're sympathizing with them, too."

Overall, the demonstrations did not significantly increase Steve's lecture preparation time. He did have to plan in advance, however, so that he had an opportunity to pick up the necessary props, like eggs, playing cards, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, or Russian matryoshka dolls.

Steve's most important criterion for the demonstrations was that they be clearly connected to the course material. "I had to keep myself in check," he admits, "because there were some demos that I wanted to do but that didn't have any connection to the material." He also had to weigh whether the demonstrations were effective enough to justify the time spent on them, as they often took up a significant portion of class time. In order to confirm that the analogy was appropriate or that the demonstration was worth doing, Steve tried to discuss his ideas with another course instructor. Another thing Steve had to keep in mind was that students participating in the demonstrations couldn't take notes. It was crucial that he summarize the key points afterwards so that all students had a chance to record the information.

Steve also noted that as concepts get more complex in upper-year courses, it might be more difficult to represent them analogously using students and other props. These courses tend to be smaller, however, so instructors are able to give students more individual attention and engage them in different ways; the entertainment element becomes less important. But for a class of ninety first-year students, these demonstrations were a memorable way to keep students interested and an effective way to tangibly represent operations and processes. Steve says that it was satisfying to know that the student who helped him with the egg demonstration walked around with the eggs all day, explaining data structures to curious friends. 

Cara DeHaan

Internationalisation research assistant

Elise Ho is currently working towards her master's degree in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. She is interested in a variety of educational and multicultural issues, stemming from her teaching experience at the Faculty of Education at Queen's University and from her graduate research in traditional ecological knowledge. Following her career at Waterloo, she hopes to move on to her doctoral degree with the eventual goal of teaching at the university level and continuing environmental research. She is excited about becoming part of the TRACE team, and looks forward to pursuing research that examines how international students and domestic students with international experience can help to enrich university curricula. Elise can be reached at or extension 3408.

Internationalisation at home

 How do we foster a better understanding of people from different countries and cultures among non-mobile students, increasing their knowledge of and respect for other human beings and their way of living, and creating the global society in a multicultural context?

Starting this fall, the TRACE Office together with the Office of the associate vice-president academic (Bruce Mitchell) will be initiating efforts to provide our university and others with information and insights on how to use the talents, experience and knowledge of students to enrich ('internationalise') the curriculum. Similar efforts are occurring in several universities in Europe, where about 10% of students study abroad at some point, as opposed to fewer than 1% of Canadian students. Waterloo, for example, sends about 700 of its 18,000 students to other countries every year to study, work or volunteer. The Canadian Bureau for International Education has provided us with matching funds to hire a part-time graduate-student research assistant, Elise Ho (see above), to help us to:

  1. find out what strategies other universities have used in order to harness the expertise of international students and domestic students with international experience;
  2. hold focus groups with students, and with faculty members who have either developed international exchange programs or who have an interest in developing them, to identify practical and appropriate ways for faculty members to enrich the curriculum using students with international experience as resources;
  3. pilot-test some of these methods in selected courses with interested faculty members; and consolidate the information and ideas obtained, and prepare a report that will be made available to other Canadian universities as well as Waterloo.

This is an ambitious agenda for a 10-hours-per-week position for two terms, but we're sure that Elise (BSc, BEd), who is currently an MES student in the environment and resource studies program, is up to the job. She impressed the hiring committee with her interests in multicultural issues and in education, her international experiences, and her strong speaking and writing skills.

Learning about other cultures and ways of thinking, and the flexibility of mind this brings about, is useful - arguably critical - to successful functioning in today's world. In the US, similar initiatives are considered under the broad term 'diversity' issues, and include gender, racial, cultural, and sexual-identity considerations. It is what one might call a 'hot topic' in the higher-education literature south of the border and among American policy makers. Results of many studies on the efficacy of 'diversity initiatives' seem to suggest that they indeed have positive effects both on students' attitudes toward people who are in any way different from themselves, as well as "on cognitive development, and on overall satisfaction and involvement with the institution."  These last few words will be like a green flag to those in the development office, and are especially relevant as Waterloo embarks on an ambitious program of fundraising. Obviously, alumni who have had a positive experience at Waterloo and have become involved are much more likely to support the University financially than those who have not. Although this financial implication is not why Bruce and I are committed to this project, it does have a distinctly pleasant ring to it, especially considering the recent budget clawbacks and cuts here at Waterloo.


  1. Nilsson, B. (2000). European Association for International Education Forum, Spring, 2000, p 25. "Internationalisation at Home", or "IaH" is the designation for a special-interest group of the European Association for International Education (EAIE):
  2. Daryl G. Smith, et al. (1997) (Executive summary of "Diversity works: The emerging picture of how students benefit")


Stanley, C.A. (2000-2001). Teaching in action: Multicultural education as the highest form of understanding. Essays on teaching excellence: Toward the best in the academy, 12(2), a publication of the Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education (POD).

Barbara Bulman-Fleming

Community begins with you: A program for new Waterloo faculty

Starting this September, a university-wide initiative is being launched to welcome and orient new faculty and to promote their success at Waterloo. The plans for this program are multi-faceted and are intended to complement individual faculty or departmental activities to help new faculty.

New faculty will receive a welcome letter from Waterloo before their arrival on campus, with an invitation to participate in the upcoming programming.  This fall, there is a kick-off welcoming reception on Wednesday, September 4, from noon until 4:00, then a BBQ in the evening for new faculty and their spouses at President Johnston's farm. A variety of "lunch and learn" sessions will be offered throughout the rest of the year on topics such as preparing for promotion and tenure and new ideas in high quality classroom teaching. These ongoing events have been designed so that new faculty members can begin participating as soon as they arrive at Waterloo since we hire throughout the year, not just for July or September starts.

There are also plans to make contact with new faculty within the first few weeks of their arrival on campus, which would include a welcome visit by a Waterloo faculty member and a binder of resources.

Another resource for these new faculty is a website called WatPort that outlines both community and campus resources. The site, which is being unveiled on September 4th, is located at: From this site, new faculty can find out about topics such as local restaurants, medical services in the region, how to get a WatCard, Waterloo policies of interest to those with families, teaching tips sheets, and research grant forms. The site is meant to provide a comprehensive compilation of resources to support the successful transition of new faculty to the community.

The programming is under the overall direction of Tom Carey, associate vice-president, learning resources and innovation, and Bruce Mitchell, associate vice-president, academic.

If you have questions or comments about this program, please feel free to contact Donna Ellis in the TRACE Office at extension 5713. We are looking forward to creating stronger ties with new faculty at Waterloo and helping them to establish themselves within our community of scholars in teaching and research.

Donna Ellis

Assignment design

I remember an assignment I received as a second year organic chemistry student (not at Waterloo). Out of the blue, the class was assigned to find a specific research article that would answer a classmate's question. If we submitted a written answer, we would get bonus points. Immediately after lecture that day, the entire class went to the library. I will never forget the look of horror on the librarians' faces as a class of 200 thronged into the library, with each student trying to be the first to get to that journal. Imagine the stress of both students and librarians when we all realized that the article had been torn out of the journal and was nowhere to be found! 

Thankfully, this sort of situation is easily avoided with proper planning and implementation of classroom assignments. This was the topic of the July TRACE workshop on assignment design, facilitated in partnership with Anne Fullerton, biology and chemical engineering liaison librarian. When planning your assignments, consider the bigger picture. How does the assignment augment students' current skill sets? What are your goals? What support demands (e.g., librarians, community professionals, teaching assistants (TAs), other students, technology requirements) will students have? How will the assignment be graded and by whom? 

Once you have a solid plan, it is time to communicate the task to your students. Prepare an assignment handout that outlines: the relevance of the assignment, the intended audience for their work, their task, a timeline for completing key stages of the assignment, and the grading scheme, including course policies. Remember to use plain language and be absolutely clear about what you expect. Even the most common terms used in describing assignments can be misunderstood. For example, rather than asking students to discuss the material, tell them what you really want: examine, analyze carefully, or give reasons pro and con

As your students are completing their assignments, talk with them to see how their work is progressing. Consult with TAs, your liaison librarian, community professionals, or any other people who are providing ongoing support for your students. Your goal is to stay informed about what is being done, address problems early on, and ensure student success. 

One of our highest goals as instructors is to help our students develop into information-literate, independent learners. TRACE has prepared several tips sheets ( on assignment design that can help you maximize the effectiveness of your course assignments. Carefully designed assignments will open the doors for student learning and make creative and interesting results more likely. 

Martha Anne Roberts

Returning teaching assistant developer

Geneviève Desmarais, a PhD candidate in the behavioural neuroscience division of the psychology department, will rejoin TRACE as a teaching assistant (TA) developer for the Fall 2002 term.  After being a TA developer from January to December 2001, she has been a lecturer for 'Physiological Psychology,' a second-year psychology course, as well as a coordinator for the same course in its distance-education version.  Geneviève is also completing the Certificate in University Teaching to refine her teaching abilities as well as more general academic skills. She is thrilled at the prospect of returning to TRACE, and looks forward to the opportunity of gaining further experience through this appointment. You can reach Geneviève at extension 7110 or

Announcing fall 2002 TRACE events

Workshops for the fall 2002 term:

Presentation skills September 25 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Exam preparation October 17 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Teaching dossiers, part 1 October 22 OR
October 30
9 :30 - 11:00 a.m.
2:30 - 4:00 p.m.
Time management November 12 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Creating CVs and cover letters November 27 12 - 1:30 p.m.
Understanding the learner  December 5 OR
December 11
9 a.m. - 12 p.m.
1:30 - 4:30 p.m.

For more specific details, watch for notices in your department and via the Certificate listserv.

To join the listserv, email trace@admmail. Each lunchtime workshop is followed by an informal discussion group one week following the workshop. 

CUT participants, please note that all of these workshops partially fulfill CUT requirements for GS 901 and 902. The teaching dossier workshop is required for the CUT. 

You may register via our web site at: