Ensuring Academic Integrity at Taught Postgraduate Level

Ensuring Academic Integrity at Taught Postgraduate Level

Dr Heather Morgan, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition outlines how different assessment formats and self-reflection can help to deter academic misconduct issues.


I manage and deliver two, 30 credit employability courses for MSc students across Applied Health Science programmes during the summer semester, namely: Extended Work-Based Placement in Applied Health Sciences and Evaluating Policy Effects in Practice. The class size typically comprises of 25 postgraduate students and the courses include a variety of formative and summative assessments across both courses. While students produce written reports, they are also assessed on project documentation (contracts and reflective diaries), a professional development/appraisal and pre-recorded oral presentations, which motivate and challenge students to undertake the work themselves, as well as detailing their individual pathways of thinking.


Students are introduced to the course assessments via a video recording delivered by the Course Co-ordinator. This is followed by a series of workshops (different patterns for each course, but weekly/fortnightly during the first half of the course) to help students prepare individual assessment plans. Additional bookable one-to-one, online sessions are used to encourage students to share their progress, where students also receive constructive feedback. For the professional development/appraisal, there is a formative assessment opportunity ahead of the summative deadline at the end of the course (30%). For the pre-recorded oral presentations (20%), students are directed to prepare slides/visual material that introduce the context (host organisation or policy area), then their specific focus, chosen methods/framework and work plans. Once recorded, all links are shared within MyAberdeen, so that students can learn from and question each other, compare approaches, share learning and identify a preferred partner for their peer-peer appraisals, which they conduct in a similar fashion to the annual reviews at the end of the course. All assessments were co-designed with Programme Leads, students, and external organisations. This assessment approach encourages reflection and application of knowledge, which helps to design out academic misconduct opportunities and promote academic integrity.


Designing different types of assessments encourages student engagement and reduces the potential for academic misconduct. Students are provided with standard rubrics alongside additional marking guidance so that they can understand how their work will be assessed and are engaged in workshops and 1-2-1 meetings that focus on these details. Assessments acknowledge ‘live’ learning and external aspects (placement hosts or policy contexts) and emphasise a scaffolded and related approach to all assessments, e.g. the presentation helps to match pair appraisers and structure the final report.

Assessments are all individual – there are no right/wrong submissions. Students must tell the story of their project development and enhanced employability journey in each, including reflecting on their own roles and ownership, which means that assessments are personalised. The assessment methods encourage accountability to student peers as well as staff. My pedagogical research focus is on work-based/employability learning and authentic assessment, which informs these practices and their evaluation.