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Discussing Collaboration

At Boise State faculty determine the parameters of acceptable collaboration for each course and each assignment. This flexibility supports faculty in creating the types of assignments best suited to their courses, with regards to how much teamwork versus autonomous is best to support student learning. However, this flexibility can create ambiguity regarding the boundaries of collaboration for students. In addition the perception of a grey area, when a student is experiencing a high level of stress, may lead them to believe a decision to violate the collaboration policy is a minor transgression rather than a serious offense.

Similar to suggestions found on the Promote Academic Integrity page, the best strategies to promote acceptable collaboration and prevent unauthorized collaboration are:

  1. Discussing the importance of academic integrity
  2. Clearly defining authorized collaboration
  3. Responding according to Policy 2020, The Student Code of Conduct, if an incident of suspected misconduct occurs.

The first and last items are discussed in-depth on other pages.  Here are some tools to determine what level of collaboration is appropriate and how to communicate those boundaries with students.

  • Consider the types of collaboration permissible in your discipline broadly as well as within your department. Is there any consistency? If so, be sure to note when and how your assignments differ. If there is not consistency, share that with the students along with the reasons why.
  • Are there a variety of assignments within your course? If so, are the expectations for collaboration the same or different for papers and/or projects? For lab work? Discussion board posts? Be sure to clearly communicate the rules for each of these assignments.
  • If there is group work within the course, are students working together and turning in a single end product? Are they working together and then turning in individual products? When exactly should they stop working together?
  • Are there peer reviews of assignments? If so, what kind of feedback is appropriate and when? How do you define feedback? What is the difference between feedback and having someone else do the work? Can students have someone else revise grammar, paragraph structure, thesis, or citations?
  • What are your expectations for homework? Can students work together to solve problems? If they can, are they permitted to provide the exact same solution? Do you expect the assignment to name the parties that worked together? What level of support are tutors permitted to provide?

Articulating the answers to some of these questions in your syllabus and when providing directions for specific assignments will help remove ambiguity, allowing students to be make informed decisions.  Letting students know why you have determined the appropriate parameters for collaboration will help them make appropriate decisions should a question arise. Be sure to word directions within a positive framework to help students feel invited and challenged to rise to meet your expectations for success within your course.