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This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed Login this post, please "like" it or share it on social media. Thanks! Login

Understanding Academic Integrity from a Teaching and Learning Perspective: Engaging with the 4M Framework

This post situates academic integrity within the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) discourse. The 4M framework frames integrity Login Login Login Login Login through a four interrelated organizational lenses: (a) micro (individual); (b) meso (departmental); (c) macro (institutional); and (d) mega (community).

Keywords: academic integrity, scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), pedagogy, 4M framework, systems theory.


Using a framework to understand complex issues, such as those relating to academic integrity, can be helpful while avoiding being overly reductionist. For a long time scholars and educators haven calling for more pro-active and pedagogical approaches to academic integrity (Eaton et al., 2017; Howard, 2002; Morris, 2016). One scholar has even called academic integrity a "teaching and learning Login Login imperative" (Bertram Gallant, 2008). In addition, the position that academic integrity is solely a student responsibility is now considered outdated, as advocates call for multi-stakeholder approaches that engage various members of the learning community including students, educators, and administrators, in different but interconnected ways (Eaton et Login Login Login Login Login al., 2017; Morris, 2016).

To help us understand how all these different stakeholders play a role, a systems approach to academic integrity can be helpful (Bertram Gallant, 2016; Bertram Gallant & Kalichman, 2011; Drinan & Bertram Gallant, 2008).

Systems thinking is not new; it has been Login Login around for more than half a century, if not longer (Bronfenbrenner, 1976; 1981; von Bertalanffy, 1968).

The 4M Framework

Systems theory helped to inform the conceptualization of the 4M Framework, which was developed within the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) community to help educators understand teaching Login and learning inquiry (Friberg 2016; Kalu et al., 2018; Kenny et al., 2016; Poole & Simmons, 2013; Simmons, 2016; Williams et al., 2013). The framework consists of four nested levels: micro, meso, macro, and mega.

The 4M Framework: Micro, Meso, Macro, and Mega Levels

The Micro Level: Individual

Individual Login Login students and educators are at the heart of the 4M framework. Each person’s conceptual understanding of academic integrity, as well as practical skills such as paraphrasing, citing, and referencing, develop at an individual level. But this learning does not happen in isolation. It is impacted by Login other individuals within the system, as well as the system itself.

Individual educators also operate at the micro level when they are preparing course content, lessons and activities. Research has shown over and over again that students are more likely to care about academic integrity when Login Login Login educators show that it matter to them, too (Bertram Gallant, 2018; McCabe et al., 2012; Eaton et al., 2017). It is at this level that educators can have a direct and lasting impact on teaching students how to engage in ethical decision making and also how Login Login Login Login Login Login Login to build practical skills such as paraphrasing, citing and referencing.

The Meso Level: Departmental

At this level, academic departments and support units, such as the library or the student affairs office, provide resources and learning opportunities that allow academic integrity to be operationalized. At this level support Login for academic integrity can be hands-on and pro-active in the form of workshops, tutorials, and practical resources.

The Macro Level: Learning Organization

The learning organization (e.g., college or school) is responsible for setting the institutional direction and culture for academic integrity. This includes having clearly articulated Login policies and procedures that can be applied fairly and equitably across the institution. Leaders at this level can also act as champions who set the tone for the entire school (McCabe et al, 2012).

The Mega Level: Community

This level includes stakeholders who are connected with the Login Login school, but who may not be involved on a day-to-day basis. This includes government bodies, alumni, parents and others who can be engaged to as partners in promoting academic integrity and ethical conduct in a variety of ways.

It is important to engage with colleagues from Login other institutions to form networks of professional practice (Kenny et al., 2016). This helps us to expand our understanding, push our boundaries and learn with and from one another. When we engage with colleagues outside of our institutions, we are engaging at the mega level. This is Login Login essential for those working in academic integrity contexts, where there might be only a handful of individuals directly engaged with this work on a day-to-day basis. Ongoing engagement with a network of like-minded professionals is key to continuing our professional learning in a sustained and sustainable Login Login Login way.


The 4M lens helps us to understand who the various stakeholders are and how they can play a role in upholding and enacting academic integrity in our learning communities. Creating a culture of integrity cannot happen if only certain individuals are engaged (McCabe et al., Login 2012). Instead, creating a culture of integrity requires intentional and sustained effort across a variety of different stakeholder groups within the institution.

Discussion Questions

  • Who are some of the stakeholders actively engaged in promoting academic integrity at your school?
  • How are you engaging stakeholders at every level of your school to uphold and enact academic integrity?
  • How are you creating a culture of integrity at your school?


Bertram Gallant, T. (2008). Academic integrity in the twenty-first century: A teaching and learning imperative. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Bertram Gallant, T. (2016). Systems Login Login approach to going forward: Introduction. In T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity (pp. 975-977). Singapore: Springer Singapore.

Bertram Gallant, T., & Kalichman, M. (2011). Academic ethics: A systems approach to understanding misconduct and empowering change in the academy. In T. Bertram Gallant (Ed.), Creating the Login Login ethical academy: A systems approach to understanding misconduct and empowering change in higher education (pp. 27-44). New York: Routledge.

Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. New York: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1976). The Experimental Ecology of Login Education. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association (AERA), San Francisco, CA

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1981). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge: Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Drinan, P. M., & Bertram Gallant, T. (2008). Plagiarism and academic integrity systems. Journal of Library Login Login Administration, 47(3-4), 125-140. doi:10.1080/01930820802186472

Eaton, S. E., Guglielmin, M., & Otoo, B. (2017). Plagiarism: Moving from punitive to pro-active approaches. In A. P. Preciado Babb, L. Yeworiew, & S. Sabbaghan (Eds.), Selected Proceedings of the IDEAS Conference 2017: Leading Educational Change Conference (pp. 28-36). Calgary, Canada: Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary.

Howard, R. M. (2002). Don’t Police Plagiarism: Just TEACH! The Education Digest, 67(5), 46-49.

Kenny, N., Watson, G. P. L., & Desmarais, S. (2016). Building sustained action: Supporting an institutional practice of SoTL Login Login Login at the University of Guelph. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2016(146), 87-94. doi:10.1002/tl.20191

Kalu, F., Dyjur, P., Berenson, C., Grant, K. A., Jeffs, C., Kenny, N., & Mueller, R. (2018). Seven voices, seven developers, seven one things that guide our practice. To Login Improve the Academy, 37(1), 111-127. doi:10.1002/tia2.20066

McCabe, D. L., Butterfield, K. D., & Treviño, L. K. (2012). Cheating in college: Why students do it and what educators can do about it. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Morris, E. J. (2016). Academic Integrity: Login A Teaching and Learning Approach. In T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity (pp. 1037-1053). Singapore: Springer Singapore.

Poole, G., & Simmons, N. (2013). Contributions of the scholarship of teaching and learning to quality enhancement in Canada. In R. Land & G. Gordon (Eds.), Enhancing quality Login Login Login in higher education international perspectives (pp. 278-298). London: London: Routledge.

Simmons, N. (2016). Synthesizing SoTL institutional initiatives toward national impact. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2016(146), 95-102. doi:10.1002/tl.20192

von Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General system theory: Foundations, development, applications. New York: George Login Login Login Login

Williams, A. L., Verwoord, R., Beery, T. A., Dalton, H., McKinnon, J., Strickland, K., . . . Poole, G. (2013). The Power of social networks: A model for weaving the scholarship of teaching and learning into institutional culture. Teaching & Learning Inquiry: The ISSOTL Journal, 1(2), 49-62. Login Login Login 10.2979/teachlearninqu.1.2.4

To cite this post in your own work, refer to the original report archived online:

Eaton, S. E. (2020). Understanding Academic Integrity from a Teaching and Learning Perspective: Engaging with the 4M Framework. Calgary: University of Calgary.

For a deeper Login Login Login dive into this topic, read more in:

Share or Tweet this: Understanding Academic Integrity from a Teaching and Learning Perspective: Engaging with the 4M Framework

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please "like" it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of Login the University of Calgary.

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Comments Off on Understanding Academic Integrity from a Teaching and Learning Perspective: Engaging with the 4M Framework | academic integrity, education | Tagged: 4M framework, academic integrity, higher education, pedagogy, scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), SoTL, systems Login theory | Permalink
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Prices range from $10 to $35 per page, depending on the writer's level. From their order form, I have the option to choose from 3 levels: Gold, Platinum, and Login Diamond.

  • Gold-level writers are new to UnemployedProfessors but have extensive writing and teaching experience.
  • Platinum-level writers have been with the company for a long time, with high customer satisfaction scores and repeat clients.
  • Meanwhile, those who prefer only Diamond-level writers to bid on Login their orders can expect the finest work available. These are professors who have been with UnemployedProfessors since the beginning, with thousands of successfully completed projects and unmatched customer satisfaction ratings. But remember, the better writer you want, the more money you'll have to shell out.

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It is worth noting that when questions began to arise on Login Twitter about this user, I took a screen shot that showed the user had completed 746 assignments on behalf of students, as of 14 August 2020. Login

Is the Hon. Demetrios Nicolaides, Alberta Minister of Advanced Education involved with contract cheating?

On Saturday, August 14, 2020, questions began to circulate on Twitter about whether Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education, the Hon. Demetrios Nicolaides, worked for a contract cheating company.

The question seems to have first been raised by Kim Siever on Twitter. The question Siever asks whether the man now serving Login Login Login as Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education is the same person who has a user profile with the same name on the website

If the two people are one and the same, this would be an egregious breach of public trust. Why? Because we want to Login have confidence in our elected political officials, especially one appointed as the provincial minister to oversee higher education. We want to have confidence that a government minister in charge of advanced education for our province would not supply services to the shady underbelly of education that Login Login facilitates the buying and selling of fraudulent academic work on the Internet.

Let’s look at what we know and consider some questions we should be asking.

The company:

This company provides services includes completing written academic work on behalf of students including anything "from response papers to midterm and final essays, all the way to dissertations and thesis chapters". Screen shot Retrieved 15 Aug 2020.

Although I was unable to find information about how long the company has been operating, a search of the Internet Archive WayBack Machine, shows that the website URL shows the site first became active in 2011. Way Back Machine Screen Shot taken 15 Aug 2020

The contract cheating industry

Companies such as these have been around for decades. They are known as "term-paper mills", "essay mills" Login Login and "contract cheating companies". They are part of the global commercial industry that has been estimated to be worth more than $1 Billion USD. The term "contract cheating" was coined by Thomas Lancaster and the late Robert Clarke, two computer scientists in the UK, who found Login Login Login Login computer science students outsourcing their coding assignments to online suppliers. Their work has become foundational on the topic.

In 2018, I wrote a blog post estimating the extent of contract cheating in Canada. Back in 2018, I estimated that just over 71,000 post-secondary students in Login Login Login Login Login Canada could be buying academic work from contract cheating companies. I now believe that number to be low, but we don’t have a lot of data on this in Canada. In contrast, in the UK and Australia, research around contract cheating is well funded and national quality Login assurance bodies such as the QAA (UK) and TESQA (Australia) are actively working to combat contract cheating.

In 2019, my colleague Roswita Dressler and I conducted a study that showed that commercial contract companies are actively marketing to Canadian students in both English and French, and Login Login that they target students as young as Grade six.

Can we believe the information posted for username "DemetriosNicolaides" on

Well, let’s be honest, companies whose business focus on providing fraudulent academic work for students to submit are not exactly known for their credibility.

If Login the user profile details on UnemployedProfessor are legitimate (which is questionable), then the user with this name has completed more than 740 assignments across a variety of disciplines.

User Profile “DemetriosNicolaides” Screenshot date: 14 Aug 2020

The most recent user reviews (if they are actually legitimate Login Login user reviews) were posted in August 2020.

Are the Hon. Minister and the user "DemetriosNicolaides" the same person?

The user who goes by the name "DemetriosNicolaides" on UnemployedProfessors appears to have set up their profile in 2016. Or at least, that’s as far back as we can get information about this user by looking up their profile using the WayBackMachine. This is a screenshot of the profile archived by the WayBackMachine archived on April 18, 2016, which is the earliest available record of this user profile:

The profile associated with the username " Login Login DemetriosNicolaides" appears to have similar academic credentials to the Hon. Minister. The current user profile indicates a PhD in Political Science from the University of Cyprus, with a specialization in Conflict Resolution. The official profile of the Hon. Demetrios Nicolaides from the Legislative Assembly of Alberta indicates that the holds a PhD in political science from the University of Cyprus.

The devil is in the details…

The user profile on UnemployedProfessor seems to have changed between 2016 and 2020. If you look closely at the current and archived profiles, we can see how Login Login Login the details have changed.

The 2016 profile indicates that the user (allegedly) held a PhD from the University of Cyprus, an MA from the European Peace University and a BA in History and International Relations from the University of Calgary.

The 2020 profile from the same user Login indicates an (alleged) PhD from the University of Cyprus, an MA from European Peace University and no information about where the Bachelor’s degree was from. The Bachelor’s degree information differs from the 2016 archived profile and the 2020 profile. (Incidentally, the European Peace University lost its Login Login accreditation from Austrian authorities in 2013 and now appears to be defunct, so there is no way to check to see who its graduates were.)

So, what we can say is that the user behind this profile has changed their (alleged) educational credentials and profile information Login Login Login Login Login between the time the profile seems to have first become active in 2016 to now. Looking at changes to this user profile using the WayBack Machine, it seems that the information changed sometime between 2017 and 2020, though there is no evidence about exactly when the Login change happened.

I am not a linguist by training, but I do have a background in English and second languages. When I conducted a close read of the current profile of this user in detail, I can say that it would surprise me if this profile Login were written by a native English speaker. The concluding line of the profile as it is currently written says, "Trust me for the best and you will never be disappointed by my that hire me button and lets talk more." This is awkward phrasing, with punctuation errors (i.e., no apostrophe in "lets") and seems to lack coherence. (Personally, I wouldn’t hire this user to write anything for me!)

User profile for “DemetriosNicolaides”. Screenshot taken 15 August 2020.

There is text highlighted in green on the 2020 user profile that claims, " Login Login Login I’m a P.h.D holder and Experienced Academic Writer".

Well, anyone with a PhD knows that there is no period in between the "P" and the "h". We write it "PhD"; "Ph.D.", or even "PhD.", but never with the period in between the "P" Login Login and the "h". That in itself would seem to be a giveaway that this user behind this profile doesn’t actually hold a PhD of any kind.

For a comparison of the writing, here is a link to the PhD thesis of the Demetrios Nicolaides who currently serves Login as the Hon. Minister of Advanced Education for Alberta. It is worth noting that the dissertation is archived as a matter of public record by the University of Cyprus in the official university digital repository, available for anyone to look at. Again, I am not a Login forensic linguist, but it seems fairly obvious that the person who wrote the PhD thesis archived by the University of Cyprus and the person who has a user profile on Unemployed seem to have completely different writing styles, as well as different language ability Login Login Login Login and competence.

It is worth noting that when questions began to arise on Twitter about this user, I took a screen shot that showed the user had completed 746 assignments on behalf of students, as of 14 August 2020.

Curiously, as I was writing this blog Login Login post a day later, the number went up by 1, to 747. So, there is evidence to suggest that the user is still active on this site; and in fact, it would seem that they have done a gig over the past 24 hours. If you Login look closely at the first screenshot I took on August 14 and the second one I took on August 15, you can see the number of completed assignments has gone up.

Given the questions that have arisen on Twitter and that the Hon. Minister was copied Login Login Login on those Tweets, if the person behind the user profile and the Hon. Minister were indeed the same person, it would be very puzzling indeed that the supplier would keep writing for the service in the midst of a tirade of questions!

So, there are a Login Login number of inconsistencies in all of this.

Questions worth asking

Is it possible that someone to set up a fake profile to discredit the minister?

The short answer is yes, it is possible.

In my opinion, that scenario is improbable, because this user profile can be traced Login Login back to 2016. It would have to be one hell of a dedicated faker to have started that long ago and kept up the efforts to discredit the person over four years.

Is it possible that there are two people with the exact same name, one of whom is supplying fraudulent essays and the of whom is a politician?

The chances of two individuals with the surname "Nicolaides" both holding PhDs in political science seem slim.

Isn’t it weird that the users who provide services to contract cheating companies would use their Login Login real name in their profile?

Yes, that would be weird. Like, really weird. It is easy for suppliers to set up a profile with just about any user name they want. Someone would have to be pretty stupid to use their real name as their Login Login Login Login Login user name on a contract cheating site, to be honest.

Is it possible that whoever is behind this user profile just picked the user name "NicolaidesDemetrios"?

Yes, that is also possible. After closely scrutinizing all of the available evidence, my best guess would be that is the most probable scenario.

I am not a professional legal investigator, but I am a damn good researcher. My conclusion is that it seems highly unlikely the Hon. Minister of Advanced Education for the Province of Alberta and the person behind the username “DemetriosNicolaides” on Login are the same person.

How long would it take someone to complete the 740+ assignments associated with this user?

There is no clear answer to this. It is impossible to tell how long the assignments were, what type of papers they were, or Login how long it took to complete each one. The only available details are the ones noted on the user profile, but no telling if those are real or not.

If, for the sake of argument, we used 2 hours per assignment as a rough estimate, then Login Login Login Login Login if you consider the 747 (allegedly) completed assignments we’d be looking at about 1500 hours of work. Given that a standard work week is 35 hours, that would equate to about 43 continuous weeks of work. That’s quite a bit of time… like almost a year of full-time employment just writing essays for students.

How much money has this user made from working for this site?

Unknown. These companies do not provide details about how much money their suppliers earn. One expert in the field, Dr. Thomas Lancaster, has estimated that low-end workers can be paid as little as $4 USD for assignments up to 2000 words. In another scenario, if a student paid $300 USD for an assignment, the supplier might receive $140 for that gig. (Check out Lancaster’s slides form one of his presentations on the topic.)

Although Login some of the commercial sites promise big bucks for their writers, the reality is that it can a miserable way to earn a bit of money.

Isn’t this illegal?

There is draft legislation in Australia proposed to make contract cheating illegal. New legislation in Ireland Login makes provisions to prosecute those who facilitate academic cheating, including those who supply academic work to students.

In Canada, writing essays for students is not illegal. It is immoral and it is also an egregious form of academic misconduct that can result in consequences that include Login Login Login Login everything from failing an assignment to (in extreme cases), expulsion, but it isn’t actually illegal in Canada to buy or sell academic work. It is illegal for students to hire someone to impersonate them to take a test or an exam. In a report I did Login Login into major academic integrity violations in Canada, I offer highlights of three cases that resulted in the arrest of imposters hired by students to take exams on their behalf.

So, what’s next?

Sorry, folks, I don’t think there’s an actual scandal here involving the Login Login Login Login Hon. Minister of Advanced Education.

There is, however, a desperate need in Canada to raise awareness about the contract cheating industry. I estimate that Canada lags behind the UK and Australia by at least a decade in terms of research, advocacy, education and legislation. If you Login Login Login Login are keen to know more, here are three concrete things you can do:

  1. Inform yourself about what contract cheating is and how it works. There is a strong and growing network of researchers who specialize in understanding the commercial contract cheating industry. Some people (besides Login me) whose work you can look up include: Tracey Bretag (Australia), Cath Ellis (Australia), Thomas Lancaster (UK), among others.
  2. Participate in the 2020 International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating on October 21. On this day, educators and advocates across the world will be Login Login Login raising awareness about what contract cheating is and how to stop it.
  3. Contact your MLA or Member of Parliament to let them know that you are concerned about contract cheating and its impact on Canadian higher education. Ask them to take action to make Login contract cheating illegal in Canada.

The more people that think this issue is important, the more action will be taken on it, not only by researchers, but by policy makers and politicians.

Update – 16 Aug 2020

Share or Tweet this: Is the Hon. Demetrios Nicolaides, Login Alberta Minister of Advanced Education involved with contract cheating?

This blog has had over 2 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please "like" it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary. Login
Glassdoor geeft u een kijkje achter de schermen bij Unemployed Login Login Professors als werkplek, inclusief info over salaris, reviews, foto's van kantoor en meer. Dit is het bedrijfsprofiel van Unemployed Professors. Alle content is anoniem geplaatst door werknemers bij Unemployed Professors. Login Login Login

Werkt u bij Unemployed Professors? Deel uw ervaringen Login What are you retiring at early stage? Login Glassdoor geeft u een kijkje achter de schermen bij Unemployed Professors als werkplek, inclusief info over salaris, reviews, foto s van kantoor en meer. Login Login Login Login Login Login


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