Expert Dr. Donna Velliaris reflects on her research in academic misconduct

Academic Misconduct: Who Cares? Expert Dr. Donna Velliaris Shares her Higher Education Journey

By Sharlene Oong on Nov 16, 2018
Academic misconduct has been the subject of increased interest in higher education. Studies have examined cheating behaviors across different disciplines and what factors influence a student's propensity to cheat. With universities and colleges implementing fast-tracked programs to increase graduation rates, misconduct is on the rise as students potentially partake in academically dishonest practices. With experience and research insight, expert Dr. Donna Velliaris, an esteemed editor/author of publications, Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning and Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, as well as contributor of 30 IGI Global book chapters, shares her journey in pursuing research in the field of higher education and academic misconduct.

What inspired you to contribute and edit so many different publications?

My first chapter publication with IGI Global was 'Getting Personal: An Autoethnographic Study of the Professional Identit(ies) of Lecturers in an Australian Pathway Institution', in the publication Cases on Teacher Identity, Diversity, and Cognition in Higher Education, with editor Dr. Paul Breen, from the University of Westminster. Working with Dr. Breen was a wonderful experience and although five years later, we still have never met in person, we have co-authored many scholarly works including, 'Reflections on the Impact of Social Technologies on Lecturers in a Pathway Institution' from the publication, Implications of Social Media Use in Personal and Professional Settings.

Since then, I have enjoyed contributing to many and varied publications related to K-12 and higher education. At my previous workplace, I had access to an abundance of student data, but at present, I do not. Hence, my output has slowed down significantly, but I hope to regain some momentum in the near future.

What inspired you to go into research in higher education?

My mother always said that I was born an ‘old soul’. By definition, the literature says that one of the most striking traits that sets an old soul apart from the rest, is their insatiable appetite for wisdom and, to a lesser extent, knowledge. Indeed, I have an appetite for information, and often feel a pressing need for personal discovery and growth. And, the longer I stayed at university, the more challenged and excited I became about delving into areas of specific interest. I must admit, however, that I often pose and face the question—Should I study many subjects in the field of education or specialize in one? I still cannot definitively answer this question. I write from the heart which takes me in countless, discrete, but equally stimulating directions.

What areas within higher education are you most passionate about?

With a PhD in Educational Sociology, my primary research interests include, but are not limited to: academic acculturation; autoethnography and narrative inquiry; family-school-community partnerships; international and transnational education; schools as cultural systems; third culture kids; and study abroad programs. My natural alignment is with qualitative methodologies: action research; autoethnography; case studies; ethnography; field notes; focus groups; participant observations; phenomenology; questionnaires; reflexive journaling; semi-structured interviews; and surveys.

How did you get involved with study abroad programs and where have you traveled?

At 16 years of age, I applied to be a Rotary international exchange student. Although my parents allowed me to proceed with the interview process, upon the announcement that I was the first-choice candidate, their real fears were made clear. Their initial reaction was that I should thank the sponsors for their time and politely decline the offer. My counter argument was that I had been presented with a wonderful opportunity that necessitated serious consideration before I would willingly retract my application. Fortunately, my parents agreed and dedicated several days to the decision-making process. To scrutinize the many countries on my choice list, they consulted family, friends, professionals, and other acquaintances. Finally, they announced that ‘Japan’ appeared to have an excellent social and educational reputation, and it was the ‘only’ country they considered plausible.

I fervently believe in the saying by Saint Augustine that
‘The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page

Today, I have lived, studied, traveled, volunteered, worked across 40 different countries and many times over. Between the period of 2002-2006, I filled three passports in five years. I rarely travel as a typical tourist, but rather, you can find me building mud brick houses, dancing in street parades, appearing on local television shows, teaching various levels of English-language conversation, leading field studies expeditions, and planting trees. In agreement with Seneca, 'Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind'.

What got you interested in topics such as academic misconduct?

As I wrote in the preface of my publication titled, Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education (2017), my interest in academic dishonesty grew from my former role as academic advisor—encompassing Academic Integrity Officer (AIO)—at a pre-university pathway institution; a role that situated me in a unique position from which I could actively participate in curbing or dealing with academic dishonesty. When I first commenced in 2013, both intentional and unintentional misconduct were rife and many of the situations I encountered ranged from the ridiculous, to the disturbing, and to the fascinating; varying degrees of stupidity and ingenuity. I thought I could easily detect cheating behaviors, but found that my forensic skills extended to old-school techniques, and other traditional methods of deception. I was now facing students like ‘Charlie’, an innocent-looking yet slick young ‘business’ student profiting from the manufacture, use and distribution of specially crafted assignment papers. It took some time to bust his elaborate underground contract cheating operations.

What other milestones would you like to achieve in your lifetime?

Being the first in my family to complete high school, my educational milestones were to complete an undergraduate degree and a postgraduate degree, including a Master’s and a PhD. Other milestones I would like to achieve in my lifetime involve authoring or editing countless books (including poetry and fiction), traveling to distant corners of the globe, and watching my children grow into beautiful human beings.

Where does your passion for writing stem?

Mrs. Black—my high school Year 11 English teacher—appeared to loathe my writing. It never mattered how much time and effort I dedicated to my assignments, her feedback was at all times demoralizing. Even when my friends and I submitted the exact same essay paper written in our own handwriting, my results remained static. With that experience, I declined to undertake Year 12 English studies. Flash forward to a couple of years later, I had to resume writing, as my Bachelor of Arts degree comprised 90% written assessment.

My Master’s and PhD supervisor was the same person; an incredible woman who will forever have a special place in my heart. Dr Margaret Secombe, from the University of Adelaide, is a small lady with a powerhouse of oral and written expression. Her mentoring and patience elevated my writing to a level I never thought possible. I learned to write from the heart and edit from the head. Today, I recognize that the significance of words is limitless, and this inspires me greatly. Working on my craft feeds my confidence, happiness, motivation, optimism, soul, and spirit.

Margaret was acknowledged for her contribution to education in South Australia, which has spanned five decades where she has made a significant contribution to the preparation of generations of teachers, and to research in areas of cultural pluralism and multiculturalism, and higher degree study with over 35 PhDs and hundreds of Master’s students. She has been an advocate of equity and fairness across many educational contexts.

Educational Leaders Awards: Dr Margaret Secombe, Dr Brendan Bentley
—20 October 2018
How would people describe you?

There are few persons who truly know my character. People perceive me to be a confident extrovert, when in actual reality, I am a highly sensitive introvert and existentialist. I can go for days without speaking, and I crave peace and quiet time for observation, contemplation, and introspection; to sit and ponder the universe and everything in it.
We would like to thank Dr. Velliaris for sharing her thoughts on academic misconduct. We hope the discussion will promote further conversations on the topic. Be sure to view her publications, Study Abroad Contexts for Enhanced Foreign Language Learning and Handbook of Research on Academic Misconduct in Higher Education, and recommend them to your librarian.
Dr. Velliaris's research is available through IGI Global’s world-renowned InfoSci®-Books, a collection of 4,500+ e-books with over 93,000 chapters and over one million reference citations. Offered as low as US$ 8,580 US$ 6,864*, this database hosts key features such as full-text PDF and HTML format, no DRM, unlimited simultaneous users, and no embargo of content with research available months in advance of the print release. This comprehensive collection spans 11 core subject areas, including business and management, computer science, education, engineering, social sciences and humanities, and more. Purchase or recommend this database to your institution’s librarian.

About Dr. Donna Velliaris

Dr. Donna Velliaris  headshotDonna M. Velliaris is currently living and working in Singapore while her two young children attend an international school. A fully qualified [Australia] secondary school educator since 1995, she has a total of 12 officially registered subjects/skills across Grades 8-12. To date, she has taught students from Reception to PhD level and across several continents. Dr Velliaris holds two Graduate Certificates: (1) Australian Studies; and (2) Religious Education, two Graduate Diplomas: (1) Secondary Education; and (2) Language and Literacy Education, as well as three Master’s degrees: (1) Educational Sociology; (2) Studies of Asia; and (3) Special Education. In 2010, Dr Velliaris graduated with a PhD in Education focused on the social/educational ecological development of school-aged transnational students in Tokyo, Japan.

Her primary research interests include: human ecology; Third Culture Kids (TCKs); schools as cultural systems; and study abroad. With recent publication of almost 30 book chapters, titles comprise: Academic reflections: Disciplinary acculturation and the first-year pathway experience in Australia [Garnet]; Conceptualizing four ecological influences on contemporary ‘Third Culture Kids’ [Palgrave Macmillan]; Culturally responsive pathway pedagogues: Respecting the intricacies of student diversity in the classroom [IGI Global]; The other side of the student story: Listening to the voice of the parent [Sense]; and Metaphors for transnational students: A moving experience [Cambridge Scholars].
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of IGI Global.
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