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Create a Culture of Academic Integrity in Your Class

Remote/ Hybrid/ In-Person Classes

Regardless of whether you are teaching in an in-person, hybrid, or remote environment, there are 4 steps for creating a classroom culture of integrity in which cheating will be the exception: 

Communicate Integrity

Instructors must communicate about integrity because there is not a shared understanding of what academic integrity means or even what constitutes cheating.

It is absolutely critical that you are clear about: 

  1. What you mean by academic integrity. We believe, based on experience, that the best way to do this is to talk about the Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity - honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness, trustworthiness, and courage - and what behaviors by the instructional team and the students will uphold those values. There are many ways you can do this, but if you'd like to use a table format, feel free to use this Values Table document (Word file). If you prefer, you can simply put a statement in your syllabus. 
  2. Clarifying Expectations/Standards. You don't have to list every behavior, but certainly the ones that are commonly misunderstood (e.g., collaboration vs. cheating; cheating with clickers; plagiarism). You could even base the examples from what students have done in your class in the past. 
  3. How you will respond to any academic integrity violations that might occur. We suggest that you say something like "because academic integrity is fundamental to the University and the work we are doing together in this classroom, I am professionally and ethically responsible for reporting any violations to the Academic Integrity Office. In addition, I will give at least a 0 on the assignment/ exam in question and the University will issue other consequences. For more information on the consequences of cheating, review the Sanctioning Guidelines. 
  4. How students can respond when they know that violations are happening in the class. We suggest you say something like "if you see any behaviors that you think are unfair, dishonest, disrespectful, irresponsible or untrustworthy, I ask that you exercise responsibility and either interrupt or stop the actions, or if you are unable to do that, you can either inform me, a TA or the AI Office by using this Student Reporting form." 

You can make this clear in your syllabus or in another document (i.e., an academic integrity policy for the class (Word file)), and you can buttress the document with a presentation and/or discussion in your class. 

Create Space for Integrity

Even when you've communicated about academic integrity, you'll want to reduce cheating temptations and opportunities. There are many, many ways to do this, but here are some of the most effective: 

  1. Have students affirm their integrity on every assessment. Research has shown that when people are reminded of their own desire to act with integrity, their behaviors are more likely to be aligned with that desire (i.e., saying I'll have integrity reduces cheating). We suggest something as simple as having students sign this integrity pledge at the beginning of the quarter and then having the students affirm this pledge on every assessment by writing and signing the following statement - "I choose integrity".  
  2. Create meaningful assessments. Students are less likely to cheat if the assessment has meaning, that is, it is individualized, interesting, unique, current, and engaging; it is not easily copied from a solutions manual or from the Internet. Making an assessment meaningful also means making it clear to students how the assessment is linked to the learning objectives for the course - in other words, articulate the "why" behind an assignment and the "why" behind the prescribed methods for completing the assignment (i.e., why does this assignment have to be done alone while this one can be done in groups?). 
  3. Set expectations for each assignment. Learn more about setting assignment policies and expectations and follow those expectations up with actions (e.g., use Turnitin software to prevent and fairly evaluate student copying and plagiarism). 
  4. State your policies and practices for regrading requests. See suggested regrade policies. 
  5. Protect integrity during high-stakes exams. Students tend to cheat when they're under stress and pressure. So, during exams, do things like use assigned seating, space students apart, use multiple versions of the exam, and check IDs. For more on ensuring integrity during testing, review our Preferred Practices (PDF). 

Infuse Integrity into the Curriculum

When possible, infuse conversations about integrity into the curriculum - not artificially, but when it seems appropriate. Doing this helps students understand that integrity is a part of life and is about more than just "not cheating" but is an expectation of every profession and person. 

Here is a brief list of ways you can easily do this: 

  1. Assign a reading on Integrity. This could be a reading related to your discipline (see what Lellie Van den Einde did in Structural Engineering (Word file) for example) or it could be a reading about academic or professional integrity, like the Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity document. 
  2. Have teams create a code of ethics. If your students work in teams, we strongly recommend that you have them create a Team Code of Ethics (Word file). This enables the students to not only think more about what integrity means to them and how important it is to a group, but it encourages them to take ownership for integrity. 
  3. Analyze a relevant code of ethics from your discipline. Whether in class as a group, in teams or individually, have students analyze a code of ethics from their chosen profession (e.g., accounting) or desire future employer (e.g., Apple). The codes can be analyzed for the Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity or to simply raise discussion about ethics/integrity in the workplace. 
  4. Regularly bring up ethics issues from the news. You can mention any ethical news items that come up that are related to your discipline or the concepts your teaching and hold a discussion with the class. 
  5. Ask students to reflect on their integrity. On every assignment (or every so often), have students engage in some meta-cognition - where they think about their thinking. For example, you could ask them to reflect on these questions - how did you approach the assignment, what were the benefits to that approach, and how did you work to ensure that the assignment was completed with integrity? 

Leverage Cheating as a Teachable Moment

If you take the first three steps, cheating will become the exception and integrity the norm, but this means that cheating will still occur. Because, after all, students are human beings who can make bad decisions under stress or pressure. 

So, we encourage you to think about cheating as a teachable moment and to respond in a way that enables learning to occur. There are generally three ways in which faculty respond to cheating and obviously we think that #3 is the best option: 

  1. No response. This lack of response IS a response - it is a choice to ignore cheating. This teaches students that cheating is an acceptable way to get things done and/or that integrity and ethics doesn't matter. It also conveys to the students that your assessments do not matter. This does not prepare students for lives as ethical and responsible professionals and citizens. 
  2. Responding "in house". This usually means that the instructor "talks" with the student and maybe gives them a 0 on the assessment in question. However, doing this is in violation of Senate's Academic Integrity Policy which states that instructors "shall report all suspected academic integrity violations to the Academic Integrity Office" and "an instructor shall not assign an academic sanction for an academic integrity violation tuneless they have submitted an allegation report to the AIO and there is an acceptance or final finding of responsibility".  When instructors respond according to Senate Policy, they teach their students that everyone has a responsibility for following standards and no one is allowed to "skirt" integrity standards. It also teaches students that academic integrity is important to the teaching and learning environment. 
  3. Reporting the violation to the AI Office. When you report the violation to the AI Office, you are teaching students that there are consequences for integrity violations and that you and the University care about integrity. You are also providing additional educational opportunities to the student because the majority of students are assigned to take some workshops where we teach them ethical decision making, citation practices, and honest ways to collaborate. Bonus - students will spread the word about how you respond to cheating and you may see a decline in the amount of cheating that occurs in your classroom and/or a sustained level of cheating around the expected 10% of your class.