Creating an Environment for Academic Integrity

We all make a point of communicating our expectations about academic integrity in the first weeks. Many of us have a pre-packaged talk we give students as part of our “Syllabus Day” activities.

What, if anything, do you do after, when the later weeks of the semester unfold? With so much to do in a given semester, it can be easy to let that one day serve as the one and only mention.

I suggest creating academic integrity checkpoints for yourself throughout the semester to do short, focused activities designed to reinforce the value of integrity and your expectations for your students’ work.

This can take many forms and there is no one schedule to follow. You may, however, do something similar to what I’ve outlined below:

  1. “Syllabus Day”: Communicate that academic integrity is a value that you want them to share. Make your expectations clear for how that will translate in your particular course.
  2. Before the first major assignment, show them the Honor Pledge and explain examples of what “unauthorized assistance” might look like on the upcoming assignment. When it is time to submit the assignment, have them write or sign the Honor Pledge and attach it to the submission.
  3. At the semester midpoint, have your students journal in the opening minutes of class on the following question: “How important is it to be the kind of person who values integrity?”

The point is to get them reflecting on the value of integrity as part of their identity. Research suggests that this simple reflective piece (or others like it) can substantially encourage better behavior. You can read more here (http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/july/increasing-voter-turnout-071911.html ) . This mirrors research by Dan Ariely that suggests that the more we reflect on moral codes (and it doesn’t matter which one), the less likely we will behave dishonestly in general.

You might conclude the activity by having the students pair-and-share for a few moments. All told, this activity takes up less than five minutes and can be done while you’re getting the day’s activities/lesson/lecture loaded.

Other activities might include:

  1. Conduct a citation activity. For example, give the students the raw elements of a citation on cut up on slips of paper, and have them work together to put them in the correct order according to your field’s citation style.
  2. Share a case-study or example from your field or industry. Unfortunately, it seems like a month does not pass from the calendar without an example of a lapse of integrity in the news (Volkswagen, Wells Fargo, etc).
  3. Ask students to come to class with a model of integrity from popular culture. It can be a person from a nonfiction work, or perhaps a character from fiction, television, or film. Have them discuss, in pairs or as a small group, why they chose that person and encourage them to highlight take-aways from their example.

 

There are many other possibilities. The essentials are pretty simple: periodic reinforcement in short, engaging activities. The important point here is to keep Academic Integrity from being mentioned once and forgotten until it negatively impacts student work. Ultimately, you’re sharing your academic values with your students and encouraging them to value them too.

 

As Wordsworth concluded in The Prelude:

What we have loved,

others will love, and we will show them how;

Instruct them how the mind of man becomes

A thousand times more beautiful than the earth

On which he dwells[…].

 

Photograph courtesy of University Historic Photograph Collection, CSU.

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