How to Address Academic Integrity in the First Week: Don’t…

One of the frequent questions I get from faculty regards how to address academic integrity in the first week effectively. Increasingly, my answer is this: don’t!

That may sound confusing. After all, isn’t that when we deal with issues important to the orderly and successful prosecution of our course? Isn’t “Syllabus Day” the most natural time to address it?

Well, it may be natural for us, but for students, it’s a completely different story.

If you’ve been teaching for a long time, or if you are new to the profession, one of the first things you notice about the opening days of a semester is that students are completely overloaded. And why wouldn’t they be? There is so much happening, so many new faces, a new routine to get used to, and a thousand other things vying for their attention.

Asking students to hear, really hear, what we tell them on those first few days is… complicated. They’re receiving the big ideas, but the details might as well be honked at them in that adult voice from Charlie Brown.

My advice? Wait.

Wait until the second or third week. Set aside a few minutes to talk to them about why integrity is important to you, in your profession, and to your class. Tell them why you value it, perhaps through a story of a time you witnessed integrity in action. Or, do a short activity designed to bring it all home. 

Of course, if you’ve talked about academic integrity on the first day,  then coming back around to it a little later in the term (preferably before the first major assignment), will only help.

As we set out on a new semester at CSU, let’s be aware of how there is a right time for the right message. Good luck to everyone teaching and/or supporting students this term!