Creating an Atmosphere of Academic Integrity in Your Class

While students are ultimately responsible for maintaining academic integrity, instructors can also create an atmosphere in class that encourages students to be honest by removing incentives to cheat and valuing the process of learning and generating information.

The first step in creating an atmosphere of integrity is including a statement in your syllabus. As Penn History professor Ann Moyer explains:

You are best off if you are prepared in advance by establishing a policy; and I prefer to state it clearly in course materials. It is possible to do so without calling unwanted attention to the subject. Here is one that I use; it is based on those used by some of my departmental colleagues. I place it at the bottom of the syllabus and on assignments:

Academic honesty is fundamental to our community. The Pennbook contains our Code of Academic Integrity. A confirmed violation of that Code in this course will result in failure for the course.

Having such a statement frees you from possible problems later. Should you decide that there are extenuating circumstances such that you wish to be more lenient, that is of course always your right. But a clearly stated policy is helpful all around.

Your statement can be short or long (here are some samples) but should explain your expectations about integrity and the consequences.

Of course, including this statement is ONLY a first step. Many of these professors discuss their expectations during class as well as before every paper or exam. They also discuss issues that sometime confuse students such as what constitutes an acceptable paraphrase and what constitutes acceptable collaboration.

Some general ideas:

  • Show your students that you value academic integrity by setting an example of honesty and fairness for them.
  • Be excited by  the intellectual project students are engaged in—either through their own work or through the course—and that the process of inquiry is meaningful in its own right.
  • Assign students smaller, lower stakes assignments to allow them to practice skills and to scaffold longer assignments so that students do the work in stages
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  • Clarify your expectations and explain how and when to cite or what constitutes unfair collaboration.
  • Once you have explained your expectations, hold students accountable for their own integrity and take action against students found cheating. The perception that cheating is rampant and unpunished often frustrates honest students who fear they cannot succeed without cheating.

You may consider some of these more specific practices as well.