Maintain Academic Integrity

Grades K-12 10 min
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Learn strategies and digital tools to teach your students how to practice academic integrity in both face-to-face and remote learning.

According to the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI), academic integrity is “a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.” On their site, ICAI (2020) provides statistics from their own research and the research of Dr. Donald McCabe, who found “that 64 percent of [high school] students admitted to cheating on a test, 58 percent admitted to plagiarism and 95 percent said they participated in some form of cheating, whether it was on a test, plagiarism or copying homework.”

Students cheat for a variety of reasons, including when they feel peer pressure; when they feel the sense that “everyone is doing it”; when they feel anxious about failing; when they feel they can’t manage social, personal, and academic demands; and when they don’t know or don’t understand academic integrity expectations.

Remote LearningDuring remote learning, students may experience more of these pressures, and our ability to uphold academic integrity involves more challenges (e.g., students taking exams unsupervised at home). While we could require students to have their cameras on via videoconference during the exam or use filtering programs, like GoGuardian, to restrict students to their LMS during the exam, students will find ways around these restrictions, like searching on their phones. It will be more effective to use tests/quizzes for low-stakes formative feedback and focus more on higher-order thinking activities and projects that require students to create original work as evidence of learning where it is harder to cheat.

To help students practice academic integrity, we also need to create a safe and supportive learning environment, whether face-to-face and/or remotely, that upholds high academic expectations and fosters students’ growth mindset. We can mitigate some of the pressures that result in cheating by helping students to focus more on the learning than on the grading and by providing resources and instruction on how our students can establish a study space and routines and manage their time.

We also need to be intentional about teaching our students how to practice academic integrity, starting as early as kindergarten. This flyer summarizes ICAI’s six foundational values for academic integrity and can be posted or shared with your students. Included below are some suggestions for how to teach these values so that students can successfully practice academic integrity.

  • Define academic integrity. As a class, develop a working definition of academic integrity and each of the related values to display on a digital wall, using a tool like Padlet (Tips), and/or on the physical wall in your classroom.
  • Create Anchor Charts, T-Charts, or Y-Charts with your students to help clarify what academic integrity and related values look, sound, and feel like. Display the charts in your digital and/or physical classroom space.
  • Utilize age-appropriate examples, quotes, and picture books to discuss the values related to academic integrity: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage.
  • Generate and post a list of examples and non-examples of academic integrity using online tools, such as Flipgrid (Tips), Padlet (Tips), or the learning management system (LMS) discussions boards for your class.
  • Discuss common reasons for cheating and have students reflect on how they can face these challenges in order to maintain their integrity:
    • Peer pressure and a sense that “everyone is doing it”
    • Anxiety about failing
    • Managing social, personal, and academic demands
    • Not knowing or understanding academic integrity expectations
  • Provide students with opportunities to practice and reflect upon their academic integrity. For example, have students use plagiarism checkers to self-check their work and make sure that they are properly paraphrasing and citing sources. This enables them to identify and learn to refine their practices that maintain academic integrity.
  • Assign collaborative work where each student is individually accountable to the group. Assign roles to ensure that all students have a voice and everyone contributes to group work (see this Role Card Template). Provide students with individual and group rubrics for them to reflect upon their personal contributions and the group’s overall effectiveness.
  • Model academic integrity and call out how you are personally practicing academic integrity (e.g., citing sources as captions under pictures used in presentations).
  • Reinforce academic integrity expectations. Consistently respond as needed to reinforce academic integrity expectations. While doing so, maintain the student’s dignity, use teachable moments, and provide appropriate consequences consistently and equitably.

Teaching and reinforcing academic integrity is not about setting students up for “gotcha” moments. Rather, it is an opportunity to help students develop positive values and practice academic integrity that will benefit and empower them as learners and citizens.

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