Can We Discourage Violations of Academic Integrity?

It’s been some time since The Innovative Instructor looked at issues of academic integrity [see Discouraging Cheating in the Classroom, November 13, 2012], but a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, In a Fake Online Class With Students Paid to Cheat, Could Professors Catch the Culprits?, December 22, 2015, stimulated discussion among my colleagues. Although this study involved an online class, the implications are far-reaching. Even in face-to-face classes students can avail themselves of these for fee services that supply research papers that will pass through plagiarism detectors and provide answers to other types of assignments. In the face of such egregious practices, what can faculty do to encourage students to be honest?

StudentsCheatingIn smaller classes, where the instructor can to get to know the students as individuals, and course work is centered on in-class discussion, there may be fewer opportunities for violations of academic integrity. In these classes, however, writing often plays a big role and plagiarism, intentional or not, can be an issue. In Designing Activities and Assignments to Discourage Plagiarism, Alice Robison, Bonnie K. Smith suggest some strategies for instructors of writing intensive courses.

For mid-size classes, pedagogical interventions, such as flipping a class (see previous posts here, here, here, and here) can be productive if in-class problem solving, group work, and experiential activities are emphasized. These innovations can be time-consuming for an instructor to implement, however, and if the class size is large, it may not be possible to follow a flipped class or hybrid model.

Large classes can present greater challenges, particularly if testing is the focus for student assessment. There are a number of academic websites with resources for dealing with preventing cheating on tests, for example the Center for Innovation in Teaching & Learning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, offers a tip sheet on Dealing with Cheating. Stanford’s Tomorrow’s Professor, offers a post on (Cheating) Prevention Techniques for Tests, based on three principles: “1) Affirm the importance of academic integrity; 20 Reduce opportunities to engage in academic dishonesty; and 3) Develop fair and relevant tests (and/or forms of assessment).”

In all cases, the best results come when colleges and universities establish a strong institutional culture of academic integrity.  This was the subject of the 2012 post. It’s worth repeating the citation of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Faculty Excellence’s blog, CFE 100+ Tips for Teaching Large Classes, article Tip #27: Discourage Cheating by Providing Moral Reminders and Logistical Obstacles.

Do you have suggestions for encouraging ethical behavior? As always, we welcome your comments.

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Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Microsoft Clip Art

Discouraging Cheating in the Classroom

Research has shown that colleges and universities with honor codes that are backed by an institutional culture of ethical behavior experience fewer incidents of student cheating than those with no codes or codes that are not reinforced with institutional expectations. (Donald L. McCabe, Linda Klebe Trevino & Kenneth D. Butterfield. 2001. Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research. Ethics & Behavior. 11(3):219–232). Even in the absence of an honor code, these researchers found that creating a culture of ethical behavior, even at the level of the classroom, could have a significant positive impact on the likelihood of student cheating.

StudentsCheatingAs to implementing such a culture, the University of North Carolina’s Center for Faculty Excellence’s blog, CFE 100+ Tips for Teaching Large Classes, offers practical and concrete examples in Tip #27: Discourage Cheating by Providing Moral Reminders and Logistical Obstacles. They suggest having a brief discussion about cheating before a test, and asking students to write out and sign the honor code. Even if there is no specific honor code at the institution, faculty can ask students to write a statement on their exams saying that they will not give or receive assistance.This is most effective if done before, rather than at the end of the test.

The UNC blog post also offers examples for making it logistically impossible to cheat. These tips will be particularly useful for faculty teaching large classes and using multiple choice questions on exams.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources


Image source: Microsoft Clip Art