Last semester I attended a faculty development workshop about academic integrity led by Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant, the Director of the Academic Integrity Office at the University of California, San Diego. Tricia’s presentation had a great impact on my perception and thoughts, and, subsequently, the way I approach academic integrity in my classroom. In this blog, I would like to share and expand on some of her ideas. Tricia outlined five strategies for promoting academic integrity, which I will use to organize this discussion.
Strategy #1: Communicate about academic integrity. Often times, students’ perceptions of inappropriate behavior do not match those of the instructor. This could be due to ignorance or because of varied experiences in previous courses. It is important to be very explicit with students about what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior. When “group”, “partner”, or “individual” assignments are given, the instructor should be very clear about how each of those are defined and limited in that course. In addition, specific guidelines should be given for each type of assessment, quiz, assignment, exam, etc. Some methods for clear and complete communication include a syllabus statement, academic integrity contract, and academic integrity affirmation statements before or after each assessment.
Strategy #2: Role model academic integrity. A large part of Tricia’s philosophy centers around “creating a culture of integrity”. An important aspect of developing that culture is that instructors demonstrate integrity at all times throughout the semester. Examples of this include returning assignments and exams when promised, showing up on time and always giving 100%, citing sources within lectures, acknowledging and correcting mistakes, keeping (not cancelling) office hours and appointments with students, and treating students equally and with respect.
Strategy #3: Create space for integrity. Instructors need to be aware of how students cheat and remove as many opportunities as possible. Reducing opportunities creates a more honest and relaxed environment. For exams, this would include a severe limitation on what students can have at their desk. All unnecessary belongings should be placed along the front and back walls, including backpacks, water bottles, hats, watches, cell phones, etc. If calculators are needed, they should be supplied by the instructor. Desks should be inspected before the exam and student seating should be random and spaced as much as possible. Students should be prohibited from leaving the room during the exam. Multiple exam versions should be used. And maybe most importantly, the instructor must pay attention and walk the room throughout the exam.
Assignments and projects should not be “cookie-cutter”, “Google-able”, or “purchasable”. Higher level cognitive skills should be targeted, and students should understand the relevance, purpose, and importance. Ideally, students should feel a personal connection and investment in the assignment/project.
Strategy #4: Integrate ethics. By incorporating ethics into the course and course material, instructors can foster the “culture of integrity”. One way to integrate ethics into the course is to have the students participate in the formation of classroom and course rules and policies. This type of participation promotes student investment and accountability. A second way to integrate ethics is to use real-life ethical situations and cases related to the course material and academic field. In 2012, Goswami et al. reported that 69% of physiology programs do not incorporate ethics into physiology curriculum. These findings suggest that this is certainly an area that can be improved upon.
Strategy #5: Respond to cheating. Instructors can affect their classroom culture, and can also contribute to the larger, university culture. All cases of academic dishonesty should be formally reported, according to the university’s policies. Patterns among individuals must be established and students need to know that there will be consequences. Failure and mistakes lead to lessons learned and changed behavior. Lack of reporting may contribute to the formation of unethical habits that could persist for years to come.
Bertram Gallant, T. Creating a culture of integrity: An alternate proposal for educators. Workshop presented at California State University, Northridge April 17, 2015.
Goswami, N, Batzel, J.J., & Hinghofer-Szalkay, H. Adv Physiol Educ 36: 188-191, 2012.
Kim Henige received her Ed.D. in Education (emphasis: Science Education) from the University of Southern California and her M.A. in Physical Education (emphasis: Exercise Physiology) from California State University, Northridge (CSUN). Kim is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Kinesiology at CSUN where she teaches exercise physiology and applied exercise physiology courses. In addition, she directs the CSUN Kinesiology Peer Learning Facilitator program and CSUN staff and faculty on-campus fitness program called Commit to be Fit. Kim’s scholarship is focused on improving student enjoyment and success through active learning and peer mentoring.