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Communication

Talking about Academic Integrity with Students

Research shows that consistent communication and conversations with students about academic integrity can help clarify students' questions about learning expectations, outline appropriate behaviors during assessments, and identify relevant study materials, especially as the internet provides countless resources. The conversations can begin with the academic integrity pledge at the beginning of the course and before each assessment or assignment is due. These conversations are important to help you gather feedback about the students' learning as well as get a sense of what resources the students are perusing to supplement your content teaching.

In general, students deepen their understanding of academic integrity when faculty talk about the underlying values associated with independent learning, building disciplinary knowledge through appropriate ackowledgement of others' contributions, the importance of academic integrity in the SCU community, and the faculty member's own commitment to these values. Research shows that when faculty communicate these messages regularly, incidents of students' violations of academic integrity due to cheating or plagiarism decreases.

At times, students can be uncertain about whether a certain practice crosses the line into academic dishonesty. This can occur when collaboration among students is encouraged in some assignments but maybe prohibited in other assignments or in other courses. Internet sites that allow students to seek tutoring help or share course materials may lead to cases of violations of academic integrity, although they may not be aware that certain uses of these sites are linked to cheating and unauthorized uses of course materials.

For these reasons, it is crucial for faculty to communicate their standards clearly and create an environment where students are able to address any questions they have about appropriate protocols with faculty.

Communication also begins with the syllabus. At minimum, it is important for faculty to include a statement about academic integrity and their expectations for their course. This may include a statement of the pledge, a reference to the university academic integrity code, and standards of conduct and community values that guide students, staff, and faculty. Beyond this, the syllabus presents an opportunity for the faculty to provide statements of value and encouragement of communication as noted in the above paragraph.

Faculty members have found a range of ways to talk about academic integrity in their classes as well as incorporating the pledge into the discussions:

[The Academic Integrity pledge] helped me to focus on contextualizing source usage even more for students. Specifically, this encouraged me to increasingly focus on talking to students about how different fields have varied expectations for using information and source material. The pledge is good, but I find it is more essential for me to bring into class discussions, lectures, and feedback why the seemingly arbitrary differences between source usage in different fields are perhaps not quite so arbitrary.

Here are some other talking points that you can use with your students:

  • Make clear to students whether it is appropriate to discuss questions that were on the exam with other students after the exam is over.
  • Be explicit about when collaborative work is appropriate and when it is not, specifying in writing the requirements for each assignment.
  • When collaboration is allowed or encouraged, help students create group conduct guidelines and ask them to check in with the instructor.
  • Discuss which types of sources are appropriate to the assignment, why they are appropriate, and how you expect students to apply sources to their work.
  • Provide students with specific examples rather than general descriptions of effective source usage in the context of the assignment and class. This will clarify what you consider to be a misuse of source material and why. Don’t assume students have already learned this. They need to be reminded how and why a certain course or field of study uses sources in a particular way because they are shifting between different courses that require varied source usage.