Academic Dishonesty Preventative Strategies


Educators would obviously prefer that students demonstrate integrity on their own, and not have to police students and penalize those who commit academic dishonesty. However, when faculty are knowledgeable about academic integrity issues and are proactive, they will encounter fewer cases of academic dishonesty in their courses. Instructors can take a number of proactive steps to prevent students from committing academic dishonesty.

Consistency is important. Students receive mixed messages about academic dishonesty when they are faced with varying expectations and policies from instructors within the same department and/or school. Instructors should periodically hold department-level discussions on academic integrity, so that all faculty take proactive steps to prevent academic dishonesty. They should convey consistent expectations to students and uniformly apply policies when dealing with incidents.  At high schools, it may be important to create a small governing body (a mixture of faculty and students) to adjudicate issues of academic dishonesty. At universities, department liaisons who can work with an office of student conduct can serve to disseminate new policies, as well as be an initial point of contact for other instructors who may need advice.

Instructors need to be realistic about academic dishonesty and the ways it can happen. Students often may be one step ahead of instructors, or even perceive they are one step ahead when it comes to cheating and plagiarism, so educators should make an effort to find out how students commit acts of academic dishonesty to prepare to deal with it. This information can be obtained through professional development workshops, web resources, and networking with colleagues. Instructors should know the departmental and institutional policies regarding academic dishonesty, who their points of contact are, and not try to deal with cases on their own. 

A clear syllabus and explanation of expecations is needed. Use a class or two early in a semester to discuss the issue of academic dishonesty, and have students participate in activities in class to help make them knowledgeable of the different types and potential consequences. Transparency, communication and modeling expectations are key. Seeing their instructor demonstrate academic integrity makes a much stronger impression on students than only hearing about policies and procedures. Instructors should include proper citations and acknowledgments in all their instructional and research materials and follow copyright, fair use, and intellectual property guidelines.

Teaching Strategy: Project and Problem-Based Learning Assignments

Project and Problem-Based Learning assignments are inquiry-based approaches to teaching that can be defined as both a curriculum and a process. The curriculum consists of carefully selected and designed projects and problems that engage the student in the process of acquiring critical knowledge, developing proficiency in problem solving, engaging in self-directed learning, and participating in collaborative teams. Assignments that are designed as project and/or problem-based are difficut to cheat on. They are not rote learning, they require active participation, and are scaffolded so that "last-minute" pressures are reduced. Project and Problem-Based Learning encourages the active and engaged participation that inspires students to obtain a deeper knowledge of the subjects they are studying—with real world application. As John Dewey so famously pointed out, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." This is not demonstrated when instructors use the same exams and assignments year in and year out.

Teaching Strategy: Online Instruction

Many more instructors are teaching online, or utilizing the online environment for exams and/or assignments.  It is recommended that instructors use quiz banks to be able to randomize the questions and answers for exams. Instructors can also limit the time during which a student can complete an online assessment to something that is reasonable, yet prevents their looking up answers. In most learning management systems there are also tools that prevent the opening up of additional browsers, and/or monitoring software that will red-flag "suspicious" online behavior during an exam.

For writing assignments, selecting passages that may have been plagiarized and conducting a simple web search can help document where problematic writing was copied. Software like SafeAssign or Turnitin are tools that will search the web and databases looking for matches of copied materials. Talk with your technology experts within your school or institution to see what is available at your campus.

You may not be able to prevent all cases of academic dishonesty, so reporting is a critical, albeit uncomfortable, part of disarming the cheating cycle for a student.  Without consequences, students don’t recognize their actions in terms of the damage to the greater community--both personal and academic. In addition, many schools/institutions document all suspected cases to prevent acts of recidivsm, and help maintain the integrity and ethics of it academic standards.

Academic integrity values hard work and fairness. In addition to the content and subject matter taught to students, it is necessary to help students understand the ethics needed to maintatin their own personal integrity as well.