December 21, 2009

Academic Integrity: Creating Institutional Policies to Curb Student Cheating

By: in EdTech News and Trends

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Cheating is not a new problem for colleges, but the Internet and other technologies have increased opportunities for cheating, making it more tempting to try and easier to pull off than ever before.

How you respond to cheating, both at an individual and institutional level, can make a big difference. Throughout history, colleges and universities have taken one of two approaches to curb cheating, says Tricia Bertram Gallant, academic integrity coordinator at the University of California San Diego and chair of the Center for Academic Integrity Advisory Council.

Some take a “rule compliance” approach, which is a discipline-based strategy of creating a campus where students comply with the rules. It’s legalistic and adversarial in nature with heavy involvement from administration and legal professionals.

The second, more recent strategy is the “integrity” approach, which takes a developmental perspective to creating a campus where students choose to act with integrity. It’s demonstrated with greater level of student involvement and a highly visible culture of academic integrity.

In the recent online seminar Helping Students Learn from Ethical Failures, Gallant talked about these two common approaches to academic dishonesty, how to assess if it’s time to rethink your current policy, and what’s needed to create a culture of academic integrity. She also shared case studies on how four institutions have approached the integrity issue at their campuses, and provided strategies on overcoming resistance to policy change.

“The point is, and I want to emphasize this, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to student cheating,” Gallant says. “Each campus should adopt an approach that is the best match for their institutional structures and cultures, while also challenging the campus to do more when it comes to teaching students about the meaning of ethics and integrity.”

Building a culture of academic integrity is a four-stage process, Gallant says. Consider the following benchmarks as you work your way through the stages.

Stage 1: Recognition and commitment – Recognize cheating is a problem, admit your current way of handing it isn’t working, and commit to address it.

Stage 2: Response generation – Study with problem and gather data to assess campus climate, focusing on faculty and students. Have structured conversations and avoid quick fixes.

Stage 3: Implementation – Establish structures and processes for encouraging academic integrity. Once implemented, communication mechanisms are standard, consistent, and routine, and faculty know what to do in their classes.

Stage 4: Institutionalization – Integrity is fully integrated into campus life. Cheating is occasional and everyone knows how to respond.

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