Academic Integrity in the Classroom
What is academic integrity?
Academic integrity describes a commitment to honesty, truthfulness and accountability in teaching, learning and research. As a critical piece of the learning environment and a fundamental core value of any academic institution, academic integrity directly links the credibility of an institution’s scholarship, research, certificates and diplomas.
Academic integrity hinges on six fundamental values, as defined by the International Center for Academic Integrity:
Red River College defines academic integrity as the requirement to be honest and truthful in all College relationships, activities, and commitments. We encourage and support consistent, ethical behavior when engaged in academic work or any other academic activity.
Refer to RRC policy S4 Academic Integrity.
What is academic misconduct?
Academic misconduct describes acts and activities that breach standards of academic integrity including and not limited to fraud, cheating, plagiarism, misuse or misrepresentation of sources, unauthorized collaboration. Red River College does not tolerate academic misconduct and repercussions are serious.
Who is responsible for maintaining academic integrity?
Academic Integrity is a collaborative effort. In a classroom environment, both instructors and students must commit to demonstrating the qualities of learning and teaching with integrity.
For example, in order for a student to learn with integrity, they must apply the teaching from a course, combined with resources, to produce something (e.g.: a research paper, AutoCAD drawing, algebra quiz, etc.) that demonstrates their abilities and learning. Their responsibility lies in ensuring the abilities and learning they represent is their own.
Faculty are on the front lines of academic integrity. You need to address your expectations in the classroom and frequently remind students about their responsibilities. Clarify what academic misconduct looks like in relation to each assignment or assessment in your course.
Here are some tips to ensure academic integrity has a consistent presence in your courses and in your classroom, both online and offline.
1. Before the beginning of each new semester, think about how you will approach issues of academic integrity in your teaching.
- Refresh your knowledge about academic integrity in your program and the RRC policy. How does your department address instances of academic misconduct?
- Review the academic integrity statement on the course outline.
- Prepare ahead of time how you will addresses academic integrity with your class. Remember to make a point of fully explaining the College’s policy and explain how your program responds, including any sanctions imposed on students who violate the policy.
- This is critical! Do not assume that a link to the College policy or a copy of the wording in the policy is enough. Clarify and explain to students what academic integrity means in your program and course.
2. During the first class, emphasize the importance of academic integrity.
- Discuss the ethical standards in your course and how they apply to your assessments and assignments.
- Share academic misconduct examples to show students how they might occur in the course of their work, either intentionally or unintentionally.
- Ensure students know the difference between types of academic misconduct (i.e.: cheating, plagiarism, collaboration, collusion, etc.)
3. Help students feel they can succeed in your class without resorting to dishonesty.
- Give students the tools they need to understand their role in maintaining academic integrity.
- Meet/check in with students regularly and monitor their progress, offering feedback and support.
- Encourage students having difficulties to talk with you. Hold regular office hours, both online and offline, for consistent contact.
Academic integrity: Best practice strategies in the classroom
You can implement a variety of strategies in the classroom to promote honesty in submitted work. Here are some best practice ideas to help create environments conducive to positive academic practices.
- Outline for students what a successful assignment looks like.
- Teach students proper attribution (i.e.: APA style) and provide examples.
- Clearly outline how to use paraphrasing and direct citation. Give examples of what constitutes plagiarism.
- Minimize opportunities for students to change topics or hand in work that is “off” assignment / topic.
- Build time into the assignment schedule for students to review a first draft or outline with you before submitting a final piece of work.
- Prepare new assignments each semester or refresh the details and critical elements to differentiate from previous semesters.
- Consider adding a statement on all submissions that says, “By submitting this (type of work being submitted), I state that all work is entirely my own and does not violate Red River College’s Academic Integrity policy.” Ask students to sign this prior to submitting each assignment.
- Provide rubrics for all assessments for clear assignment expectations.
- Prepare in advance for students to be away sick for exams or on assessment submission days. Create a clear procedure for rewrites / late submissions and identify whether a doctor’s note is required. Use alternate assessments or a different assessment type that students perceive as being harder (even if it is not) such as an essay. Notify students of this practice in the course outline.
- Use proper citation in your own work (i.e.: lecture slides, handouts, etc.), modelling your expectations for students.
- Include assessments where appropriate sharing and collaboration is essential to successful completion of the work. By choosing authentic learning tasks that require students to work together, you can foster a community of integrity.
- Talk to your students about what constitutes acceptable sources of information.
- Make assignments specific or unique, as sources available to students through “cheating sites” may not be able to meet the requirements of a specific assignment.
Examples of Academic Integrity in Practice
- Ask students to articulate the relevance of the course material to their lives, the local community or their future professions. This action personalizes the learning, fostering their intrinsic motivation.
- Provide students with choices in how they demonstrate their learning. Allow options within an assignment or a variety of assignment options. This encourages a focus on mastery learning rather than performance.
- Use a “touchstone” assignment and ask students to connect their ideas to another aspect of the class. This can be a point from a lecture, a quotation selected from a reading, an image or a graph.
- Create shorter assignments that students complete in one class period. This forces students to do the work on their own and you will start to get an idea of their “voice.”
- Require students to use local sources in assignments that require research. For example, use local newspapers or pamphlets, journals, interviews, etc.
Academic integrity in assessments
As an instructor, you effectively promote academic integrity through the strategies and approaches used in your course(s), for example, through your assessments. (Assessment of learning – Tony Bates)
Communicating with your colleagues and sharing student expectations make the assessments more effective and less stressful for students. Stressed students are likely to attempt short cuts that may lead to academic misconduct.
Strategies for Promoting Academic Integrity in Assessments
Indicate expectations for assessments
- Write clear, detailed instructions. Clearly state the requirements for successful completion and indicate if the assessment is completed individually or if students may collaborate.
- Review the instructions with the students. Clearly indicate your course and assessment expectations regarding academic integrity.
- Include rubrics with each assessment for transparency and clarity.
- Explain the value of the assessment. When students understand the benefits and how they apply to their learning, they are less likely to try shortcuts.
- Prepare multiple versions. Wherever possible have more than one version of an assessment so that you can change between versions each time the course is offered.
Model academic integrity
Modeling what you expect reminds students throughout the course what they should be doing.
- Cite all sources in the course material that you develop/use.
- Comply with copyright. (See RRC library for more information on copyright)
- Use examples of what academic misconduct might look like in your course to assist students in understanding what they should and should not do.
Develop alternative assessments
When developing your course use an alternative assessment to exams where possible.
Elements to consider when developing assessments:
- The assessment is authentic to the industry/field of study.
- Students have the opportunity to apply, synthesize or create using the skills they have developed.
- The assessment includes a reflection portion on learning.
- Resources are provided to help students maintain academic integrity (e.g. citations, copyright information from RRC library).
- Time is built in for students to review their plan/outline for the assessment and ask any questions they need to.
Written assessments – develop written assessments that scaffold and allow for part marks for submission of each portion. This allows for feedback to the students. An example may be to have students submit an outline with the resources they have found.
Portfolio – portfolio assessmentin your course allows you to see the development of the students’ work throughout the course and offer them feedback. As well, students are less likely to attempt academic misconduct on incremental portions of work where the stakes are not as high. [ePortfolio (University of Waterloo)]
Project/ problem-based assessment – develop real world project / problem based assessments. Clearly indicate the requirements for the assessment, i.e. collaborative or individual, with detailed rubrics. This type of assessment engages students and decreases their need to find shortcuts.
One possible way to promote academic integrity in these assessments is to have the group submit a summary of how they completed the assessment. Did individuals complete certain sections to contribute to the submission? Did they collaborate via collaborative software that allowed all participants to contribute? Did they include all resources and citations?
Where possible choose another assessment type instead of an exam. In courses where an alternative assessment type is not possible, look at doing some or all of the following:
- Reduce the grade weight of the exam. Heavily weighted exams are stressful for students and stress can lead to bad decision making (choosing to cheat).
- Clearly state student expectations in the exam instructions.
- Use time limits that allow for completion but not extra time.
- If your exam is in LEARN, use the tools available to minimize the opportunity for academic misconduct:
- Set time limits
- Allow only one attempt
- Randomize the order of the questions where possible
- Multiple choice questions – randomize the question options
- Create question banks and have the LEARN tool choose the questions so each student gets a different exam. Try not to use test bank questions from publishers, as those are often available on the internet.
- Offer practice quizzes/exams so that students know what to expect in your course. This will reduce the stress associated with exams.
Red River College. (n.d.). S-4 Academic Integrity.
International Center for Academic Integrity. (2020). Top 10 Ways to Improve Academic Integrity.
International Center for Academic Integrity. (2020). How to Promote Academic Integrity in Remote Learning.
Penn State. (2016). Strategies for Preventing Academic Integrity Issues.
WCET, UT Telecampus. (2009). Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education.
Indiana University Bloomington. (n.d.) Designing Assignment to Encourage Integrity.
Indiana University Bloomington, (n.d.), Alternatives to Traditional Exams and Papers.
Rousseau, P. (2018), Best Practices Alternative Assessment.
University of Guelph, (n.d.), Academic Integrity Considerations for Assessing Students Online.
University of Manitoba, (n.d.) Promoting Integrity in Online Courses.
Western University, (n.d.) Academic Integrity.