What Can You Do About Academic Misconduct?

The causes of academic misconduct have been well-studied and the following points explain most of this concerning behavior.  Research shows that very few students  plan on doing things like buying papers or crowd-sourcing exam questions when they enroll in courses.  Students widely report that their decision to “cheat” was almost always instead taken at the last minute, under pressure, based on one or more of these 3 concerns:   

  1. Students placed a low value on what was to be learned
  2. Students had low expectations of success for themselves, whatever success meant to them
  3. Students believed cheating was widespread: “Everybody’s doing it—I’d be dumb not to”

Low value on learning required in this course

Strategies to increase value

  • Content doesn’t seem applicable
  • Assessment method doesn’t seem applicable in real life
  • Relationship with the instructor is not important

  • Convey value of the content for students (and what makes you, as their instructor, so enthusiastic about them learning it)
  • Convey value of the assessment method (similar to what they would do with the knowledge or skills in practice, or in the “real world”)
  • Use higher order questions – not based on memorization or speed; but requiring application and analysis
  • Build a relationship of mutual respect with your students – – not through threats, but through holding yourself and students to a high standard and through educational approaches

Low expectancy of success on this assessment/in this course

Strategies to increase expectancy of success

  • Last minute, poor planning, time crunch
  • Uncertainty about nature of exam, or assignment expectations
  • Instructor seems unapproachable, non-supportive, disinterested
  • “High stakes” grade for the assessment, or the course

  • Structure smaller assessments to build, incorporate staged pieces toward a larger project to be submitted at the end of the term (helps students stay on track and plan)
  • Negotiate or renegotiate due dates so that last-minute panic can be avoided
  • Provide practice and experience with the kind of assessment and questions to be used, avoid tricks or “out of left field” questions
  • Provide choice to students within certain constraints (e.g., either a video presentation or written report on an approved topic; contribute to 6/8 discussion threads over the term)
  • Avoid tying a lot of weight to a single assignment/test – this makes it higher stakes.
  • Note:  improving the expectancy of success is not the same as making the course “easier” – in this case, it is making the expectations and skills and effort needed to succeed transparent.  Students still have to do the work, but they know what the work involves.

Belief “everybody else is cheating”

Strategies to support the belief “Most people are doing their work honestly”

  • Student grape-vine, norms, “ways of doing things” in the student body
  • Advertising and student sharing of cheating sites and services
  • Instructor focus solely on “catching cheaters”

  • Avoid treating all students as though they will cheat when given the opportunity – it is demoralizing and builds a climate of mistrust
  • Students see that the opportunity for academic misconduct is restricted by the design and formats instructors choose for assessment
  • Students see that “cheaters” face consequences (be sure to follow up on suspected academic misconduct)
  • Students feel comfortable to ask questions about the rules for academic integrity in a course without repercussions or negative reactions (the rules can vary from course to course)
  • Students are supported to build their skills for learning and for academic integrity as well as are aware of the definitions of and policies for academic misconduct
  • Note:  there is an online academic tutorial for which students can present you with a certificate of completion.  You can also use the module content in your teaching and refine it to apply to your discipline/field or assessments.