Acting with integrity is an important part of being both a university student and a member of the workforce after graduation. But how do people arrive at a place where they are able to act with integrity in a range of challenging situations, such as those faced by students who feel overwhelmed by their coursework? One view is that integrity “is derived through a process of cultural socialization — influences from all spheres of a child’s life. In their school environments, students acquire these values and behaviors from adult role models and peers, and in particular, through an understanding of the principles of academic integrity” (Mitchell, 2015). Since the exact meaning of integrity is defined by one’s culture, members of the multicultural Northeastern community will think of integrity in different ways and Northeastern educators must create a shared understanding of classroom expectations.
University students need environments that continue to support them in developing their sense of integrity. There are several ways to do this, and solutions that bring students’ voices into the conversation may be better positioned to shape student behavior. One survey of undergraduate students sought to better understand their perspectives on this topic and solicit their ideas about how to better support students in behaving with academic integrity. While a single study is not comprehensive, the views shared by students can inform future conversations with your own students (Ezarik, 2021).
Student Perspective: “In the classes where I have performed best and have felt minimal stress around exams, the exams did not determine my entire grade, but were more checkpoints for me to see how well I understood the ins and outs of the material. If students had opportunities to raise their grades after poor test performance, there would be less pressure to get a high score regardless of cheating and/or material comprehension” (Ezarik, 2021, emphasis added).
One way to show students that exams are not the end of a learning opportunity is to design a two-stage exam, in which students can revisit test material.
Student Perspective: “I honestly think as a society we need to move away from a test-based way of assessing knowledge. I don’t think it’s effective as many people cram for exams and later forget material, cheat, etc. People like myself who do relatively good on exams most of the time are unfairly benefiting from a system that rewards you if you know how to take tests well or memorize, rather than actually apply concepts or material. I love classes that are more application-based or provide multiple choices for students in terms of assessment options” (Ezarik, 2021, emphasis added).
Student Perspective: “Be more open and explicit about offering help to students who feel unprepared for an upcoming exam or are having a lot of trouble with course assignments. Students often feel uncomfortable going to the professor after a certain point in the term when they feel they’re too far behind. This encourages cheating on assignments. It would help if professors make it clear they will support students regardless of where they are” (Ezarik, 2021, emphasis added).
Set the tone by fostering belonging early in the course so that students are more likely to seek out support when needed. You can also reinforce students’ belief that they can succeed with integrity at key points in your course when students are likely to struggle.
While these student perspectives are valuable, your own students will have unique ideas that are specific to their backgrounds, experiences in higher education, and the discipline(s) being studied. Take the time to ask your students about their expectations for exam-taking behavior, share these quotes with them, and listen to how you can help them act out their values.
Ezarik, M. (2021). Student ideas for academic integrity. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2021/12/14/students-advice-preventing-cheating-infographic
Mitchell, M. (2015). Creating a culture of integrity in the classroom. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-pathways-creating-culture-integrity-marilyn-price-mitchell