Academic dishonesty in college classes — Pro-active and reactive efforts for teachers

by Julie Dodd

uf_conductAcademic dishonesty.

Every college instructor is concerned about that issue.

We want to evaluate each of our students on his/her own work. We want students developing standards of ethical behavior to carry forward into their professional and personal lives.

What can we do to promote academic honesty? And what can we do if we discover academic dishonesty?

Strategy #1 – Determine what your educational institution has in place to help you as an instructor.

At the University of Florida, the Dean of Students Office provides that support.

UF students are required to sign the Student Honor Code that lists and explains a range of inappropriate academic behavior, including plagiarism and unauthorized collaboration.

UF has an established process for addressing honor code violations. The guidelines are very clear that the instructor must contact the Dean of Students Office to report any academic dishonesty issue. The Dean of Students Office provides a form for reporting violations and has a Student Hearing Committee and review process for a student who has more than one violation.

Strategy #2 – Incorporate the institution’s honor code guidelines in your syllabus.

We, as instructors, include that code in our syllabi or the URL to the honor code. That way students are clear or what the guidelines are in your course and, in the case of UF, are reminded that they already have signed the Student Honor Code.

Strategy #3 – Include in the syllabus and directions for assignments specifics about potential academic dishonesty issues in your course.

Those specifics can help students understand how the honor code — which may seem rather abstract — actually applies in the course.

In the undergraduate course I teach, for example, students are required to do their own reporting for a story and include quotes from sources they interview. In the syllabus and in the directions for the reporting assignment, I include a brief explanation of how plagiarism and fabrication are not acceptable.

Strategy #4 – Determine the consequences for academic dishonesty violations and include a statement about those consequences in your syllabus.

At the University of Florida, the instructor makes the decision on the first violation. Will that mean failing the assignment or failing the course? As a new faculty member in the department or as a teaching assistant, you want to find out what the standard is. You can talk with your department chair for background. Include the consequences in your syllabus.

For violations of the student honor code after the first, the Dean of Students Office determines the consequences if the student is found guilty.

Strategy #5 – Discuss academic honesty/dishonesty during the semester.

You want ethical behavior to be part of the course. Talk about academic and professional honesty when you explain the big project, analyze a case study, or conduct a test review session. Remind students that they have signed the Student Honor Code because the university wants to promote high integrity.

Strategy #6 – Create an atmosphere that promotes academic honesty.

Let students know that you are checking their interview sources. Use Turn It In to review their papers. Monitor your students during exams and have proctors to assist you if you have a large class. Do a Google search if you encounter wording in a paper that doesn’t sound like your student’s work.

Strategy #7 – Develop assignments and testing that discourages cheating.

For big projects, break the assignment into smaller tasks with incremental deadlines. That keeps students from procrastinating until the big project is due and then panicking and plagiarizing.

Make more than one version of the exam and distribute the exams so that students aren’t sitting next to someone with the same exam.

Strategy #8 – If you discover academic dishonesty, take action — and follow the required process.

Without a doubt, dealing with an academic dishonesty situation is stressful for the instructor and can be a very time-consuming process. But you are asked to address the issue by following a university process. Addressing an academic dishonesty situation also lets that student — and potentially other students who may hear about the situation from that student — know that you are serious about maintaining academic honesty in your course.

Part of taking action is documenting the situation. Be sure to have the materials you need to support your accusation. Do not return the original of a student’s work to the student. Keep the original. If the plagiarism issue is online, download the file or make screen captures. Otherwise, when the student knows you suspect the work, the student can remove the work online.

At UF, the faculty member is asked to meet with the student to discuss the violation. The faculty member, in advance of the meeting, completes a form describing the incident. The faculty member and student sign the form, and the faculty member submits the form to the Dean of Students Office.

Strategy #9 – Alert your supervisor to the academic dishonesty situation.

Let your department chair know about the situation. In some cases, a student who you have accused of a student honor code violation may go see the department chair to challenge your assessment. You want the department chair to know your side of the story and what action you have taken.

Let me know if you have other strategies to either prevent or respond to academic dishonesty.


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