Ways to reduce academic dishonesty: What educators need to do?

With hybrid or fully remote learning, 72% out of 2,000 college students surveyed feel too overwhelmed to get good grades. This is one of the major reasons students cheat, according to this Inside Higher Ed/College Pulse survey.

Two other most common reasons for academic cheating include “lack of preparation for exams” (58%) and “heavy course workloads” (52%). They all increase students’ stress and lead them to the breaking point, which is when unethical behavior may occur.

It’s interesting how these survey results coincide with what we at Turnitin heard from students during our webinar on Student Voices on Academic Integrity held in September this year.

The students we interviewed were/are still serving on the Honor Council. They also did see an increase in academic cheating cases partly due to the pressure to succeed. Here’re all the key takeaways summed up for you:

 

Lack of conversations around academic integrity:

A plain statement in the syllabus is not enough. According to our interviewees, academic integrity is more widely discussed during the first years of studies. As students mature and move on to graduate degrees, educators assume students already know everything about academic integrity and what academic misconduct is. As a result, the confusion grows and students become too hesitant to openly discuss academic violations questions in the class. It’s kind of a taboo topic for students.

 

Pressure to succeed whatever it takes:

Academic writing specifically may be considered heavy lifting. This is especially true for students who are not regularly involved in doing these types of assignments. The desire to get good grades could also be explained by the student’s willingness to show up their worth. Pressure to keep scholarships, as well as personal and economic pressures, put students under even more stress.

 

Unclear assignment instructions/guidance:

Assignment instructions are often either insufficient or too general, which causes a lot of misunderstandings. As a consequence, students may fail to perform well.

 

The sense that many academic integrity violations may go unnoticed:

Sometimes, it’s hard to pursue academic dishonesty cases due to the missing evidence. Even Honor Councils don’t always have enough resources and time to investigate them, especially when it comes to contract cheating.

 

With that being said, are there any ways to lay the groundwork for raising more integrity-conscious students?

First off, start by creating a friendly environment for students to openly ask questions. So, having regular discussions around academic integrity during individual or group meetings with class would be of big help.

As an educator, it’s also important to show your dedication to academic integrity and willingness to support struggling students. Going beyond “putting an academic integrity statement” in a syllabus and providing more explanations and examples of how academic integrity works in practice would benefit students a lot more and help them achieve better grades thanks to their own effort.

And last but not least, it’s clear course/assignment instructions. The better students understand what is expected of them, the more confident they will be in their ability to cope with the task on their own.

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