How can I encourage academic integrity?

The NIU community embraces the principle that “Good academic work must be based on honesty. The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration as a serious offense.” (1) Learning the rules of legitimacy in academic work is part of college education so the topic of cheating and plagiarism should be embraced as part of ongoing discussion among students and faculty Instructors should remind students of this obligation throughout their courses. 

Communicating expectations

Include a statement about cheating and plagiarism in your syllabus. Remind students of upholding NIU's academic integrity standards as an obligation of participating in our learning community (see sample syllabus statement). Students can learn more about plagiarism and take the NIU academic integrity tutorial

Reduce confusion about cheating and plagiarism by setting expectations for collaboration, guidelines for citation, and the use of electronic sources for every assessment. It may be necessary to define what kinds of programs are considered cheating for your discipline (for example, online translators in language courses). You can ask students to sign a pledge sheet in a written exam or remind them of academic integrity before exams begin online.

Provide ongoing feedback to reduce the temptation to cheat. Students may be tempted to cheat when they don’t know how to approach a task. Requiring students to turn in smaller chunks of a paper or project for feedback and a grade ahead of the final deadline can lessen the risk of cheating. Having multiple milestones on larger assessments reduces the stress of finishing a paper at the last minute or cramming for a final exam. 

Designing assessments

Ask questions that have no single right answer. The most direct approach to reduce cheating is to design open-ended assessment items. When writing test or quiz questions ask yourself: could this answer be easily discovered online? If so, rewrite your question to elicit more critical thinking from your student. Critical thinking questions can take the form of any question type. For example, a real-world case study scenario can gauge higher-order thinking more effectively than multiple choice responses. 

Open-ended assessments can take the form of case studies, projects, essays, podcasts, interviews, or “explain your work” problem sets. Students can provide examples of course concepts in a novel way. They can record themselves explaining the idea to someone else or make a mind map of related events or ideas. They can present their solutions to real-world scenarios as a poster or a podcast. If you choose to conduct an exam, designing questions that ask students to decide which concepts or equations to apply in a scenario, rather than testing recall, may make the most sense for many courses.

Minimize opportunities for cheating in tests and quizzes. If you offer quizzes or tests in your course there are several steps that you can take to reduce cheating, plagiarism, or other academic integrity violations:

  1. Remind students of academic integrity expectations for your test or quiz. Studies have shown that when students have to manually agree to the Honor Pledge prior to submitting an assignment, they are more likely to uphold the tenets of academic integrity.(2)
  2. Limit time. Set a time limit that gives students enough time to properly progress through the activity but not so much that those unprepared can research every question.
  3. Randomize question order. When you randomize (or shuffle) your test or quiz questions, all students will still receive the same questions but not necessarily in the same order. This strategy is particularly useful when you have a large question pool and choose to show a few questions at a time.
  4. Randomize answer order. When you randomize the answers to a question, all students will still receive the same answers but not necessarily in the same order.
  5. Use large question pools. Pools allow you to use the same question across multiple assessments or create a large number of questions to pull randomly from. For example, you could develop (or repurpose) 30 questions in a pool and have Sakai randomly choose 15 of those questions for each student’s assessment.
  6. Hide correct answers and scores until the test or quiz is closed. This can prevent students from sharing questions and answers with peers during the assessment period.

Creative Commons License

Flexible Teaching guides were developed by Duke Learning Innovation and adapted for NIU by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. They are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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