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An increasing number of concerns about academic dishonesty have been voiced in recent months. While students are spending more time online than ever, research indicates the environment makes little difference. Despite advancements in preventative software applications and heightened awareness about the issue, academic dishonesty persists in K-12 classrooms. The current “gotcha” culture defines academic misconduct with consequences. Exercises in compliance are effective when someone is watching, but the world needs well rounded digital citizens who do the right thing regardless of who is in the room.
Academic dishonesty takes many forms. Examples should seek to prepare students to make ethical decisions as they interact with information and others online. Some decisions will be black and white, but situations that fall into the gray area should not be overlooked. Help students make sense of the ambiguous examples so next time they are more prepared when they encounter similar ones in the future. Consider the affordances of a learning management system when designing opportunities for students to develop their understanding of academic integrity in a hybrid course. Discussion boards may elicit more honesty from students than if they were asked face-to-face. Requiring students to complete an online module about academic dishonesty gives the education a foundation to build a culture of integrity on. Developing a scope and sequence in grade level teams ensures students progress through age appropriate modules that increase in complexity and prepare students for age appropriate online interactions.
Speaking to peers and adults is a developing skill in grades 4 and 5. Teach students how to get unstuck. Be proactive and anticipate student behaviors when they need help. Model how to ask a classmate or an adult for help using email. Scaffold the process for younger learners with visible thinking strategies and accountable talk stems. Help students develop an understanding of the pros and cons associated with email. A culture of integrity encourages students to leverage the opportunities of technology and something if they receive something dishonest.
Research shows the relationship between effort and achievement can be taught (Pitler, Hubbell, & Kuhn, 2012). Sharing effort stories about real people who have achieved their goals through hard work teaches students to work hard to achieve their goals. The purpose of homework is to extend learning. Homework provides students with opportunities to practice and reinforce classroom instruction. Invite families to a virtual open house to discuss the culture of the classroom. Urge parents to take a guide on the side approach and intervene as little as possible. Provide strategies and resources to empower parents to be a guide on the side. Help parents come to the realization that adopting a guide on the side approach gives students the opportunity to learn how to help themselves and develop self-efficacy. Students who believe they are capable of understanding new concepts and mastering new skills do not have a reason to be dishonest about their work or look for shortcuts to get the grade.
Middle school students need frequent reminders to reinforce their rights and responsibilities as a member of a learning community that values honesty and hard work. Research indicates book ending assessments with a brief statement about academic integrity at the beginning of the assessment and end detours unethical decision making during testing. The practice of bookending helps maintain the culture of integrity established early on (Shu, Gino, & Bazerman, 2011). Apply the same principles to synchronous lessons. Begin and end synchronous lessons with key working agreements that reinforce the classroom values and behaviors expected of each member of the learning community.
Research indicates pressure to succeed compels the capable, high achieving student to cheat (Redding, 2017). When success is nothing less than an A, the fear of “failure” overrides reasoning. Educators should remind students often that they do not need to cheat or plagiarize to do well in class. The message communicates to students that they have the capacity to do well all on their own. Provide students with the resources needed to be successful. When students have adequate resources to be successful there is no need to consider alternative methods.
International Center for Academic Integrity
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