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Instructors

Prevention

Course Climate

You can reduce academic dishonesty by:

  • Voicing and demonstrating your personal commitment to academic honesty to your students
  • Modeling good citation practice in your teaching
  • Making course expectations clear to your students
  • Having your students write and sign honor pledges for their assignments. [1]

These actions contribute to our campus and classroom culture of academic honesty as a modified honor code school and are the University’s most effective cheating deterrent. 

Research shows that a strong campus culture of academic integrity can lower cheating rates by up to a third, with the percentage of students cheating at least once dropping from roughly three-fourths to one-half of all students. [2]

The policy recognizes this by requiring you to include an academic honesty statement on either your syllabus or course website and to call attention to course-specific academic honesty information in class during the first two weeks. The policy also requires you to have your students write and sign the honor pledge before each exam.

You can also promote academic honesty by explaining the purpose and value of your assignments to students so that they understand why they are doing it. Students cheat more frequently when they don’t find assignments to be meaningful and think the assignment is pointless busywork.

Below is more information about how to improve academic honesty in different course areas:


Course Design

You can reduce academic dishonesty through your course design. Often, course design elements that promote academic honesty also promote student learning and reduce identity-based disparities in outcomes.

Design Your Course Backwards

Figure out what you want students to learn by the end of the course, then work backwards to design activities and assignments that will promote that learning and allow you to measure it. 

Make sure students have the opportunity to practice the skills they will need for larger assignments by designing smaller activities and assignments that build up to larger ones. Provide students with feedback on these preliminary activities and assignments so they can course-correct before they encounter a larger assignment. 

Organize the course content in alignment with your learning objectives, assignments, and activities.

Cognitive Skills

Teach students the cognitive skills (ways of thinking or habits of mind) of your discipline as part of your course content.

When you design an activity, think about the subject matter and the format as interrelated. What background knowledge and cognitive skills do students need to do work in your discipline? Explicitly tell students the relationship between what they are learning and how they are learning. Further, teach students those needed disciplinary skills as part of content (e.g., how to read a large volume of material and why it matters, how to attend carefully to study design and why it matters, etc.). 

For upper-level courses, do not assume that students already possess needed skills or understand why they matter. Use formative assessment (non-graded activities such as exit tickets that generate responses from all students) to gauge student preparedness and adjust your course accordingly.

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Examinations

In combination with the recommendations above for course climate and course design, the following best practices can promote honest work on exams.

Honor Pledge

Use the honor pledge before each exam, as required by the AS&E Academic Honesty Policy. Students should handwrite and sign the pledge; electronic exams should approximate that process as nearly as the technology platform will allow. 

Research shows that completing honor pledges immediately before an exam reduces cheating. [1] See the honor pledge resource page for more information about incorporating the honor pledge into your exam.

Reusing Tests

Do not reuse tests (either from previous semesters or from a previous exam period for a different section in the same semester). Students collect old exams, including exams recreated from memory when instructors retain testing materials. 

Reusing testing materials not only undermines the assessment value of the exam and promotes cheating, but it also promotes differential outcomes that are often based on race and/or other identity factors, as some students will have access to old tests through student connections and organizations while others will not.

Many professors make old tests available to all students as study aids to combat these effects.

Proctors

Train yourself and any additional proctors using the AS&E proctoring guidelines.

Personally proctor your exams or arrange for another faculty member to do so if you will be out of town. Do not leave exams un-proctored or proctored only by students.

Use at least one proctor per 40 students.

Exam Space

Request a larger classroom for the exam from the registrar’s office to allow for spacing between students. (Note: Please answer the registrar’s email about whether you will be giving a final exam; if you are not, this frees up space for other instructors.)

Assign randomized exam seats (see below for a randomized seat assignment tool for large lecture halls).

Before the Exam

Reduce the grade pressure of high-stakes exams. For example, allow students to drop one exam grade or create additional assignments to reduce the grade percentage assigned to an exam.

Set exam policies for electronic devices and other outside materials. Communicate these policies to students and proctors (see Electronic Devices in Exams Memo) in advance and at the exam.

Create and use multiple versions of an exam by varying or reordering questions.

During the Exam

To help with academic honesty you should:

  • Check students taking exams against class roster photos in Instructor Access.
  • Turn off access to the course website during exams (in Blackboard, click on the green circle next to course name; after the test, click on the red X to make the course available again).
  • Scan exams before returning them, if you offer regrading. That way, you can ensure students have not altered work submitted for regrading.

Randomized Exam Seat Assignment Tool

You can use this tool to assign randomized exam seats for the 15 largest AS&E lecture halls and the temporary 190-seat final exam space in the Feldman Ballroom (in Douglass Commons). Randomizing seat assignments has been shown to reduce cheating rates.[3] 

This tool relies on classroom seat maps, Blackboard student lists, and Excel spreadsheets of classroom seats. Each classroom has two supplied seat lists: one that lists every available seat, and one that spaces students with empty seats. 

Please contact the academic honesty liaison for training.

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Papers

Below are common forms of academic dishonesty that occur in papers as well as ways to combat them.

Contract Cheating

Contract cheating is when students contract for others to write their papers in exchange for something of value. Contract cheating is an enormous global industry, and students can easily pay online contract cheating companies to complete assignments on short notice, including every step of a staged assignment. Thus, creating a staged and/or unique and/or time-sensitive assignment is no longer an effective cheating deterrent on its own.

Some ways to catch or prevent contract cheating are:

  • Collecting in-class writing samples to compare to papers written outside of class.
  • Creating staged assignments with unique characteristics.
    • Staged assignments break writing assignments into steps that students turn in for your review along the way.
    • Unique assignment elements can include asking students to incorporate unusual course readings or elements into their work, to write about unpublished material, or to write about material that is specific to the particular time and/or place of the course.

Ultimately, preventing contract cheating entails knowing each of your students and having a feel for kind of work they normally produce. In large lecture courses, especially, this may be easier said than done; but following the tips listed on this page can give you a head start.

Citations

Plagiarizing and lacking appropriate citations is another common issue. You can help discourage plagiarizing and encourage the use of proper citations by repeatedly and clearly communicating your expectations for citations, including that correct citation is required for all assignments (drafts, proposals, ungraded work, presentation slides, images, diagrams, etc.). You should reiterate these expectations both in class and in written examples.

You can also direct students to writing resources like the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program and the Library’s Writing and Citing Guide.

Collaboration

Communicate your rules for collaboration so that students know if they are allowed to work together and, if so, in what ways. See our templates page for examples.

Consider using the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program's handout on academically honest peer review

Especially for graduate students, make clear that they should use on-campus writing support, not outside editing services, because outside editing services likely will not comply with the academic honesty policy. On-campus writing support includes resources like the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program and the Library’s Writing and Citing Guide.

Dishonest Work

Use the following steps to check for suspected dishonesty in written work:

  • Look for red flags that the student may not have written the paper, such as work that*:
    • Is off-topic
    • Internally changes style and/or ability level
    • Is substantively different from previous work by the student
    • Closely resembles that of another student (in part or in whole)
  • Check the properties of electronic file submissions, which may be blank or may not correspond to the student.
  • Check for missing, incorrect, and/or fake citations.
  • Use Google or other search engines to look for content that does not seem to have been written by the student. To locate exact matches, you can put the phrase or sentence in quotation marks when you do the search.

*In these cases, ask the student to walk you through their writing and thinking process for the paper.  When students did not write a given paper, they can rarely explain their writing process and/or the reasoning in the paper.

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Group Projects and Collaboration

Since the rules for group projects and collaboration are specific to each course, you should clearly and repeatedly communicate your expectations in class and in writing. Carefully consider how you want to organize group projects, as different methods of organizing group projects have different academic honesty implications.

For examples of collaboration rules, see the templates for course academic honesty statements.

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References

[1] James Lang, Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013), Chapter 8. http://catalog.lib.rochester.edu/vwebv/holdingsInfo?bibId=5234048

[2] Donald L. McCabe, Kenneth D. Butterfield, and Linda K. Treviño, Cheating in College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can Do About It (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012).

[3] Steven D. Levitt and Ming-Jen Lin, “Catching Cheating Students” in The National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper Series No. 21628 (October 2015), http://www.nber.org/papers/w21628. Kate Stoltzfus, “To Stop Exam Cheats, Economists Say, Try Assigning Seats,” in The Chronicle of Higher Education October 14, 2015, http://chronicle.com/article/To-Stop-Exam-Cheats/233741.

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