Practical Academic Integrity Plan for Penn State Educators
Making academic integrity central to your course is important because, as Senate Policy 49-20 states, “Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University…” In our research and service, we act with integrity to advance knowledge and impact our communities. We know from experience how research misconduct or unprofessional actions can lead to harm.
As educators, our role is to help students learn to act with integrity, one of many things we try to teach them. As students, they lack our experience. They will make mistakes and fail. That’s part of their learning. And, when they fail in this way, it’s part of our teaching to explain what they did wrong and how they can improve.
These resources intend to provide some practical guidance on how to teach students about academic integrity in a comprehensive way and includes both foundational guidance and tips for our current situation. The guidance here covers how to:
- plan for academic integrity before your course begins
- communicate with students about academic integrity during your course
- respond to perceived academic integrity violations through the academic integrity process
Planning for Academic Integrity in Your Course
As noted in our policy, faculty “…should regularly communicate high standards of integrity and reinforce them by taking reasonable steps to anticipate and deter acts of dishonesty in all assignments…” There are several important steps that you can take:
- Understand why academic integrity is important (MP4 Video) and how you can share your personal “why” with students.
- Create pedagogical strategies that enhance academic integrity, and plan assessments that make academic integrity integral to students’ work.
- Learn more about pedagogical strategies that enhance academic integrity by watching the Instructional Strategies for Promoting Honest Efforts recorded webinar from August 13, presented by Andrew Peck and Sarah Whitney.
- For general advice on how to get started, watch minutes 16:06–19:24 and 20:01–20:29 of the Academic Integrity recorded webinar from August 10.
- Provide a secure environment when using exams as one of your assessments. There are several different ways to accomplish this:
- Learn about Exam Proctoring Options.
- If you’ll be using Canvas for your exams, make sure you read the Penn State Canvas guide to using Canvas Quizzes and the Canvas information on quiz settings to maximize security.
- If you teach COVID in-person or mixed-mode classes, you can use the Testing Center (at University Park) or proctored in-class or evening exams (at all campuses). Make sure you follow examination policy and file for your evening exam or file for your final exam through the registrar by the deadlines.
- You can require the use of webcams for assessment activities, as long as you follow university policy and guidance.
- If the exam will not be proctored, use Canvas settings to maximize security and to set strict limits for students about navigation away from the exam during the exam period and enforce that through Quiz logs to reduce student temptation to consult Chegg or other resources. Let students know that statistical analysis of exam answers can be conducted following an exam to identify students who have answers that are likely to be the result of collaboration (see, for example, this article from the Journal of Applied Statistics).
- Communicate the specifics of how academic integrity applies in different elements of your class. Check out examples provided by your colleagues (DOC) that you can revise for your specific assignments to help make your expectations clear.
Communicating with Your Students about Academic Integrity
In addition to communicating to students about academic integrity in their class, faculty can communicate more broadly with students about the role of academic integrity at a university. There are several important resources that faculty can use to guide students:
- One of the most useful resources is Penn State’s site for training students about academic integrity. Educators can create this as an assignment within their class by including the link in the course and then have students complete that training and upload the certificate as evidence of completion. A student who has already completed the training can just upload their certificate (or re-do it as a good review).
- Another good resource is the Academic Integrity Quick Guide for Students (DOC).
- Where reasonable, tie discussions of academic integrity to Campus/College honor codes, Penn State Values, and professional codes of ethics. Learn more by watching minutes 2:00–5:42 of the Academic Integrity recorded webinar from August 10.
The Penn State Academic Integrity Process
You will be a lucky educator if you make it through your career without an academic integrity violation. Following good advice, maybe those will be few. Whether violations are common or rare, it’s important for instructors to understand and use the process appropriately. Here are a few key principles:
- Remember that your role is to be an educator — not a police officer, prosecuting attorney, or judge. Students will make mistakes, both intentional and unintentional. As teachers, our job is to help them understand the mistake they’ve made and help them learn from their error, so they can do better. As difficult as it may be, put your emotions, your anger, and your frustration aside, and be a teacher.
- Different colleges and campuses may have some differences in process, as long as they do not violate the PSU required processes.
- Academic integrity is a faculty-governed process. Faculty decide how to handle a violation. From an institutional perspective, it is best if faculty report all violations, rather than try to handle them outside of the process.
- Reporting makes sure that repeat violators face increased sanctions.
- Reporting makes sure that both faculty and students are treated fairly.
- Reporting builds trust within the system.
So, what happens when you think you have identified an academic integrity violation?
- Educator’s Role in the Academic Integrity Process (MP4 Video)
- For further information about the process, see minutes 21:26–40:08 of the August 10 Academic Integrity webinar.
- For general questions or a discussion about something you are seeing in your course, contact your campus/college academic integrity administrator.