Academic Integrity

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:

Planning for Academic Integrity in Your Course

As noted in our policy, instructors “…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:

  • Include a Canvas Module highlighting academic integrity resources.
    • A basic Canvas Module has been developed and posted on Canvas Commons that can be pulled into any course. It can be used as-is or adapted it to instructor needs.
    • After signing into Canvas, click on the Commons link in the left menu and then go to the module. Click the “import/download” button to integrate it into a course of your choice. Note that instructors must be enrolled in at least one course shell in Canvas to have access to the module.
  • 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:
  • 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

Share with Students

Resources on Penn State Keep Learning

Academic Integrity – Avoiding Violations
Quick tips and resources instructors can provide to students regarding avoiding academic integrity violations

In addition to communicating to students about academic integrity in their class, instructors can communicate more broadly with students about the role of academic integrity at a university. There are several important resources that instructors 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).
  • 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 an instructor-governed process. Instructors decide how to handle a violation. From an institutional perspective, it is best if instructors 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 instructors and students are treated fairly.
    • Reporting builds trust within the system.

So, what happens when you think you have identified an academic integrity violation?