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, 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:

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?