How to Promote Integrity in School & Stop Academic Dishonesty
The management of academic dishonesty, and its counter-phenomenon, academic integrity, are critical to a functioning education system. Understanding one will lead to insights into how to promote or discourage the other, and this skill will help guide and incentivize both students and teachers to do better.
Integrity is a deep and often subjective concept, which won’t be intuitive for all students. Any expectation that a group of young people with diverse backgrounds would have a shared understanding of what defines integrity is likely to be met with disappointment.
Here, we’re going to look at what the terms mean, why they’re so commonly misunderstood, and how an organization can work to boost integrity in school.
Examples of Integrity in School
Integrity comes in many forms, and in academia, it primarily relates to the act of following the rules set by the system in place, to ensure that a student’s assessment of their abilities is as accurate as it can be. Measuring education is an ongoing struggle, and standardized testing has numerous limitations for this reason.
The most obvious examples of integrity in school are not to cheat in exams, and not submitting other people’s work. However, there are several other ways in which students need to maintain academic integrity, many of which change depending on the level at which they’re studying. Some of these might be:
- Citing accurate sources that reflect the submitted work
- Keeping an educator’s intellectual property private unless permitted to share
- Ensuring all work is original and not plagiarized
- Ensuring all work is completed without sanctioned help from people or unauthorized materials
- Completing work thoroughly in an honest, genuine manner
The education system for all ages and in each institution should be robust enough to ensure that by following the principles of academic integrity, students receive a fair and effective education that is able to be measured accurately.
These measures are, of course, important to the future prospects of each student, and so it is the educator’s responsibility to keep their side of the deal, so as to minimize incentives for students to break protocol.
The first step to achieving this is to fully understand why there are cases of academic dishonesty in schools.
Motivations for Academic Dishonesty
There are countless reasons why a student might violate any of the principles of academic integrity relating to the school. Some are intentional, others aren’t, but understanding these mechanisms, as well as the cases where dishonesty is incentivized, is key to knowing how to promote integrity in school.
Let’s take a look at some examples. Academic dishonesty could result from:
- Cultural differences in what defines academic integrity
- Misunderstandings or miscommunications surrounding the policies in place
- Poorly organized students or teachers
- Disengagement from the work or the institution
- Anxiety around grades
- A learning culture that inadvertently incentivizes dishonesty
The first two relate to inadvertent dishonesty, which can be caused by a number of other misunderstandings either with the principle, or the explanation of integrity. Other, more intentional acts that breach academic dishonesty are often related to the incentives for and against breaking integrity.
With structured learning that’s marked in a quantifiable manner, learning becomes a matter of scoring points, and when the focus shifts strongly to the attainment of these points, the bigger picture can sometimes be lost.
Other issues relate to pressure that’s put on students to attain these grades and the corresponding anxiety that comes with this.
There’s also an element of character involved, and this might at first be the intuitive obvious cause for academic dishonesty, but it’s more complicated than it seems. Culture certainly plays a role in not only forming character but molding characters in alignment with a common goal, which makes the character of an individual a lot less of a factor than the environment they’re occupying.
Once these mechanisms are accepted and better understood, steps can be taken to reduce cheating, to improve the culture of academic integrity, and to express and share information in a more digestible way, and this is the goal of any organization that wants to learn how to promote integrity in school.
How to Promote Integrity in School
From investigating these motives, there should be a number of solutions immediately available. Some are quick fixes, and some are more general shifts in attitudes that will take time and effort on behalf of all stakeholders.
Let’s start with the easy fixes. These revolve around engineering out the human element by removing the ability to break from academic integrity. For the most obvious examples, this means setting desks sufficiently apart during exams and having effective invigilation.
Then there are deterrents or the ‘stick’ part of the motivation for students to stay in line. In an ideal world, punishments should scale with the amount to which they threaten the unified philosophy of an institution.
As integrity holds the education system together, it stands to reason that the severity of the punishment for breaking this integrity should be strict. However, there are, as we discussed, numerous areas in which diverging from the philosophy is either unintentional or even inadvertently encouraged by poor organization of the system.
In these cases, punishments do nothing to tackle the issue and are simply reacting to a much deeper problem. To best promote integrity in schools, and minimize divergence from this, there needs to be a deeper drive to create a culture that fosters integrity in schools.
Creating a safe environment in which students feel supported and encouraged goes a long way to prevent isolating individuals, which in turn reduces the motivation for these students to go their own way. Further, a culture that inspires confidence helps to reduce anxiety and promotes open communication of issues that may arise before they turn critical.
Teaching integrity as a principle that contributes to a person’s life inside and outside of school is another component of infusing a generation of people with a higher standard of morality and faith in the system. Practically, teaching time-keeping, organizational skills, and study skills will contribute to this by providing the tools necessary to adapt to the system.
So there are philosophical and practical skills that will help maintain integrity. But the power that a school has doesn’t stop there. Exams should be designed in a way that minimized pressure and emphasizes learning. Real-world, applicable examples should be used and learning options should be provided.
Finally, transparency and communication should be a major focus, not only in creating a conducive environment, but also as a way of making sure that everyone is informed on the regulations relating to integrity, and are in agreement with them.
There are some easy ways to reduce dishonesty in schools, but they are generally aimed at reacting, after the fact. True prevention comes with a stronger understanding of the motivations behind dishonesty, and the mechanisms that school systems have in place that can sometimes lead to it being the easier option.
A learning culture that incorporates an understanding of the principles of integrity, while providing students with all of the tools and the safe and supportive environment to best adhere to it, is one that will see the highest levels of academic integrity in schools.
Adopting this culture can take time. Curacubby can help free up some of this time by streamlining your school or afterschool programs with an all-in-one solution to your admin. Automate the repetitive tasks, and spend more time building a culture of integrity.