Reduce performance anxiety
The stress that comes with high-stakes assessments can create a temptation to violate academic integrity. Reduce stress and the accompanying temptation with any of the following strategies:
- Schedule 2-3 midterms and a final, rather than 1 midterm and 1 final.
- Schedule smaller, more frequent, low-stakes quizzes.
- Provide frequent and timely feedback so students know what to study.
- Include milestone submissions for larger projects, so students get feedback along the way.
- Vary assessments to include, in addition to exams, assignments such as:
Write high quality exams and alter questions from semester to semester
When students trust the exam process, they have one less reason to cheat. High quality exams accurately distinguish students who know the material deeply from those who do not, without the stress of students feeling that exam items are unfair.
Whether an essay exam, a multiple choice exam, or a mixture of both, high quality exams do not include “trick questions.” They do not test minute, insignificant details. They do not test skills (e.g., applying concepts, interpreting data, predicting outcomes of a scenario, etc.) for which the instructor has not previously given practice exercises and feedback.
Rather, high quality exams provide new versions of familiar types of problems or essay-type questions; and they present plausible but clearly incorrect distractor options on multiple choice items. The challenge is to find ways to gauge a student’s understanding of course material while also varying the levels of item difficulty that are appropriate for the course. For resources on the development of quality exam items, review the Assessment page. In addition, consider the following strategies to vary exam questions:
- For essay items, consult an exam from a previous semester, change the context of the items, and vary the question order.
- For multiple choice items, use correct answers from other items as distractors for a given question; and vary the placement of the correct answer (e.g., move correct answer from the second option to the fourth).
- For problem-solving items, change the variables and/or the context of the problem.
Share grading rubrics and modify assignments from semester to semester
Rubrics help students understand the expectations of an assignment by defining the the ways that students should demonstrate their skill and knowledge. Carefully written rubrics that provide direction and allow for creativity take the guesswork out of the “rules” for the assignment while also encouraging students to synthesize and create.
- Share assignment rubrics with students and discuss them in advance of assignment due dates.
- Modify the context, the variables, or the task in such a way that previously submitted work, from another semester, would not fulfill the assignment.
For more on the design of grading rubrics, review the Assessment page.
Educate students about academic integrity
Present the definition of academic integrity (from Faculty Senate Policy 49-20) on your syllabus, and explain what integrity looks like in the context of your course.
- Discuss why integrity matters in your course, in their academic program, and in their career.
- Invite your classroom assistant (i.e., Learning Assistant or Teaching Assistant) to express how integrity matters in their internship and research lab experiences.
- Allot time on the first day for small group discussion about questionable scenarios.
Share examples of academic integrity violations, especially with younger students, so that all are informed. Examples include the following:
- Cheating on a test
- Buying a paper
- Selling a paper
- Having someone else take a test for a student
- Taking a test for someone else
- Unauthorized possession of tests
- Submitting work previously used without permission
- Unauthorized collaboration
- Fabrication of citations
- Posting an exam on an online course materials sharing site, such as CourseHero
Treating academic integrity as a foundation for your course will likely produce fewer instances of cheating than would be the case if you left academic integrity to chance. By engaging students in discussions about integrity, you help foster a sense of community and belonging in the class. Students hear that integrity matters, and they may be more likely to see you–and your instructional team–as people fully invested in their education and as people who they can trust for assistance in learning.
Report suspected dishonesty
As a member of the academic community in the College of IST, you help teach students about integrity. Unless you engage in the academic integrity process, we cannot, as a community, help educate and guide students toward honest behavior. Read the following brief summary of the academic integrity reporting process, and consult the College’s page on academic integrity resources for faculty. For forms and further explanation of how to file them, contact IST-ASO@psu.edu.
- Step 1: Instructor provides information regarding the allegation and gives the student a chance to respond at a meeting.
- Step 2: Following the conversation, if the instructor still believes a violation occurred, instructor completes the reporting form, including a proposed academic sanction.
- Step 3: Instructor gives form to student to sign.
- Step 4: The student signs the form, indicating they either accept or contest the charge and sanction.
- Step 4a: If a student chooses to accept the charge and sanction, the charge and sanction go into effect and the process ends. (In IST, the form is filed in the Graduate and Undergraduate Studies Office.)
- Or Step 4b: If the student contests, the matter is referred to the College of IST Academic Integrity Committee.
- Step 5: Academic Integrity Committee manages the case, seeking additional information and/or testimony and determining an outcome.
- Step 5a: If the Committee does not find clear evidence of academic dishonesty, the case is dismissed.
- Or Step 5b: If the Committee finds clear evidence of academic dishonesty, the Committee checks for prior violations and decides whether to simply uphold the sanction issued by the instructor or to refer the case to the Office of Student Conduct for formal disciplinary action.