Creating a Climate of Honor in the Classroom

Preventing Honor Code violations in the classroom is a two-fold endeavor that involves both education and prevention.

Education

As faculty members, you can do much more to uphold the Honor Code than simply keep an eye out for violations. We encourage you to educate your students about proper standards of academic behavior. Many of them will be genuinely confused about what constitutes plagiarism or unauthorized assistance on an assignment. Some students won't understand the importance of avoiding plagiarism by citing sources. Others might not make the connection between the Honor Code and the professional codes of ethics they will adopt in the "real world" upon graduation. By making the Honor Code an integral part of your curriculum, you will be helping your students learn crucial skills and develop an internal set of ethics and principles that will help them succeed as professionals.

Deterrence

Of course, mere discussions about honor and ethics don't always work. It is therefore advisable to put measures in place that will deter students from cheating if they are inclined to do so. Keep in mind, however, that the final responsibility for their behavior is in their hands, not yours.

What You Need To Do

When writing a syllabus- your syllabus should contain a section about the Honor Code. More specifically, it should tell students exactly what is permissible with regard to exams, papers, lab assignments, etc. Are they allowed to work together? If so, what are the limits of acceptable collaboration? How should they go about citing ideas they receive from classmates? To what extent are smartphone applications (such as calculators) acceptable tools, and when should students refrain from using them altogether (exams)? Your students will need to know these things. Including these points of discussion in your syllabus will not only give students a written guide, it will also help prevent any misunderstandings about what constitutes permissible behavior.

When reviewing the syllabus with your students at the beginning of the semester, please take time for a thorough discussion of the Honor Code section. It is especially helpful to make them aware of the importance of academic integrity to the profession of teaching. If you let them know that you value these standards and that you take the Honor Code seriously, they will take it more seriously as well. You might consider saving some of this discussion for a later session (perhaps in conjunction with the first assignment), especially if you have many other things to do on the first day of class.

During an exam- It is up to you to decide what steps you will take to deter cheating during the course of an exam.
We recommend you consider the following steps to discourage students from making unethical choices:

  • Proctor the exam. Proctoring is permitted and recommended.
  • Use alternate versions of the exam and distribute them so that students seated next to each other do not have the same version of the test.
  • Ban the use or possession of electronic devices during the exam. Files (ex: text files or photos of notes) can be stored on the hard drives of PDA's, ipods, cell phones and other similar devices. If students bring such items to the exam, require that they place them in their backpacks in a zipped enclosure. If possible, have the students move their backpacks to the end of the row.
  • Have students place all books and papers in their backpacks and/or under their desks.
  • If you allow the use of computers, prohibit students from connecting to the Internet during the exam.
  • Put essay questions at the top of the page and multiple choice/short answer questions on the bottom, as it is more difficult for someone seated behind another student to see the bottom of the page.
  • Monitor students taking frequent or prolonged restroom breaks.

Throughout the course- Continue to stress the importance of the Honor Code in your classroom and make sure to explain fully how it applies to each aspect of the course. It may help to focus on a communitarian model, so that students will understand that violating the Honor Code isn't just about breaking abstract rules, but about abusing the trust of their instructor and their classmates.