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Creating a Climate of Integrity in the Classroom

Creating a climate of integrity and preventing violations in the classroom is an endeavor that involves education and prevention efforts.


As instructors, 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 may genuinely be 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.


Of course, mere discussions about honor and ethics don't always work. Therefore, we advise putting measures in place that will deter students from cheating if they are inclined to do so.

What You Can Do

When developing your assessments - consult the Exam Integrity Matrix. Of the spectrum of options available to measure student performance, some provide relatively more ease (and temptation) to cheat than others.

When developing your syllabus - your syllabus should contain a section about the Honor Code--we encourage you to review, and borrow from, our model syllabus language. 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, and when should students refrain from using them altogether (for example, during exams)? Including clarification of these matters in your syllabus can prevent 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 cover 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. Proctoring is permitted and recommended. Also, we recommend using timed exams and the Honorlock program to proctor online exams. As the university received nearly 90 reports of academic integrity violations related to online exams during the Spring 2020 semester, it is apparent that reasonable measures are necessary to support our objective of maintaining a level academic playing field for all students.
  • 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 (e.g. text files or photos of notes) can be stored on the hard drives of cell phones, smart watches, and 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 or the front or back of the room.
  • Have students place all books and papers in their backpacks and/or completely 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. If you notice frequent or prolonged bathroom visits, inspect the bathroom, as the student may have placed materials in the bathroom to reference during the exam.

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.