More educators than ever are wondering whether academic integrity is now a thing of the past in the wake of the latest high-profile collegiate admissions scandal. As a teacher, how do you teach students to be honest and to act in ways that are consistent with good moral standards?

Like it or not, in this 21st century world, a teacher must recognise that s/he is one of the most influential individuals in their students’ lives. As a result, it’s necessary for all educators at all levels to teach students about the overwhelming importance of academic integrity.

The Current Issue

No child is born with a sense of integrity ingrained into his or her moral fibre. This is a learned behaviour and, unfortunately, a behaviour that is becoming increasingly uncommon. In years past, cheating was something done mostly by struggling students. Now, cheating is the norm for students who perform well, too, mostly as they feel the pressure from parents and teachers to get accepted to selective universities.

Unfortunately, students believe that they are justified in cheating and will feel disadvantaged when deprived of the opportunity to cheat. Cheating is a behaviour learned as early as kindergarten and it peaks in high school – over 75% of high school students admit to some kind of academic dishonesty. This behaviour doesn’t go away in college either.

Luckily, as an educator, you are not helpless in your fight against academic dishonesty. Here’s how you can preserve integrity in your classroom.

1. Include Character Education Programmes

The one thing that honest classrooms have in mind is that academic integrity is the norm. Character education is just as important as academic instruction. Teachers should include the fundamental principles of integrity, like presence, honesty and responsibility, in all aspects of the curriculum – from social studies to art. It should not be ignored at the collegiate level either.

2. Reward Success Beyond the Grade Book

A good teacher will make sure that adacdemic integrity is the norm, but won’t just reward success via the grade book. If students are only able to measure their worth through their grades, they will use cheating as a way to feel good about themselves. But when teachers reward students for more difficult to measure characteristics, like respect and hard work, they will be less likely to be dishonest.

Understand that integrity goes beyond the classroom. Everyone has the opportunity to make an honest decision, and you can start by being a role model for your students.

3. Inspire Conversation

Incorporate quote study as part of your curriculum, using famous quotes about moral development as conversation starters. You can also conduct character studies around “celegrities” – celebrities who have stood out for their commitment to civic engagement. These activities will show students that it’s not only wise to be honest, it’s also cool.

4. Turn to Technology

When all else fails, remember that technology is a surefire way that you can reach your students in a medium that they understand. Traditional methods, like lecturing your students, may not be effective. But programs like Turnitin, which monitor student work for academic integrity and streamline grading systems, can help students learn first hand what it means to be honest in a 21st century world.

Another great tool is this Plagiarism Detector, along with a host of similar websites. These checkers can be used to monitor for dishonesty at any level, from high-school English essays to college-level term papers.

5. Respond To Cheating

Despite your best efforts, cheating is bound to happen. Teachers can’t control this. However, they can respond consistently to this and enforce policies. Use dishonest behaviours as teachable moments, helping students to reflect on their behaviour if they are caught cheating. Always be willing to listen and remember to restate that dishonesty is never allowed – under any circumstances.

6. Encourage Autonomy and Self-Belief

Students cheat because they rest all of their self-worth on their grades. Students who believe in core moral principles – as well as those who are self-efficacious – will develop more integrity. Help students learn to believe in themselves by fostering a classroom environment that is open to dialogue of all kinds.

You can easily encourage these behaviours by showing your students your passion for teaching through your attitude and actions. Model your values – don’t just preach to them. Show students that it is possible to overcome obstacles and that being the best isn’t always the most important thing – having academic integrity will always win out.

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