Teaching Academic Honesty in the Classroom

illustration of online learning with computers and a spaceship taking off on the screen

Incidents such as Centenary College's decision in 2010 to discontinue a program in China due to the high incidence of cheating among the program's students raise the question of how to clearly communicate (and police) academic honesty, not only among international students but also among domestic students. Given that many cases of inappropriate academic behavior arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes academic work (rather than from an intention to cheat), relying on Turnitin and similar services to "catch" plagiarists is not by itself enough to address the issue.

We asked Tony Bates, president and CEO of Tony Bates Associates Ltd. and a key researcher on teaching and learning in the digital age, to offer a fresh perspective on how colleges can encourage the academic success of their students by addressing expectations around academic honesty more proactively.

Diagnosing the Issue

Bates suggests that the key issue is not getting students to adhere to rules, but getting them to develop the learning skills needed to succeed in an increasingly collaborative learning environment. Students need to be assessed not only on course content but also on critical learning skills, including:

  • How well they reference sources
  • How well they acknowledge the work of others
  • Their contributions to collaborative work
  • Their ability to separate their own contributions and conclusions from those of others in a collaborative learning environment

"Attitudes toward intellectual property are changing. Students are used to open access to information on the Internet, file sharing, mixing and mashing media, cutting and pasting."
Tony Bates, Tony Bates Associates Ltd.


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