On behalf of the rest of the ICAI Content Committee and Blog Editorial Board, I want to thank you for reading Integrity Matters!, an ICAI Blog, this year.

It has been a year packed full of attention on academic integrity, from "Operations Varsity Blues" in the United States to anti-contract cheating laws being debated or passed in Australia and the UK. The new Canadian Perspectives on Academic Integrity journal was launched, lead by Sarah Eaton (University of Calgary) and Brandy Leigh Usick (University of Manitoba). We held our 4th International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating, with the largest number of participating institutions ever.

To be sure, we have experienced and learned a lot this year and are thankful for the integrity community that exists around the world.

Speaking of our community, we must point out that two of of integrity colleagues were recently named winners of the Times Higher Education 2019 Awards - Tracey Bretag (University of South Australia) and Cath Ellis (University of New South Wales).So congratulations to Tracey & Cath as well as a BIG thanks to both of you for helping raise awareness of integrity and the threats to it!

None of us could do what we do without each other. So, let's continue to think and talk about academic integrity, spread the word and create change on our campuses and the world. We can do this!


If you would like to become more active in ICAI, consider volunteering for the Content Committee. We are looking for authors, editors, researchers, and practitionerswho want to create and edit content for the Integrity Matters! Blog, as well as for the ICAI Academic Integrity Reader and the ICAI website. Interested persons should contact Tricia Bertram Gallant at .




Read all about it!


California parent charged with “one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud” because she paid a firm $9,000 to take “an individual online class” for her son.

I've previously written about the actions that Australia, England, New Zealand and Ireland have taken (or are currently taking) to make contract cheating illegal, and I've also previously commented that the United States and Canada seem to be lagging behind in the fight against the corruption of higher education.

So, I was surprised last week to read that the U.S. Department of Justice has actually charged a person with a crime because she facilitated contract cheating for her son. Yes, her son. Karen Littlefair's crime was discovered in the infamous "Varsity Blues" operation and while she was charged with the same count as some of the parents who cheated to get their children into college, Littlefair's offense is different. This time, it was not about admissions - because her child was already enrolled at Georgetown - but about a more typical Contract Cheating offense: paying someone else to do academic work for another person.

This is a big deal. To be sure, the California Education Code 66400 clearly states that "No person shall...cause to be prepared...any...other written material for another person, for a fee or other compensation, with the knowledge, or under circumstances in which he should reasonably have known, that such...other written material is to be submitted by any other person for academic credit at any public or private college, university, or other institution of higher learning in this state. (Enacted by Stats. 1976, Ch. 1010.)". However, there doesn't seem to be a time when this legislation has actually been applied.

The application of "wire fraud" suggests a path forward within the United States - we may not need new laws if the act of Contract Cheating can be treated as an illegal act of fraud. Of course, the problem seems always to be jurisdiction. In this case, all of the people committing the fraud are based in the U.S., however the majority of the Contract Cheating providers seem to normally operate outside of the United States.

So, here is my question to all of the attorneys out there - could the Department of Justice tackle the international syndicate of Contract Cheating under existing laws as long as one of the involved parties (i.e., the purchaser or the college, as the entity being defrauded) is based in the United States? Please provide answers in the comments section.

A new article by Kowaleski, Sutherland, and Vetter (2019) examines the teachability of ethics in business. Looking at data from financial analysts, the authors concluded that investment advisers passing the licensing exam--Series 66--with “more rules and ethics coverage are one-fourth less likely to commit misconduct.” 

The article looked at the changes made to Series 66 in 2010. Prior to the 2010 changes, ethics based questions received 80% weight, whereas questions on ethics and rules post-2010 were weighted equally to technical questions (2019). The authors then found two comparable advisers accounting for firm, location, and role. The advisers were only considered different by the version of the Series 66 licensing exam they passed. When comparing misconduct between them, they found that, regardless of other confounding factors, “the reduction in the Series 66 rules and ethics coverage had a direct effect on advisers’ conduct” (2019).

In addition to concluding that an ethical foundation led to less misconduct, they found advisers with foundations in ethics and rules would leave firms experiencing “spikes in misconduct and financial sanctions.” Further, the exodus of advisers with greater training in ethics and rules predicted the sanctioning on firms in misconduct.

What does this mean for educational institutions moving forward? When the rules in business change, does institutional obligation to develop ethical graduates deteriorate? Many institutions require their business students to pass a course in business ethics or legal and regulatory policies. Are these courses enough to inform students of their responsibilities without the exams to emphasize their required conduct as a professional?

Tell us what you think by commenting below.



Kowaleski, Zach and Sutherland, Andrew and Vetter, Felix, “Can Ethics be Taught? Evidence from Securities Exams and Investment Adviser Misconduct” (September 27, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3457588 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3457588

So you want a new academic integrity policy!  Below is the (very) short version of what considerations to take and how to get a procedure that is widely considered, implemented, and is derived from the values of the institution at large.

First things first, you need to take a look at the current policy at your institution.  Some are more robust than others, where it can range from departmental discretion to a full, institution-wide council and support structure.

A few things to consider for your current policy before you start adjusting it:

    1. Does it need translation?  Is there impenetrable legalese to the point it needs a separate document to explain how it works?  To what extent to faculty, staff, and students understand its meaning and intent?


    1. What do you like about your policy?  What parts of it are working for your population?  What don’t you like about it? What is commonly misunderstood, not applied well or fully, or simply ignored?


    1. Where is this policy posted?  How accessible is it? (In both the ADA/accessibility and technological senses.)  How deep into your website is it? Does everyone know it’s there?

Based on the answers to these questions, you can develop a game plan on where and how to move forward.  My suggestions for developing and working with your committee can be found here.  You want a good cross-section of stakeholders, including staff and students.  Not only are their varied perspectives important, but you earn more significant institutional buy-in with a wide approach.

Next you need to gather the data.  Data is the lifeblood of this era of higher education, and any significant policy change recommendation is lesser for its absence.  If you lack centralized data, consider that to be the first place to go with your new policy.

Check out how many academic integrity cases your institution deals with on a daily, weekly, monthly, semesterly, and yearly basis.  Take notice of clustering in certain time periods (exams, midterms, large class assignments, etc.) and other pieces of information (departments, demographics, etc.) and put them in context.  Contact sister institutions of similar size and compare the overall numbers to theirs. There’s no “good” number here, high or low, especially in light of the statistics showing its prevalence.  A higher number may simply mean you’re catching more of the cheating that’s going on.  This could be good news in that your policy is effective, or could be read that your preventative measures aren’t as effective yet.

As a bit of a policy wonk, I always want to make clear why we have policy.  It’s there to institutionalize the values of your organization, to put into word and deed what standards you hold for yourselves and how it will be implemented, while making the reality of that implementation consistent across multiple variations of similar incidents and maintaining equity.

So ask your committee, what are your values?  Do they include fairness? Equality? Justice? Compassion?  And then ask, what kind of policies represent the values you hold?  Some examples of this can be found in another of my blog posts.  These can include facilitator models (providing a neutral party to both student and instructor to shepherd the process), zero-tolerance of violations, and restorative justice sanctions, just to name a few.

Next up: what legalese do you need in your policy?  The real answer is: not as much as you’d think! This blog post goes over the origins of legal process in higher education in the United States.  In the end, we have to have a prescribed process.  And the higher the stakes, the more process you need to have (E.g., if the sanction is expulsion, a vigorous, formal appeal is likely warranted).

The previously linked post also goes over appeals standards.  These are the legalistic standards where the process can judge the decision of an instructor and possibly override their decision.  You can also treat your hearings as “de novo,” effectively a whole new process taking place as if it was the first time a decision was made rather than oversight of the original one.  FERPA (privacy and confidentiality) and ADA (accessibility and accommodations) should also be considered.

Here’s the deal: these (and other legalisms) are things that should be considered and included in a policy, but that doesn’t mean they have to be impenetrable, either.  While the use of legal “magic words” are comforting to lawyers, our obligation should be to make these approachable and understandable, too. Working with an attorney on your policy is useful (and, let’s be real, practically required), but it doesn’t mean they have to pilot the ship.

When it’s written, you are not done yet!  Marketing and implementation of the policy is just as important.  When presenting the policy, don’t just talk, but listen, too, to others thoughts and concerns.  Even with the biggest and most diverse writing committees, you’ll find yourself with pockets of (usually) well-meaning resistance.  But consistent application is part and parcel of due process, which can only be accomplished when the whole institution is on board.  Remind them of the purpose to academic integrity and why we’re doing this, not just the words on the page. One of the most successful methods we’ve seen is to find your champions, faculty, staff, and students, who are excited to spread the word and help others follow it.

More than anything else, an academic integrity policy should follow the mission of higher education itself: to teach.  It’s all too easy to treat this all as an act of retribution against a transgression. While reprimands may indeed be warranted in some circumstances, it should always be with the primary aim to educate, not punish.  Whatever your policy ends up being, I encourage you to make it with an eye towards thoughtfulness and empathy.

As I said, this is just the short version!  Should you be interested in a full, guided training in academic integrity policy, consider joining us for the pre-conference session “Policy and Procedure: Developing an Effective AI Policy with Robust Institutional Buy-In” at the ICAI 2020 Conference in Portland!

As an academic librarian, I often explore academic integrity issues, including topics like avoiding plagiarism and evaluating sources, with students and campus partners. These explorations and conversations often cover a wide range of topics and take many different forms, from sharing resources and tips to help a student more confidently cite their sources in workshops to deeper classroom discussions about what it means to ethically engage in scholarship. But for the past few years, I have also been focused heavily on issues surrounding misinformation. This focus has involved everything from examining intersections between information and media literacy to exploring the historical evolution of misinformation to considering how source evaluation and fact-checking skills need to evolve in the Internet age. I’ve been particularly interested in how librarians, with their traditional focus on information literacy instruction, can contribute to conversations around misinformation and to educational initiatives that empower people to both better recognize and combat misinformation in their daily lives.

Our current age of misinformation has an effect on nearly every aspect of how we consume and produce information, from the ways in which health news is reported to the emotional impacts of social media usage to the ethical implications of deep fakes to the literacy skills needed to identify fake news. Historically, conversations around academic integrity often provided a way for librarians to connect with campus partners to more deeply consider the research process. Currently, it seems that conversations and challenges around misinformation provide an opportunity to deepen and complicate those conversations and to consider our entire information ecosystem, and the ethics of that ecosystem, much more broadly.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to recently present at the ICAI Southeast Regional Conference at Emory University (you can see my slides and lesson handouts online). In my presentation, I endeavored to explore connections between academic integrity and misinformation and to consider how instructional opportunities might emerge around these two areas. I’m still exploring and considering these issues, but I was excited to have the opportunity to examine these issues with a group of professionals who think deeply about academic integrity and to think about ways we can empower our students to be informed and ethical consumers, users, and producers of information.

Misinformation as a term has been heavily debated over the past few years. Essentially, it refers to content that is false, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Misinformation, as an umbrella, term, can cover a wide range of false information, from a deliberately created conspiracy theory to satire that is inadvertently taken seriously. Overall, misinformation is increasingly everywhere, can be difficult to spot, can lead to distrust and conflict, and can make it difficult for people to find the credible information they need. Academic integrity is about ensuring that you are using credible information and are sharing information in an ethical manner, so as not to mislead someone.

What is interesting to me is how research and scholarship and our information ecosystem more broadly is largely about conversations. And misinformation and things like plagiarism can disrupt those conversations by making it difficult to identify facts, to establish trust, to encourage civility, or to even stay on topic. Both misinformation and academic dishonesty have a tendency to suck up all the oxygen and to derail conversations, with people debating the misinformation or, say, the cheating scandal itself rather than the original topic or research. And both misinformation and issues of academic dishonesty, like plagiarism, can be extremely emotionally charged. In fact, misinformation is often deliberately emotionally provocative.

In terms of ways forward with exploring the connections between misinformation and academic integrity, and instructional opportunities for addressing these topics, I’ve been intrigued by a few different approaches. The first is more skills-based, with a focus on fact-checking and source evaluation skills. These skills are often covered in library instruction scenarios and I could see opportunities for merging these topics with lessons on ways to properly and ethically use and cite credible sources in research projects. At the ICAI Southeast Regional conference I shared some quick fact-checking games that help students start thinking about the types of information and sources they encounter. Next is a more reflective approach that encourages students to consider the emotional ramifications of things like misinformation and plagiarism. I’ve been intrigued by how aspects of mindfulness education can be used to explore misinformation and to encourage people to slow down and reflect on their response to the media they encounter. Something like unintentional plagiarism itself can often be driven by factors like fear, and I wonder if there are ways (perhaps with something like a reflection prompt or a log) to encourage students to be self-aware, emotionally attuned, and ethical consumer, users, and producers of information and scholarship. Finally, I’m interested in ways to encourage conversations around the ways in which research and scholarship are conversations and role students play in those conversations and in the broader information ecosystems we inhabit.

Misinformation is an incredibly challenging topic and I am eager to continue exploring connections between misinformation and issues of academic integrity and ways to empower students to navigate and thrive in increasingly complex information ecosystems.

In 1997, Sally Scott asked “how much is enough” in her article “Accommodating College Students with Learning Disabilities: How Much is Enough?” Noting the need to strike a balance between the student’s needs and the academic integrity of the course, Scott argued for a creation of a dynamic nondiscriminatory standard that, it must be recognized, is both applicable in a given moment, but is also subject to revision and re-articulation as new needs and challenges arise. Her advice remains more relevant than ever. Given that 5-8% of students, regardless of the institution’s size, utilize an office of disability services in the US, and given that this rate only seems to be rising (at my school, the rate is closer to 15%), the question must be: how do we approach situations related to academic dishonesty when a student’s disability is wrapped into the situation? How can we create inclusive, accessible spaces that consider the student’s mental health and/or physical needs, as well as the school’s academic integrity guidelines?

These questions mean two different concerns for academic integrity councils: one, how do we approach disability and mental health in the investigation and hearing or sanction process and two, how do we create meeting spaces that are accessible?

For our school, we often have students experiencing mental health concerns.  Thus, as chair of the honor council, I actively work with our Executive Director of Counseling, Outreach & Health Services Counseling and Disability Support Services Office and our Director of the Office of Accessibility to be proactive regarding the needs of students. The directors are aware of our investigation and hearing process and if they have concerns about a student, perhaps one undergoing a mental health crisis, we work to make sure our hearing process is not causing further, undo harm. This may mean that a counselor or trusted individual is present in all our meetings for the student; it may mean that we hold the hearing in a space that will not cause additional mental distress; it may mean that we pause a hearing if the situation is becoming overwhelming; it may mean that the hearing committee leaves the room for a few minutes to enable a student to feel ready to continue; it may mean that the student provides written testimony to the evidence presented; finally, it means asking the student how we can accommodate their needs. What it does not mean is that our investigation or hearing process is compromised, nor does it mean that mental health can be an excuse for academically dishonest behavior; instead, it is about recognizing and supporting the needs of our students so that they can (hopefully) move past the moment of academic dishonesty and have a successful student career.

Part of our responsibility is educating ourselves as directors, coordinators, chairs and our council members—faculty, staff, and student-- on how to respond to and be mindful of various disability concerns. To that end, I encourage academic honor councils to be versed in basic ADA law (the definition of disability, title II, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act). I also argue that members should learn about signs associated with a mental health problem, how to immediately respond to that situation, and who to call in that situation. Another consideration is the use of person-first language that focuses on abilities not limitations (for example, a person has a wheelchair, not that person is crippled).

In addition to creating accessible processes for determining academic dishonesty, we also need to consider our actual hearing spaces. Below are some tips that we have considered in terms of our actual hearing space, but a helpful, more exhaustive list is available here. . We recently moved our hearing location to a space on campus that was accessible for all students—that had automatic doors; literal space around the conference table for wheelchairs, canes and other mobility aids; space for a personal assistant; space for a service animal; that is distraction free; that has adjustable lighting; and that has no carpeting or other barriers. Finally, a related concern is formatting materials so that individuals have access to electronic files or large print materials.

I also hope to make it clear that while disability should not be an excuse for academic integrity, not being considerate of disability is inexcusable and discriminatory. At my institution, our procedures are flexible enough to accommodate concerns. Finally, we are composing an accessibility statement for our academic honor council to make clear what it considers “reasonable accommodations” in academic dishonesty situations. I encourage other institutions to do the same.


Works Cited:

Scott, Sally. “Accommodating College Students with Learning Disabilities: How Much is Enough?” Innovative Higher Education (1997) 22: 85.

We all face the same problem, and it’s a fairly intractable one. Incoming students don’t know enough about our local honor codes, the policies governing thresholds and processes regarding cheating or plagiarism, or why all of the above is important – but they also do not care about any of those things at precisely the only moment we have their attention; namely, as they undergo orientations and on boarding at their institutions.

In late October, we joined the Southeast Regional Conference to discuss how often institutions gamely try to use orientation to educate anyway. This could take the form of a face-to-face encounter, but that likely means a one-to-many circumstance, or in other words, a “talking head” on stage. We all sense that this format faces challenges in keeping student attention. Another common approach is an online module, where lots of information can be presented. Usually that information takes the form of introducing the policies and diving into the details, such as what constitutes cheating and what does not. The risk exists that students will skip the text entirely if there’s too much to read, and even compelling videos might not hold their attention if they are too long or too numerous.

At our institution, student orientation has historically been a fire-hose of information. We recently underwent changes to that event to focus on only those things the students care about at that time, such as parking, registering for classes, finding study spaces, or finding laundromats. In the context of such conversations, also occurring amid very intentional attempts to build excitement and affinity for the institution (and make early friends), neither a talking head nor a long online module seems a fit for this time period. And yet we must seize the time to do SOMETHING about academic integrity, as this is the only chance before they start classes.

We determined that the ideal experience would be online, short (no more than ten minutes), and driven by student voices, preferably in a video. The learning outcomes would need to be trimmed for such a short engagement, and we prioritize explaining that an honor code exists, why it’s important, and how to find out more. That’s it.

While this brief an encounter may match attention spans of today’s students, it leaves a lot left unexplained. We claimed earlier that students don’t want a large up-front education on topics like academic integrity, but they may need a resource at their fingertips at the moment they realize the need. Thus, we developed a Just in Time resource. In our case, it’s a “course” assigned to all new students as they join the institution, and it lives in the learning management system (Canvas, in our case) alongside their for-credit classes. It provides reminders on things they learned in orientation and forgot, but they’ll need later, like exactly where to click to register for classes. It also provides FAQ-type questions and answers, with links to appropriate resources, policies, and offices. Everything from “my midterm grades are low!” to “my classmate wants to collaborate on the research paper” can live here, providing help at the moment they care about it.

This approach has one key downside: it does not inoculate students against thinking about cheating to begin with. Generally speaking, students cheat for one of four reasons: convenience, desperation (for the grade), ignorance (such as what constitutes plagiarism), or feeling like they won’t get caught. In none of those four situations would students feel a need to consult the Just in Time resource, and there wasn’t time to dive deeply into those topics in the very short online orientation encounter. Still, our plans are to include FAQ questions on the Just in Time resource going forward, feeling as if the effort can’t hurt even if we are uncertain it will enjoy wide-scale success in prevention.

Once students have been caught cheating, they will undergo a remediation experience. At present our remediation effort is another online module—this one much longer, and with a rigorous cumulative testing schema that resists efforts by those skip the content and just take the tests over and over until passed. But we are looking at models for a face to face remediation instead, where much richer discussions could take place about scenarios and indeed the ethics of cheating. To enable scalability across the entire institution we are considering a model of peer mentors running these sessions. Many will volunteer to do so for the ethical rationale, but others may highlight the item on their resumes and applications to graduate schools. Obviously, we’d need to train these peer mentors heavily, but it’s an experiment we look forward to. It is the next phase of our evolution to right-size the message for today’s students, who themselves continue to evolve as well. 

Do you offer a Just in Time resource to your students? Comment below and share your experiences.

The University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education is launching a Master of Education Interdisciplinary four course topic (certificate or diploma) in academic integrity. The Master of Education Program is a fully accredited graduate program with a unique laddered structure in which students earn a credential after every four courses they complete. In the first two steps of the program, students choose from a selection of four-course topics. Those who wish to continue with a full Master of Education (MEd) degree can then complete additional research courses and a capstone project to complete their degree.

Here is an overview of the entire MEd Interdisciplinary program:


Academic Integrity four course topic will be offered, for the 2020 academic year. Students can enroll in one four-course topic and still earn a recognized graduate credential (e.g. certificate).

There are three overarching learning goals of this topic:

    1. Increase awareness of the role of academic integrity in educational contexts.
    2. Assist those who have academic integrity as a component of their professional portfolio in furthering discussion and learning about integrity, ethical decision-making, case management and policy.
    3. Assist current and future educational leaders to envision and develop a personal theory of integrity that enhances the learning experiences of students, while remaining cognizant of institutional policies and procedures, as well as larger systemic realities.

The four courses included in the Academic Integrity topic include:

    • EDER 619.28: Foundations of Academic Integrity
    • EDER 619.29: Macro perspectives on Academic Integrity
    • EDER 619.30: Teaching, learning and student supports for academic integrity
    • EDER 619.31: Implementing and Enacting Academic Integrity

Successful completion of all four courses is required to earn the graduate credential. The Academic Integrity topic will be offered in a fully online format. All courses in this cohort will be offered fully online, using web-based applications.  These courses are held in both an asynchronous environment (D2L) and a synchronous (real-time) environment (Zoom) which allows instructors to virtually meet and talk with students and experience a live exchange of ideas, hear class presentations and do group work with access to a whiteboard. There are typically no more than 5 sessions over a 13-week term (Fall and Winter) and fewer over a 6-week term (Spring and Summer).

The audience for this certificate broad and inclusive because academic integrity is transdisciplinary topic where no single individual in an institution bears full responsibility for it:

    • Higher education policy makers, leaders, and academics with a desire for deeper professional development in this area.
    • Student services professionals (including, but not limited to managers, writing specialists, and other student services staff).
    • Academic librarians and library staff.
    • Public school educators, administrators and student services professionals (e.g. guidance counsellors) with an interest in academic integrity.
    • Educators and consultants who work in the field of academic integrity.
    • Post-secondary students with an interest in cultivating their skills and understanding of academic integrity for their envisioned future careers in educational or academic contexts.

The program accepts Canadian and international applicants who meet the admission requirements. Applications are accepted through the online system from November 1, 2019 through March 15, 2020.

Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD

University of Calgary

Students are mentored to study within an academic canon. We call them the classics, foundational theorists, tradition. But in doing so, what are we missing? The recycling of common themes is natural and expected. As a result, a relatively small set of researchers hold the key to how we frame and envision knowledge, both old and new. Education has, as a result, created specific rules of engagement that limit exploration and promote the status quo. What role does academic integrity play in expanding new ways of knowing?

Historical rules or theories go mostly unchecked, riddled with unconscious bias. This often continues until  a social movement deems the
exclusion of a particular group to be distasteful. The issue of representation persists. Even in disruption, critical analysis often falls victim to its proximity to generally accepted literature.


The citation cipher is never-ending, and often repetitive. With that in mind, where is the opportunity for new voices and perspectives to emerge? Perhaps more importantly, in the shadows of social movements, where are the views of the activists and free thinkers ready to challenge the status quo with models of their own? What are the culturally nuanced practices that create, or at the very least, influence prevailing theory? In an era where terms like inclusion and decolonization permeate academia, what does this mean in citation practice? The politics of citation have omitted and reframed knowledge acquisition, failing to honor the contributions of countless individuals and groups. What does this mean for academic integrity?

In theory, citation should be an equalizing factor. Anyone can learn, and anyone can teach. Instead, we gatekeep, uplifting ways of knowing determined by rules of affiliation: alumni status, mentorship, and popularity, effectively ignoring smaller or uniquely contributions that can shift thinking or retrospection. Disparities in who and how often an author is cited has lasting implications.

Citation (and failing to cite) are political acts. We move discourse around the popular and the resonant. When we fail to mention a source, it is not merely the omission of one scholar's work. It is the dismissal of the ways an author engages with the subject matter and cites another series of scholars. Exclusion has the potential to separate entire communities from an educational topic. This marginalization threatens trust, collaboration, and can limit future research.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the knowledge mining of marginalized communities. Failing to seek out cultural origins and nuance, ignoring or misrepresenting contributions outside of our understanding of the world runs the risk of creating division and promotes deficit perspectives, and eroding trust instead of knowledge growth. Academic integrity can serve to bridge the gap between competing viewpoints.

When we cite scholarship, we honor the fact that knowledge is fluid enough to flow in many directions. We trust members of our academic community to do the work we request of them, to provide quality reviews, to accept diverse forms of scholarship, and support the proliferation of new ideas and processes that enhance our collective way of thinking. We hold the rules of knowledge acquisition in our hands, and when we uphold the status quo, we make a statement that nuance in academia is an alternative perspective.

There are small, everyday ways that the scholarly community dismisses research. Have you reconsidered citing a relevant source based on the “cited by” number in google scholar? How often do you seek an alternative source because finding APA format for a non-traditional source seems overwhelming or confusing? How often are we distracted, trading in nuance for popularity? Are the elements of academic rigor defined by an individual manuscript, or by a collective embrace or rejection of the work? Whose perspectives are missing from your paper or syllabus, and why?

This piece is not written to dismiss rigorous and well-cited work, but to consider uplifting the addition of alternative accessible perspectives. By failing to name knowledge as more than the replication of accepted theory, we ignore the humanity of scholars not formally tied to academia. We dismiss practitioners, cultural leaders, and storytellers. Beyond being academically dishonest, this practice has unique implications for marginalized groups. To ignore the growth, innovation, and development that comes from persevering through trauma is to ignore a part of the human condition.

Worldwide the promotion of individual narratives at the expense of others is enough to shift public perception and distort reality. There is a responsibility of acknowledging a diverse truth. We should consider why we avoid acknowledging historical nuance, why we may fail to engage more globally, why we may dismiss or downplay culturally relevant theory and practice, and why centering diverse concepts are labeled affinities rather than actualities.

For scholars, practitioners, and activists promoting work, it is evident that these contributions can universally inform academics and society. It is up to academia to act with integrity to reward, cite, and demand more.


The rural influence is a vibrant, distinct educational environment that is underresearched, with few qualitative studies that provide a voice for the lived experiences of rural general education  high school teachers as they navigate the changing landscape of academic dishonesty.  I sought to address that issue in the study “Academic Dishonesty in the Digital Age- A Rural Perspective.”


The purpose of this hermeneutical phenomenological study was to describe high school general education teachers’ experiences with academic dishonesty in the digital age in rural school districts in southwest Ohio. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provided a framework to place academic dishonesty in the digital age in the context of meaningful relationships and shared experiences, thus laying the groundwork for further theoretical consideration to study the implications in greater detail. After engaging the data using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), five common and interconnected themes emerged. This post describes the themes found as a result of this research.

Purposeful Pedagogy

The first and most dominant theme to emerge from listening to the voices of the 13 teachers was Purposeful Pedagogy. In addressing academic dishonesty in the digital age, every educator pointed to the importance of being proactive and purposeful in structuring their classroom and instructional practices.


Terms such as accountability, creativity, diligence, personalization, proactive, and purposeful were used by the teachers as they recounted how their pedagogy had evolved due to 21st-century technologies. The participant described such technology being used as legitimate learning tools, changing the dynamic in the 21st-century classroom.

A sample of thirteen high school general education teachers in rural school districts emphasized the need to be proactive in methodology and practice. This need for purposeful pedagogy was described as requiring authenticity, adaptation, diligence, and a student focus. Such a shift to meet the modern needs of the classroom takes time and can be demanding. However, the accountability measures of purposeful pedagogy lie in the relationships that are formed to engage the 21st-century learner.

Culturally Conditioned

Each of the educators I interviewed emphasized a need to recognize how a changing culture affects 21st-century teaching and learning. In all instances, whether teachers pointed to technology, the rural setting of their schools, or other influences, the shifting dynamic they faced in their classrooms highlighted this changing culture. In considering culture shifts, the teachers first turned to their students. Each reflected on how students today, born into a digital age where technology is part of their daily lives, are culturally conditioned.

The teachers went beyond technology to speak to cultural conditioning based upon a rural identity. Their perceptions described a level of apathy within the rural community, which makes its way into the classroom and to a lack of perceived support found in the homes of their students. The teachers also described a poverty mindset that impacts attitudes on the importance of education. Similar to the first theme, the educators point to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships in their classrooms to counter this cultural conditioning.

Blurred Lines

I describe this theme as the eyeglasses with which to view the previous two themes. It is the very nature of the data found here that calls for clearer vision on the assimilation of 21st-century technologies into the classroom as legitimate learning tools and its effects concerning academic dishonesty. Although each of the teachers described an excitement concerning the capabilities that technology brought to teaching and learning, all expressed uncertainty of the creation of the gray/hazy pedagogical situation. Thus, the risk created by the incorporation of 21st-century technologies into the classroom of these 13 educators blurred their vision to what now constitutes academic dishonesty and where their responsibilities lie as an educator.

Knowing Their Voice

This theme, at its core, represents the student-teacher relationship mentioned in the first two themes. In reflecting on this fundamental strategy, the teachers described a pedagogical framework in their classrooms to engage with students to listen to those conversations that guide instruction. Each of the educators put forth a need to change what they did in their classroom to hear the voices of their students – getting to know their touch. This engagement speaks to the underlying factor of building relationships – to getting to know the voices of their students - motivation. However, as noted by these rural educators, creating strong relationships with students provide a motivational influence within their student but is also pedagogically demanding and time-consuming. However, all attested to the need to know their students’ voices due to the changing climate of the 21st-century classroom.

The final theme to emerge spoke to what is needed moving forward concerning academic dishonesty within the changing dynamics of the 21st-century classroom.

Clarity and Consequences.


Accountability, consequences, common language/vocabulary, and commitment were used by the educators as they discussed the need for a clearer understanding of academic dishonesty for staff and students. Although all the educators in the study acknowledged the difficulty of creating such change, this struggle did not deter their call for uniformity and clarity on what academic dishonesty means in the digital age, and what the consequences should be for such misconduct.

The three guiding research questions formulated for this study investigated four areas of the phenomenon that included how teachers experience academic dishonesty, how they define it, how their role has evolved, and the connection of this experience to their pedagogy.  



The interrelated nature of the five emergent themes provided guidance and insight to respond to the three research questions.  The figure illustrates the relationship of the research questions and the five common themes.


The experiences of the participants in this study suggest that the rural influence on academic dishonesty in the digital age is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon.  The themes point to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships in rural classrooms to counter academic dishonesty in the digital age. Proactive and purposeful measures are necessary to create instructional practices that promote academic integrity.