I recently read Nicole Campbell and Asil El Galad’s article: The hidden curriculum and its impacts on students and educators which refers to the ”unspoken lessons, messages, norms, values, and perspectives that students learn through their school experiences.” I couldn’t help but see the connections to academic integrity. We expect all students to know about academic integrity when they enter university or college, yet the fact remains – they don’t. It’s hidden.

Not only is this something that we’ve seen students who were educated outside of North America struggle with, but it’s a struggle for our own domestic students making the transition from high school. This gap is also not just limited to North America. Upon visiting schools in India in 2016, I found the same thing. Why does this gap remain; moreover, what can we do to better support our students for success?

Campbell and El Galad “believe that by uncovering the hidden curriculum and being aware of the messages that are being communicated, academic institutions can actively work to create an environment that is inclusive, supportive, and fosters student and educator growth and development.”     I believe this also extends to supporting a culture of integrity.

Several academic support units at the University of Waterloo came together in 2021 to finalize a Academic Integrity Competency Map  which is similar to the Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum project. Both resources focus on enhancing communication, critical thinking, and self-regulation skills, and point to training modules or resources to promote these skills. Educators can readily take some of these tools and apply them in their courses. You don’t have to adopt every competency but as Campbell and El Galad state “Trust that these small, but impactful acts will lead to meaningful change.”

In a challenging time where educators and students are both trying to adjust to generative artificial intelligence, we need to circle back to the purpose of learning and focus on developing our intended learning outcomes. Achieving these outcomes, ensuring that students understand why it matters that they learn the content and how it connects to their future is imperative. Nurturing a culture of integrity will always remain the best strategy against any form of academic misconduct. This should not be a technological arms race in the face of AI (Artificial Intelligence), but a reminder to instill good social norms and values, and by opening up the hidden curriculum we can make a difference. Perhaps we’ll finally start reducing that gap! 

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