September 2023

Last week, I wrote about helping students find academic integrity in their values. Today, I’m transitioning to Gentile’s (2012) three pillars of choice, normalization, and purpose. Voicing academic integrity as a value can only happen when students view being academically honest as a choice. We can normalize this by building cultures that promote honest academic work. Faculty and staff can help students see the value of being students. When the purpose of education is to learn, students may find that making choices that align with their values is a regular occurrence. This in turn gives them the courage to speak out when someone violates that norm.

Gentile (2012, p. 47) writes, “Free will is a matter of free will.” In other words, when students believe they have a choice, they will choose; if they feel that there is no choice, they will not voice dissent. As educators, we must help students see that they have a choice in submitting academically honest work and that they do not need to commit academic misconduct to be successful. We can help students by being an ally to ‘choice.’ We can serve as supporters to help them feel less alone when they choose to speak up for academic integrity. We can provide them with information on why academically honest work matters, not just for their class standing, but for their decision-making in the future. We can also help them reframe the choice “…reframing allows us to position ourselves as standing up to [our peers] precisely because we are, in fact, their friends, owe them our honesty, and expect their reciprocation” (Gentil, 2012, p. 67)

We can also guide students by providing training to normalize standing up for academic integrity. Gentile (2012) argues that people often fail to view ethical challenges as a part of their everyday work. When something pops up, it becomes a threat that people feel ill-equipped to deal with. When we accept that conflict is natural and that ethical decisions are happening around us all the time, we can develop a script that helps us live up to our values. In other words, normalizing it “reduc[es] the emotional charge and pressure” (Gentile, 2012, p. 75). For those of you with a syllabus quiz, we might suggest including academic integrity scenarios that may come up in class. Have students explain how they would handle a scenario in an academically honest way. When we show them how to stand up for academic honesty and teach them to see the choices they may be confronted with, we set them up for success.

Choice and normalization are best confronted with a solid purpose. Purpose should be both explicit and broad. They should be explicit in our values while tying us into our communities (Gentile, 2012). When a purpose is too explicit, we forget how our actions impact those around us. For example, in the popular TV show “House, M.D.”, Dr. House views his purpose through an uncommonly narrow lens: to solve the medical mysteries presented. In effort to meet his purpose, he violates codes of conduct, breaks laws, and conspires with others to do the same. While this makes for entertaining television, this is laden with values conflict.

Students’ purpose on campus is to learn, specifically to meet the learning objectives of their courses to graduate. Learning, however, is not selfish. Students should be learning and growing together to build a better global future. We need to help students view their purpose as broader than earning a certificate or diploma; when they view their purpose so narrowly, it becomes easier to achieve that purpose by any means necessary, much like Dr. House. Instead, we want students to see that they have the choice to be academically honest, and they can choose to stand up for academic integrity.

How are you helping students see their opportunities to be academically honest? Share your strategies with us on social media or by commenting below.

Resources:

Gentile, M. C. (2012). Giving voice to values: How to speak your mind when you know what’s right. New Haven: Yale University Press.


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The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) is four weeks out from the International Day of Action for Academic Integrity! In celebration of this event, this blog will spend the next four weeks focusing on the Fundamental Value of Courage, applying the lens of Giving Voice to Values by Mary Gentile (2012) to educational integrity. The ICAI (2019) defines being courageous as “acting in accordance with one’s convictions.” As practitioners of academic integrity and faculty from a myriad of educational backgrounds, we can help students embrace their values to stand up for academic integrity on our campuses.

Gentile (2012) presents seven pillars: values, choice, normalization, purpose, self-knowledge & alignment, voice, and reasons & rationalization.

Today, I will focus on values, with next week addressing choice, normalization, and purpose. Values are internal to every individual; they are ideals that people strive towards. Ask students to identify their values, taking time to identify your own. In preparing for a non-credit activity for students on my campus, I test my values every year, to see how I have grown and changed. In my first year, justice was my top value. This year, it is compassion. This does not mean that I no longer value justice. Indeed, I now find justice through compassion. For Gentile (2012), it is not enough to know our values; instead, she asks how we can act on them.

Gentile (2012) provides a path to help us act in accordance with the values closest to our hearts. This revolves around 12 assumptions – summarized below* – that we can help students follow:

Assumption One: Students want to voice and act upon their values.

The focus is on themselves, not others. It is less important to focus on how others are behaving in this scenario. Given that peer behavior and attitudes are key indicators of student academic misconduct (Zhao et al., 2022), Gentile argues for a renewed focus on the aspirational self. Help students find the value of academic integrity as a defining part of being a student.

Assumption Two: Students have previously voiced their values.

Gentile notes that everyone can recall a time that they have and have not voiced their values. What was the difference? Help students identify the catalyst for voicing their values and provide them with the necessary support when they promote academic integrity on campus.

Assumption Three: Students can develop the skills to voice their values.

Students can grow in their willingness to confront unethical behavior. Gentile (2012) writes: “the premise is that values-driven scripts and actions are a competency that can be learned, and that it is learned by both breaking it down into its component parts and by practicing the application of those components—scripts and action plans—in cooperative and lower-stress situations” (Gentile, 2012, p. 6). We should work with coaches and mentors to practice building arguments for our values. You can be that coach for your students. Give them tools to say no to unethical behavior by building out scenarios and discussing them with your classes.

Assumption Four: It is easier to voice values in certain situations.

GVV is a strategy for individuals to use, rather than institutions. That said, individual actions can help build an institutional climate of academic integrity. Every time a student stands up to their peers or does their own work ethically, they display a dedication to a culture of integrity across campuses. This should be acknowledged and rewarded.

Assumption 5: Students are more likely to voice values when they have practiced.

Help students confront scenarios where they may be tempted to cheat or turn a blind eye to academic misconduct by others. This allows them to practice their responses; “…if we become ‘fluent’ in ways to address the defenses of less than ethical behaviors, we will find ourselves more easily and more automatically doing so” (Gentile, 2012, p. 10). In other words, we can help students view standing up for academic integrity as a gut reaction.

Assumption 6: Being an example is powerful.

When students act on their values, they empower others to do the same. If a student reports possible misconduct, you must act. Do not belittle their effort to stand up for academic integrity. Similarly, if you see students speaking out (such as a class GroupMe, Discord server, or another platform), send them a thank you note. They are leading their peers; that is a powerful tool.

Assumption 7: Students cannot assume that they know who will be empowered to act from their example.

When you model and act with academic integrity, it is assumed that students see you leading by example. However, you may be empowering your fellow faculty to report academic misconduct when they see it. Further, you may empower your graduate students to follow in your footsteps both as scholars acting with integrity and as future faculty modeling academic integrity as a core value to their future students. Students experience similar unexpected outcomes when they act on their values.

Assumption 8: The better they know themselves, the more they can prepare.

When students know their strengths, they can lean into them when voicing values. Similarly, if they know where their weaknesses lie, they can better compensate for those weaknesses. Help students learn ways to communicate using their personality type. For example, an introvert may not be comfortable standing up in front of a group to combat academic misconduct, but faculty and staff can help them learn how to address issues individually with their peers later.

Assumption 9: Students are not alone when they voice their values.

Students may feel isolated when they stand up for academic integrity, but they are not. Voicing values can help students build a support network of peers with similar values. It can also help the collective build a culture of integrity on your campuses. Do not let your students be alone when they stand up for academic integrity.

Assumption 10:  Voicing values does not always succeed, but it is still worth doing.

Just because a faculty member proctors an exam does not mean that a student will not attempt to cheat. That does not mean that faculty should avoid proctoring, for you are showing your students that integrity matters in your classroom. Think of the alternative – failure to proctor – and its consequences: “…we are more likely to voice our values if we have decided that the costs of not doing so, and the benefits of trying, are important enough to us that we would pursue them even though we cannot be certain of success in advance” (Gentile, 2012, p. 19).

Assumption 11: Voicing values leads to better decisions.

Diversity of thought provides more creativity. When you provide a space where students feel empowered to voice values, they may provide avenues for better assessment and development. Leverage their voices to create the best course possible.

Assumption 12: The more students believe it is possible to voice and act on their values, the more likely they are to do so.

Here, Gentile (2012) recommends reframing how we stand up for values. Instead of students asking whether they should voice their values, teach them how they can stand up for them. If we can remove the question from the equation, we can help students build the strength to voice their values beyond their academic careers.

Students come and go from our courses and programs. They have different strengths as students, and we build relationships with them over the course of our class terms, academic years, degrees and programs. Once thing that remains constant is our ability to help students grow into confident members of society that are firm in living a life in accordance with their values.

How are you helping students find and live their values? Comment below or find us on social media.

* For the original list of Gentile’s assumptions, please see Giving Voice to Values, pp. 224 – 227.


Thank you for being a member of ICAI. Not a member of ICAI yet? Check out the benefits of membership at https://academicintegrity.org/about/member-benefits and consider joining us by contacting . Be part of something great.

As the semester progresses, first exams and major assignments are coming due. Offices of Academic Integrity have been preparing by spending the first weeks of the term focusing on education and outreach, but the transition to case resolution is fast approaching. As we pivot towards finding and handling cases of alleged misconduct, one major suggestion for faculty to reduce cases of academic misconduct is simple: remind your students of the honor code before the assignment is due.

This is not something that should take a full lecture session or take away from the content of your course. Instead, I am asking you to remind your students that they have an obligation to turn in honest work. Tell them that it matters what they submit to you, and why. Repeat what is allowed or expected. This simple communication can help those students that want to do the work appropriately and complete their assignments with integrity. In other words, we can help those unintentional plagiarizers or collusion confusion students before they are reported for academic misconduct.

Add one slide to your lecture deck. Remind students of the date and time the assignment is due and add key components of how to do it with integrity. Examples include reinforcing the individuality of an assignment and how that will be checked, what constitutes plagiarism, and how outside sources can or cannot be utilized. If you do not have time to answer questions about the assignment, have every student take a piece of scrap paper and ask one question about the assignment. You can use these questions to draft an email to the class addressing the most frequently asked questions and opening a door to communication about the assignment if there is further confusion.

Looking for more ways to incorporate low effort and low-cost academic integrity interventions? Check out this 2019 book chapter by Bob Ives and Alicia Nehrkorn that reviews 97 studies of academic integrity interventions in higher education. You can also view this 2023 study by Frank Vahid, Kelly Downey, Ashley Pang, and Chelsea Gordon that sought to reduce cheating without “extensive resources, hours, or class redesigns.”


Thank you for being a member of ICAI. Not a member of ICAI yet? Check out the benefits of membership at https://academicintegrity.org/about/member-benefits and consider joining us by contacting . Be part of something great.

Academic integrity policies come into effect through a variety of methods. Whether it is a high stakes academic integrity case on campus or a well-respected integrity crusader that forms the catalyst for implementing new policy or substantially revising an existing approach, the policies themselves—and what we make of them as stakeholders—remain. In Australia (Bretag et al., 2011), Europe (Foltýnek & Glendenning, 2015), and Canada (Stoesz & Eaton, 2019), scholars have investigated what exemplary academic integrity policies look like. They are actively working to move the needle on how countries and regions around the world seek to provide for integrity in higher education. But no equivalently large-scale reviews have been conducted in the United States—at least, not yet.

For Bretag and colleagues (2011), five elements were crucial to establish a policy as exemplary: access, approach, responsibility, detail, and support. Foltýnek and Glendinning (2015) looked at the impact of plagiarism policies across Europe to develop the Academic Integrity Maturity Model (AIMM). AIMM’s criteria include transparency, fairness, standard sanctions, digital tool use, prevention, communication, knowledge, training, and research. Stoesz & Eaton (2019) examined document type, policy language, and policy principles to uncover how Bretag et al.’s five elements have been applied in Canada.

While there is a wealth of information about policies in other regions of the globe, a large-scale review of academic integrity policies in the United States has yet to be completed. Given the complex relationship between honor codes, educational law, and justice (Moriarty & Wilson, 2022), this is a gap that must be filled. Establishing and addressing best policies and practices for institutions across the United States is no simple task. In 2022, Courtney wrote that student conduct was pivoting away from punishment-based policies but noted that how this would play out for students and faculty remained unclear (Cullen, 2022). That same year, Greer reviewed the state of language diversity in integrity research and practice (Murphy, 2022) and found, in general, that the full range of methods and tools from applied linguistics, critical language analysis, or translingualism have yet to be meaningfully applied to integrity policy evaluation.

The two of us have since started working as a collaborative team to fill this gap—and now we need your help! If you work in academic integrity at a college or university in the United States in any capacity (e.g., in adjudication, outreach, student support, or some other area) and would like your institution’s integrity policy analyzed as part of our study, please send us a copy of your policy (or a link to where we can find it online) at . Though our project is still in its planning phases, we already know we are aiming for a study that is large in scope. We hope to include as many regions and diverse institutional types (from community colleges to small liberal arts colleges, to large doctoral degree-granting research institutions, and so on) as we can.

Ultimately, casting a wide net will allow us to present the fullest possible view of the ‘state’ of academic integrity policy and policy language in the United States. In addition to contacting us yourselves, we would greatly appreciate if you could forward this blog post on to your friends and integrity colleagues who work at other institutions! In closing, we thank you again for your consideration and time.


Thank you for being a member of ICAI. Not a member of ICAI yet? Check out the benefits of membership at https://academicintegrity.org/about/member-benefits and consider joining us by contacting . Be part of something great.