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.

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