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.


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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