December 2023

Happy Holidays from the International Center for Academic Integrity! No matter where, or what, you are celebrating, odds are that you have a day or two off to recharge. I encourage you to take this time and completely turn off your academic integrity brain. In fact, taking a break is good for your health.

Instead of worrying about classes, try baking a new recipe. Or, if you are me, just watch other people bake on Netflix! Spend time with loved ones that fill your cup. If you are starting to feel the effects of burn out, try reaching out to a therapist. One thing is for certain, take this time to care for yourself. Need a list of ways to recharge? Try the below suggestions or add your own:

  • Build a gingerbread house
  • Assemble a puzzle
  • Try a new recipe
  • Bake something new
  • Try oragami
  • Meditate
  • Watch your favorite movie or TV show
  • Take a nap

How are you recharging? Share by tweeting @TweetCAI.


Words matter. I have carried this core belief from my past working life in English for academic purposes to my current career as an academic integrity administrator. How can we relate this belief to the education and training we offer incoming members of our campus communities? Can framing integrity as a matter of making choices rather than simply following rules improve the support we offer students? If so, how?

Working with colleagues from the Board on Academic Honesty in Arts, Sciences, & Engineering at the University of Rochester, we ran an experiment in Fall 2023 to address just such questions. Coming together across staff, faculty, and graduate student lines, we offered extra credit to students enrolled in first-year Biology and Psychology coursework for engaging in five online modules (adjusting to college life and relationships for those randomly assigned to our control group, and navigating difficult academic integrity situations for those randomly assigned to our intervention group). Thanks to our colleagues in Psychology, we used self-determination theory to design our study.2

In each module, we opened with a short explanation of that module’s theme (defining values, identifying barriers, overcoming barriers, and so on). We gave students the option3 to consider scenarios that illustrate the kind of stress and pressure that can lead to integrity breaches. We then gave students the option to review how others would advise they respond.4 Below are samples from intervention (integrity) group content that we ended up excluding from (1) and including in (2) our study:

Sample Scenario Response 1 (excluded)

This is a clear violation of academic honesty – using artificial intelligence goes directly against the rules of the course, and your deliberate attempt to mask that is a serious aggravating factor. If I ever found myself in such a situation, I would talk to the instructor, take ownership of my actions immediately, and accept any consequences.

Sample Scenario Response 2 (included)

This action seems to go against both the spirit and the letter of learning objectives set for the course. By taking this shortcut you are misrepresenting your own contributions to the course instructor. This seems especially unfortunate given all the effort they put in to being clear with you and your classmates about WHAT they expected from you in using artificial intelligence tools and WHY. In addition, it doesn’t sound like you are putting in the same amount of effort to learn as if you had completed the assignment honestly—so in the end, you are also cheating yourself.

Very simply, one of the main ideas behind self-determination theory is that to function well as human beings, each of us needs satisfaction and support in the following areas: autonomy (the extent to which we feel our perspectives and point of view are acknowledged and appreciated), competence (the extent to which we have experiences that challenge without overwhelming us, the extent to which we receive relevant feedback that enables us to meet these challenges), and relatedness (the extent to which we perceive others treat us with empathy, love and care).5 With that in mind, here are two more sample responses we excluded (3) and included (4) in our study:

Sample Scenario Response 3 (excluded)

You should follow through with your original plan: inform the TA of what you have witnessed, discreetly if possible, then go back to your seat and focus on finishing the exam by yourself. 

Sample Scenario Response 4 (included)

While you are not formally required to report suspected dishonesty at this institution, since your fellow test-taker’s actions are suspicious and distracting to you they are probably also suspicious and distracting to others. Plus, TAs and test proctors are there to help you—so you might want to consider letting them know what’s going on, as quietly as you need or want to, so that they can take it from there! 

Students completed questionnaires at three points (before starting modules, between modules two and three, and after finishing modules). Eventually, questionnaires will allow us to assess the potential impact modules may have had on students’ academic anxiety, sense of academic belonging, and intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation to uphold values of academic integrity.6

I say eventually because our experiment has only just run its course. Students completed their final questionnaires last week (December 12), and we have yet to analyze data. However, I can already see how intentionally reframing integrity as a matter of choice (autonomy) rather than of having to follow rules (compliance) has positively impacted the campus culture at Rochester.

One such improvement has been our outreach, including how we celebrated ICAI’s International Day of Action this year. (Flyers included with this blog post.)7 Another has been increased trust and collaboration built amongst members of our study team. Developing autonomy-supportive integrity content may not always be easy … yet as proven by our conversations and (very) long drafting sessions to develop scenario responses that support rather than frustrate students’ autonomy, competence, and relatedness, it can certainly be worthwhile. Heck, it can even be fun.

For colleagues at other institutions who want to refresh their integrity training but aren’t sure where to start, I strongly encourage you to explore taking a choice-based, autonomy-supportive approach. If you agree that words matter … which words will YOU choose?

AH Outreach Event Pic 1

AH Outreach Event Pic 2



Anderman, E., Tilak, S., Perry, A. H., von Spiegel, J., & Black, A. (2022). Academic motivation and cheating: A psychological perspective. In D. A. Rettinger & T. Bertram Gallant (Eds.), Cheating Academic Integrity: Lessons from 30 Years of Research, pp. 65-98. Jossey-Bass.

International Center for Academic Integrity [ICAI] (2021). The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity:

Niemiec, C. P. & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory & Research in Education, 7(2), 133-144.


(1) The colleagues with whom I collaborated are professors of Economics (Chair of the Board on Academic Honesty), Psychology (Board Member), and Biology (Board Member), respectively, as well as a grad student in Psychology. To be clear: Our title is a riff on classic joke structure. We did not walk into any bars or consume alcoholic beverages in the course of designing our study! J

(2) While I am not a self-determination theorist or a psychologist myself, I am lucky enough to work with one. For some helpful overviews of self-determination as it relates to motivation and integrity, see for example: Anderman et al. (2022), or Niemiec & Ryan (2009).

(3) While we encouraged and offered them this option, we did not require students to read or respond to any of the scenarios. This was a deliberate choice (no pun intended) on our part.

(4) For the first phase of our research, we developed the scenarios and scenario responses ourselves. For any future phases, we would at least consider using authentic peer-to-peer student responses from past study participants (as long as we obtained permission, of course).

(5) Again I want to emphasize: I am not a psychologist! Refer to sources from note 2, above.

(6) ICAI Fundamental Values:

(7) Flyer credits: Jasmine Ferris & Emma Rarich.

As a new blog editor for the ICAI’s Integrity Matters, I want to focus on inclusion in academic integrity at every level: including every voice among faculty, staff and students; including every aspect of academic integrity in teaching and learning in policies, procedures and practices; including the importance of integrity beyond academia in professional and social settings. I hope to encourage more global contributors to the ICAI blog from different contexts and roles, especially students, as well as global readers.

I’m reflecting today about my forthcoming presentation at the Conference on Academic and Research Integrity ACARI 2023 at Middlesex University Dubai, the first Asia -Middle East -Africa Conference on academic integrity. Great credit to the organizers as this pioneering event brings the spotlight to parts of the world where academic integrity communities are growing and starting to address important challenges. In this setting, I will be sharing my perspective on ‘Using Universal Design for Learning principles to improve inclusion in academic integrity policies, procedures and teaching’.

I am passionate about the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in academic integrity. Designed by CAST (2018), UDL principles can be used to foster university-wide approaches to academic integrity that are inclusive and accessible to all students, thus making them meaningful for everyone. UDL can be used in different ways, for example I used them in the successful re-design of academic integrity policies, procedures and guidance, and also in the design of new teaching resources. I focus on the principle of ‘comprehension’ within the UDL ‘what’ of learning. This comprises four checkpoints:
UDL Principles for Comprehension
   UDL Guidelines for Comprehension (CAST, 2018)

So, going through these four checkpoints with an academic integrity policy, the first thing to check is that there is a link or reminder about something that a student already knows, as a reassuring and effective lead in for the policy. The next is to make it clear how different points fit together, for example, approaches to study that are part of ‘good academic practice’ and approaches to study that come under ‘academic conduct breaches’. Next, and very importantly, it is essential to guide information processing through the layout of the document, for example through consistent use of headings, numbering and use of bold font, with sufficient, not excessive detail, making it accessible for everyone to read. Finally, it is important to maximize the transfer of learning from this document by providing examples for students to apply their learning to and links for further information.

Similarly, these four checkpoints for comprehension of UDL can be applied to the design of teaching resources. Starting with activating background knowledge, a resource to teach academic integrity could begin with a reminder about library guidance or other prior training. Next, the resource could focus on highlighting patterns and relationships by presenting concepts within academic integrity, such as authorship and attribution. Moving on to guide information processing, a fully accessible layout is needed with appropriate use of color, numbering, bold font for easy navigation. Finally, opportunities for further discussion or examples to discuss can provide useful ways to maximize learning.

I’m looking forward to further discussion on inclusion in academic integrity! If you would be interested in writing a blog, please contact me: Mary Davis .

Readers of this blog know that I’ve weighed in from time to time to discuss integrity lapses in sports. I think these moments are interesting and relevant to our work for a number of reasons. First, they are very public moments in which integrity, or the lack of it, has been thrust into the center of popular culture. Secondly, they have a sort of logic that we see play out in higher education (more on this in a minute). Lastly, no matter how tweedy higher education gets, the reality is that many of our students, faculty, and leaders engage with the sports industry at some point in their lives (whether as players, coaches, fans, or as leaders of athletics programs that intersect with our mission at the university).

The most recent example comes to us from the University of Michigan, where the coaching staff of its highly successful football program has been accused of maintaining a long-running sign-stealing program. In its simplest form, a program employee allegedly traveled to opponents’ stadiums and attended games for the purpose of intercepting and decoding the signs that the coaching staff sends to the players on the field during a game. The Michigan staff then, allegedly, used that knowledge to predict which plays were being called in their matchups with those teams. You can read about it more in-depth here. Beyond being an obvious violation of sportsmanship and the spirit of fair competition, the specter of impropriety in a billion dollar industry is unwelcome at a moment that the economics of collegiate athletics are rapidly transforming the industry.

But why should higher education care? As I have written about in previous pieces, cheating in sports is not new or, apparently, slowing down. Perpetrators of these scandals are rarely punished severely, though this latest instance has already led to the suspension of Michigan’s high profile head coach, Jim Harbaugh, from the sidelines. More consequences may be forthcoming, but regardless, it isn’t immediately clear how it impacts the work we do.

I think we would do well to pay attention to these moments. They teach us the importance of draining our classrooms of the adversarial relationship that can exist between students and the faculty teaching them. At its heart, athletics is about competition and in that culture almost anything is justified if it produces a competitive advantage. We have seen this sentiment come to our classrooms. It is a well-documented concern that, as class sizes grow larger, faculty see more attempts to game the course for a better grade, often leading to academic misconduct incidents. These incidents occur because the student doesn’t see the faculty member as a teacher, but as an adversary. They see cheating not as a lapse in integrity, but as a way of getting ahead, “winning” the class, or maximizing their efficiency.

What can faculty and integrity professionals do? Mostly we can do more of what many of us are already doing: communicating the value of authentic engagement with academic work, building relationships with students, promoting academic integrity as a campus norm, and working with students to serve as peer mentors who share messages that disrupt this idea of a classroom as a competition and a faculty member as an adversary. I also think it’s just important to note that these scandals keep happening because that impulse is very human, especially when the stakes are high: whether winning the big game or acing the big test.