I love reading about educators who are continually trying to improve the process and the environment for teaching and learning. It is inspiring and refreshing, I think especially for those of us who more often deal with the aftermath of teaching or learning gone awry. When teaching goes awry, students become frustrated, disempowered, or angry and in response, may act out bad choices implemented in an attempt to right what they see as a wrong. When learning goes awry, faculty become disenchanted, disheartened or tired and in response, may stop trying to reach their students. Neither of these scenarios serve our educational missions well. 

So, when I hear about nuggets of good teaching and learning being tried out in practice, I am naturally drawn to extrapolate to how the practices might help to enhance cultures of integrity in the classroom. You see, I believe that academic integrity is a teaching and learning issue, which means that cheating can be made the exception and integrity the norm when we make changes to pedagogy, assessments, activities, assignments and, yes, even to teacher practices. This does not mean that I don’t see the responsibility of the student within the cheating scenario; I do. However, I also believe that if we shift from asking “how can we stop cheating?” to asking “how can we improve or facilitate learning?”, we can both reduce cheating and enhance integrity, thus facilitating learning. You can read more about this philosophy here.

What’s got me thinking about this today? A recent piece written by an educator who experimented with “ungrading” - the practice of removing grades, otherwise known as extrinsic motivation, from the learning process. Now, Susan Blum, the educator featured in this story is not the first to talk about ungrading. Just google “ungrading in higher education” and you’ll see what I mean (NOTE: google will likely change it to “upgrading” so make sure you pay attention!). However, Susan has also written about plagiarism, so I’m particularly drawn to what she thinks and has experienced when it comes to ungrading or other teaching strategies intended to enhance learning. 

In case it’s not clear, the premise behind ungrading is that grades actually hinder, rather than facilitate, learning. While there are many reasons for this type of grade effect, perhaps the most simple explanation can be stated as follows - intrinsic motivation is more likely to lead to learning, grades are extrinsic motivation, thus grades can interfere with learning. So, if we want to facilitate learning and reduce cheating, the question remains - is getting rid of grading the answer?

To be sure, this is a tough concept to sell within our grade- and degree-obsessed global education system. Get rid of grades - are you crazy? How will we certify to external audiences what our students know and can do? How will we compare candidates for graduate school? How will we interpret learning, knowledge and skills? These are good questions - it’s probably impractical to think that we can, en masse, replace grades-as-currency with some other measure of student knowledge, skills and learning. And, even people experimenting with ungrading throughout the term, like Susan Blum, admit that they still have to submit grades at the end. 

Despite grading being a difficult issue to tackle, I think it is impractical and frankly unethical to continue to rely on grades with an almost religious zealousness that is impenetrable to questions, critique and reconsideration. After all, if students (and parents) were not so focused on extrinsic motivators like grades and degrees, learning might be able to take the front seat in their lives and within our educational institutions, and this would be for the betterment of all of us.

The end of a semester signifies the end of a learning experience. How do you describe the experience of sharing and receiving knowledge? When done well, faculty can be proud of facilitating an exchange of ideas that leave students with new perspectives, skills, and confidence. When the semester doesn’t go as planned, faculty are left to examine what went wrong. Often, these thoughts lead to changes in practice and policy to strengthen our courses.

Where does academic misconduct fit? Dealing with violations of academic integrity forces  reflection:

    • What went wrong?


    • How did the instructor/student relationship break down?


    • Was there enough time?


    • Did the instructor ensure students understood the course material?


    • Did the instructor outline clear expectations on academic integrity?

It’s easy to place blame solely on the student. But a student's choice to commit academic misconduct is ultimately a decision made because of or in spite of lessons provided by an instructor. How do we choose to repair the broken trust necessary in a learning relationship?

A student I worked with last semester reminded me of Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing pottery with liquid gold, or other precious metals. In learning, as in art, we would do well to acknowledge what is broken. There is beauty in repair and art in reimagining our best.

How do faculty acknowledge broken trust in our classrooms? It’s easy to add more language to the syllabus or to lecture on the perils of academic misconduct, but how do we truly begin repair and give closure to a broken semester?

I suggest faculty start with reflections. In these reflections, take a good look at how you can better serve your students. How can you be more present? How do you see those students who begin to disengage and slip away? How could you alter assignments to demonstrate individual, independent learning?

Then, move on to those who are tasked with academic integrity on your campus, engage with them and consider how you can repair misconduct by promoting integrity. To do this, be willing to be uncomfortable engaging with others in difficult conversations around academic integrity. Also, consider the resources available through ICAI.

As with broken pottery, we can either sweep academic misconduct away, or we can acknowledge broken trust and seek to repair it. Faculty and students deserve the beauty of closure, repair, and the beauty of reinvention.

Koren, L. (1994). Wabi-Sabi for artists, designers, poets, and philosophers. Point Reyes: Imperfect.


Foster, T. (2019). Adjusting to College [Presentation]. Retrieved from St. John’s University Blackboard site

If you do not have google alerts set up to send you pieces on academic misconduct, academic cheating or academic integrity, you might have missed the latest news on the contract cheating front. Legislation being drafted in Australia is set to criminalize the business of contract cheating providers - those people and companies set up to provide students with a way out of doing their own work in college. (I and others have talked about contract cheating several times in this blog, so I won't get into the nitty-gritty details of contract cheating here. But I do invite you to go back through the blog to see any posts you might have missed.)

In theory, this sounds like a great idea. In fact, I have been advocating for making contract cheating providers illegal for a while and ICAI's International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating is focused on educating students and making politicians aware of the need to combat this unscrupulous and unhelpful industry. To be sure, what is legal isn't always ethical, but it seems right to put our values behind our actions and to call out and ostracize contract cheating providers so that our students (and parents) know that this is not the strategy they should use when they are struggling with academic work or competing for the top grades or top prizes in education. So, I am a big supporter of any legislation that tackles this issue, as I am a big supporter of any university that is working to combat contract cheating in other ways like improving instruction, adapting assessments to the twenty-first century, and prioritizing quality teaching and learning above profits and graduation rates.

However, the worry in Australia over this proposed legislation is that parents, friends and legitimate tutors may get "caught up" in the law. You can see an overview of the draft bill here, and the section of particular concer reads as follows: the "Proposed new section 114A of the TEQSA Act would make it an offence to provide academic cheating services, where the assignment, work or examination is a required part of a course of study. Cheating services include: completing an assignment or other work for a student; providing any part of a piece of work or assignment; providing answers for an examination; [and] sitting an examination." The alarm bells are ringing over the phrase "providing any part of a piece of work or assignment"  - will that mean that a writing center tutor in a university would be criminally liable if they help a student as they do now? What if a parent or friend proof-reads a paper and makes suggestions for rewording or incorporating new material? These are valid questions, but at the same time we know from the contract cheating research being conducted in Australia that friends and family members are very common sources of contract cheating providers, so excluding them from the legislation doesn't seem ethical or logical.

I think the alarm bells might be a bit premature and perhaps, well, alarmist. Do people really think that the government would go after a tutor employed by a university if they were providing services as trained to provide by the university? Or a parent who merely made proof-reading type suggestions? I don't think they would, but I guess it depends on who is in charge. What I like about this legislation is that it seems it would also cover the "editors-for-hire" industry of which I have expressed concern.

What do you think? Should the draft legislation be re-written to exclude parents and friends from criminal liability? Should the legislation make contract cheating providing a civil rather than criminal offense? What would you propose as the key features of an anti-contract cheating legislation?


If Wikipedia is to be trusted (I know, a risky proposition!), the month of July ushers in several celebrations of independence in countries around the world, from Algeria to Venezuela (not quite A to Z). This week seems especially busy with Algeria (July 5th), Belarus (July 3), Burundi (July 1), Canada (July 1), Cape Verde (July 5), Comoros (July 6), Malawi (July 6), Rwanda (July 1), Somalia (July 1), United States (July 4), and Venezuela (July 5) all celebrating independence.

The celebration of independence is, at its core, a celebration of fairness and respect - two of our academic integrity fundamental values. Fairness, in the sense that independence recognizes that the people who live in the country are best governed by themselves, rather than by some distant ruler. And respect, in the sense that independence says "We see you, we acknowledge you, and we value you" as entity with the right to exist.

So, as we recognize and celebrate the independence of so many countries this week, it seems like a good time to remind ourselves how fundamental fairness and respect are to academic integrity, and specifically the way in which we treat students who violate academic integrity. Honor Code Schools might be the epitome of independence (the students "govern" themselves), but those of us not in honor code schools can also celebrate independence and fairness by including students in roles throughout the process, in the design of policies and procedures, and in the decision of sanctions. And, all of us can show our respect to students, yes even when they violate academic integrity, by making sure our processes allow our students to be seen, heard, acknowledged and valued. It is only through fairness and respect, after all, that we can be trusted to create a culture and context in which independence with integrity can thrive.

(Photo credit: Rakicevic Nenad)

More than 10 years ago, the Smeal College of Business at Penn State launched the Smeal Honor Code as a supplement to the university’s existing academic integrity policy. Not only did the code underscore the values of the college, but it provided a means for students to hold each other accountable and for faculty to hold students accountable to academic integrity standards. The code also provided students with a foundation for developing an ethical mindset prior to entering the professional workplace.

Over time, the Honor Code has persisted and the college’s commitment to honor and integrity has evolved to include integrity standards outside of the classroom (e.g., in the job search), involving students, faculty, staff, and even alumni and recruiters. Although some of these changes naturally evolved with time, the college has also made a broad commitment to promoting a culture of honor and integrity throughout the college, not just in the classroom. Today, the college has an honor and integrity director, a half-time administrative support position dedicated to honor and integrity, and an honor and integrity operating budget. The dean has also embedded the college’s commitment to honor and integrity in its strategic plan and has made “honor and integrity” a standing topic in his regular talking points to students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

This spring, my colleague Linda Treviño, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Behavior and Ethics at the Smeal College of Business, and I published an article titled, “Building a Culture of Honor and Integrity in a Business School” in the Journal of Management Education, providing an overview of the college’s honor and integrity program. The program itself draws on the multisystem ethical culture framework developed by Treviño (1990) and updated by Treviño & Nelson (2017). The framework involves a series of formal systems (e.g., executive leadership, selection system, policies and codes, orientation and training programs, performance management system, authority structure, and decision processes) that need to align with a series of informal systems (e.g., role models and heroes, norms, rituals, myths and stories, and language) to support ethical behavior. In the article we provide an overview of the honor and integrity program and all the formal components and informal components in place to support ethical behavior at the Smeal College of Business. We also reveal the challenges associated with developing and maintaining a culture of honor and integrity.

Our hope is that the article will not only serve as a resource for organizations already engaged in promoting honor and integrity in their communities, but also a source of encouragement for other organizations interested in getting started—and building cultures of honor and integrity in their own communities. Moving on from here, we encourage you to start a dialogue in your communities, with your department chairs, deans, or provosts. If you have questions about getting started, please do not hesitate to contact us: Jennifer Eury at and Linda Treviño at .



It's not easy to talk to people about their errors, whether those people are students who violated academic integrity or employees whose performance did not meet expectations. When people receive feedback they perceive as negative, criticism of a choice that was made, or simply have a less than positive experience, it "sticks in [their] minds" and they "just perseverate on it", according to Dr. Alison Ledgerwood of UC Davis.

I get this.

I had a fantastic childhood and loving parents, but when I narrate my most vivid childhood memories, they are often of those moments that I perceived as painful or negative at the time. I often wondered why my memory is better at retaining the negative than the positive. Dr. Ledgerwood says that "evolutionary, this tendency for our minds to focus on negative information, to perseverate on them, could have been very adaptive in our ancestral path" - in other words, if we remember the location where we saw a predator, we'd be able to avoid it and stay alive. This ancestral brain doesn't always work well for us now though because those survival skills are not as necessary and so instead, we ruminate on the negative too often and for too long rather than capturing and reflecting on it just long enough to learn from it.

It also means that having conversations about a "negative event" (like an allegation of cheating) can be extremely painful for people. And, if these conversations are painful, how can they be productive or helpful?

According to Crucial Conversations, people cannot have these conversations if they don't feel safe. This aligns with Dr. Ledgerwood's theory that our focus on the negative or scary is hard-wired into our evolutionary trajectory. It also aligns with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which reminds us that people have to feel safe before they can focus on higher level things like morality or integrity.

If people do not feel safe, they cannot hear you - they will either want to fight or flee (violence or silence, in Crucial Conversations language). People will feel more safe when you're delivering bad news if, as the deliverer of that news, you: are clear on your positive intent for having the conversation (e.g., to achieve results for the person, for yourself, for the organization); have separated the facts from the stories you might otherwise tell yourself; and then you share those facts, speaking tentatively, while asking for the other person's path or story and encouraging testing of the ideas. You can also make the other feel safe if you are able to create a "mutual purpose", that is searching for a goal that will benefit all involved.

These ideas of safety, positive intent, focusing on the facts, speaking tentatively, asking for the other person's path, testing of ideas, and creating "mutual purpose" all seem to be incorporated into the practice of Restorative Justice, which has been gaining ground in the non-academic student conduct side of higher education and seems to be just picking up traction on the academic integrity side of the house. However, not all of us are ready for Restorative Justice yet.

So, I'm wondering - could the fundamentals of Crucial Conversations be utilized in more traditional resolution meetings (i.e. where you go over the evidence with the student and the student is assigned sanctions if responsible)? If so, what could that look like? Have you incorporated any of these fundamentals into your conversations with students?

Let's start this crucial conversation in the comments section below.

This is a different kind of post.


First, I want to announce that I have a new editorial team for the Integrity Matters! Blog. Joining me are Courtney Cullen (University of Georgia), Brenda Quaye (Miami University of Ohio), and Ceceilia Parnther (St. John's University). We've been discussing changes to the blog which we plan to roll out in August, so stay tuned for that.


Second, aligned with some of the changes we've been discussing, I want to try an experiment. So, for this post, I've enabled the comments section to see if we can start some interesting, respectful, honest, responsible, fair and trustworthy conversations in response to blog postings. I want to see if we get too many trolls or if our readers and members would find value in a forum for high level discussions.


So, here it goes. I'm going to start this experiment with a simple premise and question:


Let us assume, for argument sake, that one reason some of our students go to online contract cheating providers, editing services, tutoring services, and file sharing sites is because they are not getting what they need from us, when they need it. Our students live in a 24/7 world, but colleges and universities still operate (predominantly) on a Monday-Friday, 8-5 schedule. So, if a student is working on their assignment at midnight and they have a legitimate need for help, to whom can they turn? If they are finishing their paper at 3 am, is an on-campus writing tutor available for help?


The answer is likely no. So, here's the question for discussion:


Instead of making our students work around our schedules and/or guess which online companies are legitimate/integrous and which ones are not, should we be offering 24/7 academic help services? For example, we could contract with a third-party provider or we could band together and create our own global organization so that writing tutors in London at 8 am, for example, could be helping students in San Diego at midnight. The issue, of course, is ensuring that we are providing quality support to our students with integrity; in other words, our tutors and academic support staff would need to be trained to help, not cheat. Many of our libraries figured this out a while ago when they created WorldCat Library - not only can you search libraries from around the world, but you can ask a librarian for help and someone is always available.


What do you think? Could this idea  prevent cheating while providing our students with more supportive learning environments? Or, would we just be catering to students' procrastinating tendencies when we should be teaching them to be more responsible, to manage their time, and develop the strategies for working within professional standards and structures with integrity?


Post your thoughts below and let the discussion begin!



The Academic Integrity Office at the University of California, San Diego will be posting THREE new positions in the coming days: a Senior Case Coordinator, Case Coordinator, and an Education Coordinator. These positions were created, in part, as a result of some major policy and procedural changes to be implemented in the Fall 2019 quarter. (Keep an eye on academicintegrity.ucsd.edu this week for the job postings!)

While this is fantastic news, and I’m very excited about the changes coming forward this year, it also means that in less than 4 months, we have to ready a larger AI Office and the entire campus community to act according to the new procedures. Needless to say, as the primary lead on this change, I’m struck at times with overwhelming feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. In other words, will I be able to pull this off?

And that’s when I remember to go back to ADKAR - a tested and proven model for the people side of organizational change.

I decided to talk about ADKAR in today’s blog post not only because I’m thinking about change, but because I know that others struggle with it as well. How do we get faculty to report academic integrity violations according to policy? How do we move students’ perceptions of cheating and change their behaviors? How can we get our institutions to make the changes necessary to respond to the increasing threat of contract cheating?

These are the questions with which many of us struggle and the ADKAR model might help us answer.

So, today, I’m going to do a brief introduction to the ADKAR model. I’m no expert, but I have had training on the model and have studied organizational change for a while (starting in my Ph.D. program).

ADKAR is an acronym for: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability & Reinforcement. It is a model of change tested with over 4500 participants over the last 20 years. And, in that testing, they found that people are most likely to be able to change if they first have an awareness that change is needed and helpful. Think about it - why would anyone change their behaviors or minds if they weren’t even aware of the need for change? Why would faculty report cheating if they weren’t aware of the downsides of not reporting or the upsides of doing so? You see this awareness phase in many models of change,  so it appears to be universal. Think about awareness weeks or months (think Black History Month); in our world, the International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating is a method for generating awareness. Raising awareness requires multiple communications in multiple mediums, all of which are sending a consistent message to the entire organization.

Next, after awareness is generated, we need to inspire in people a desire to make the change or support the change that is being presented to them. Ideally, you involve the most highly impacted people in the planning of the change; after all, it is quite difficult to generate desire in people if you are presenting them with a change with which they were previously unaware or uninvolved in (hence why the first step is so critical). But, you cannot always do that. So how do you create this desire? People can often be naturally selfish so usually the desire must be seeded by what is in it for them. Will their lives be easier, better or more fun? Will it better enable them to reach their goal(s) or achieve something? This is tricky in the world of academic integrity because for students, cheating can be an easy way to achieve a short-term goal (i.e., a grade). What ADKAR tells us is that unless we figure out a way to generate in students a desire to change from cheating to integrity, then our other efforts to prevent may be wasted efforts. We can create this desire by listening and understanding objectives, removing barriers to the change, make it personal, and provide incentives for the changed behaviors.

Once people have an awareness of the need for change and a desire to support that change, we must help them gain the knowledge that is needed to implement that change. Without knowledge, awareness and desire is useless. Think of the person who is aware that they have diabetes and need to change their eating habits, and they have the desire to do so, but they cannot change because they are unable to differentiate between detrimental and beneficial eating habits. Likewise, faculty may have an awareness that active learning can enhance integrity and learning, as well as the desire to flip their classroom, but they need knowledge of active learning pedagogies before they can actually make the change. So, when we’re looking to change faculty academic integrity practices on our campuses, we have to keep in mind that some practices will require more knowledge growing activities than others. Knowledge-growing activities include formal training and education programs, one-on-one coaching, and active communities of practice. Being cognizant of the need to grow knowledge will keep us from asking too much too fast of our faculty, students, and staff.

After there is awareness, desire and knowledge, people now need the behaviors and skills that will make them able to implement the change. This means training programs have to be implemented to tool up our students, faculty and staff for the change, and ongoing training needs to be available so people feel supported - especially within the first year of the change. For example, if we want our faculty and staff to be better able to detect contract cheating, we need to train them in the methods for spotting the usual signs as well as methods for speaking to students about their concerns. If we want students to make better ethical decisions under stress and pressure, then we need to equip them with the skills necessary to make those better decisions.

Finally, once there is the awareness, desire, knowledge and ability, people need reinforcement to make the change “stick”. This means that we need to keep our focus on the change for a year or two by collecting data on change progress, so that we can identify where there are gaps, pockets of resistance, or skill deficits; this will enable us to implement appropriate performance management and training so that people can continually refine and advance their skills. And, we need to celebrate successes and wins (small or big). Ensuring that people are supported in their change efforts and celebrated in their change successes, will weave the change into the fabric of the organization over the long-term.

That’s the ADKAR change model in a nutshell. Of course, everything is always easier said than done. So, I’ll write another blog post a year from now to let you know how/if the ADKAR model helped me manage change on my campus.

I’m starting to get worried. While we wait for educational and governmental leaders to do something about contract cheating, the industry is expanding and the providers are becoming less ashamed and more brazen. Our silence is equaling permission and the contract cheating providers are seizing the opportunity to become legitimate.

To be sure, some educational and governmental leaders are doing something about contract cheating. In the UK, the Education Secretary asked PayPal and Google to refuse to service contract cheating providers, the Westminster Forum just recently held an event focused on contract cheating, and the Quality Assurance Agency has been busy working on the problem as well. In Australia, the government is passing legislation to make contract cheating services illegal, and the universities have really stepped it up with their efforts to prevent and respond to contract cheating in direct and pointed ways.

At the same time, the Canadian Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is refusing to step in saying that contract cheating is merely an issue to be addressed by individual institutions and students. And, of course, there seems to be no political or educational leadership on this issue in the United States.

And we’re seeing the impact of our collective silence.

When Dave Tomar first talked about his contract cheating provider days back in 2010, he hid his identity as the “shadow scholar” because he knew his actions were immoral - there was shame. Now, contract cheating providers are making their identities known - even when they are a graduate student themselves.

When the industry was getting started, the websites used to hide what they were doing. They would claim that they were only providing students with sample paper. Now, they are much more brazen. They admit that they are doing work for the students to submit and they are using seduction methods to lure students into using their services.

And students are beginning to believe that contract cheating is commonplace and once there is a critical mass that shares the belief, it might as well be true.

The industry is growing as a result. And the impact of our silence is that contract cheating will become a normal and accepted way to receive a university degree.

I urge all universities and colleges to join us in the fight against contract cheating by doing one simple thing - participating in the 4th International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating (IDoA). It will be happening on October 16th, 2019. Start planning now by seeing what has been done in the past and rallying the troops on your campus to help you with your day of action plans.

And stay tuned on more information about the 2019 IDoA - advice and instructions are coming soon. On just this one day, let us speak with such a loud and unified voice that the silence is broken. Perhaps then our educational and political leaders will hear us and feel compelled to join us in the fight.

At the March 2019 ICAI Conference, the sessions were amazing. An important theme addressed in several sessions was the challenge in faculty consistently reporting academic authenticity violations.

What can be done to obtain faculty buy-in to follow campus policies?

While this theme of inconsistent faculty reporting is a concern in many institutions, Western Governors University (WGU) has effectively removed this barrier with a disaggregated faculty model. As part of the standard process, all student submissions at WGU go through a comprehensive originality review. The teaching faculty member does not evaluate any student work; instead, there is a separate team of faculty whose sole focus is rigorous, objective evaluation. WGU’s disaggregated model supports consistent, fair, and accurate reporting of academic authenticity violations.

From a student perspective, they may work with a teaching faculty member if help is needed. Then the student submits a paper or other assessment activity that is delivered to the evaluation faculty member to evaluate. Every submission is run through a rigorous academic authenticity review. Below is an illustration of the process.

The assessments are created by the program development faculty, a group that does not include teaching faculty members. The teaching and evaluating of performance assessments are separated and work independently of one another but are aligned and calibrated. Within the disaggregated assessment faculty model, Course Instructors and Program Mentors are the only faculty members directly engaging with students as they master required competencies, while unbiased evaluators focus solely on reviewing assessments.

Beyond the disaggregated model, WGU’s Learning Management System minimizes bias by masking students’ names from the view of evaluators. That’s reinforced through policy in the student handbook, recommending that students should not put their names on any submission. Additionally, the students and faculty rely on rubrics for every performance assessment that create a consistent evaluation model. All the evaluators in the department participate in calibration activities to ensure consistent, fair, accurate, and quick evaluations for students.

WGU adheres to a competency-based education (CBE) model with a focus on developing knowledge and continual learning. The idea of submitting an assessment is not necessarily a one-and-done event. Rather, the student is allowed multiple submissions to demonstrate competency. There is customized feedback from the evaluator and, upon request, from a teaching course faculty member. Even the proctored objective assessments allow students more than one attempt, providing students who were unsuccessful in their first attempt with a study plan noting the competencies and objectives that need additional review.

At WGU, the faculty and staff members are committed to a proactive approach in enforcing and supporting the academic authenticity policy. We are teachers at heart and adhering to the policy supports student learning and development. We are partnering with students on a path to learning at WGU and beyond. Because our model is a different approach to resolving the problem of inconsistent reporting of integrity violations, I welcome your questions or comments.