October 2019

Students are mentored to study within an academic canon. We call them the classics, foundational theorists, tradition. But in doing so, what are we missing? The recycling of common themes is natural and expected. As a result, a relatively small set of researchers hold the key to how we frame and envision knowledge, both old and new. Education has, as a result, created specific rules of engagement that limit exploration and promote the status quo. What role does academic integrity play in expanding new ways of knowing?

Historical rules or theories go mostly unchecked, riddled with unconscious bias. This often continues until  a social movement deems the
exclusion of a particular group to be distasteful. The issue of representation persists. Even in disruption, critical analysis often falls victim to its proximity to generally accepted literature.


The citation cipher is never-ending, and often repetitive. With that in mind, where is the opportunity for new voices and perspectives to emerge? Perhaps more importantly, in the shadows of social movements, where are the views of the activists and free thinkers ready to challenge the status quo with models of their own? What are the culturally nuanced practices that create, or at the very least, influence prevailing theory? In an era where terms like inclusion and decolonization permeate academia, what does this mean in citation practice? The politics of citation have omitted and reframed knowledge acquisition, failing to honor the contributions of countless individuals and groups. What does this mean for academic integrity?

In theory, citation should be an equalizing factor. Anyone can learn, and anyone can teach. Instead, we gatekeep, uplifting ways of knowing determined by rules of affiliation: alumni status, mentorship, and popularity, effectively ignoring smaller or uniquely contributions that can shift thinking or retrospection. Disparities in who and how often an author is cited has lasting implications.

Citation (and failing to cite) are political acts. We move discourse around the popular and the resonant. When we fail to mention a source, it is not merely the omission of one scholar's work. It is the dismissal of the ways an author engages with the subject matter and cites another series of scholars. Exclusion has the potential to separate entire communities from an educational topic. This marginalization threatens trust, collaboration, and can limit future research.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the knowledge mining of marginalized communities. Failing to seek out cultural origins and nuance, ignoring or misrepresenting contributions outside of our understanding of the world runs the risk of creating division and promotes deficit perspectives, and eroding trust instead of knowledge growth. Academic integrity can serve to bridge the gap between competing viewpoints.

When we cite scholarship, we honor the fact that knowledge is fluid enough to flow in many directions. We trust members of our academic community to do the work we request of them, to provide quality reviews, to accept diverse forms of scholarship, and support the proliferation of new ideas and processes that enhance our collective way of thinking. We hold the rules of knowledge acquisition in our hands, and when we uphold the status quo, we make a statement that nuance in academia is an alternative perspective.

There are small, everyday ways that the scholarly community dismisses research. Have you reconsidered citing a relevant source based on the “cited by” number in google scholar? How often do you seek an alternative source because finding APA format for a non-traditional source seems overwhelming or confusing? How often are we distracted, trading in nuance for popularity? Are the elements of academic rigor defined by an individual manuscript, or by a collective embrace or rejection of the work? Whose perspectives are missing from your paper or syllabus, and why?

This piece is not written to dismiss rigorous and well-cited work, but to consider uplifting the addition of alternative accessible perspectives. By failing to name knowledge as more than the replication of accepted theory, we ignore the humanity of scholars not formally tied to academia. We dismiss practitioners, cultural leaders, and storytellers. Beyond being academically dishonest, this practice has unique implications for marginalized groups. To ignore the growth, innovation, and development that comes from persevering through trauma is to ignore a part of the human condition.

Worldwide the promotion of individual narratives at the expense of others is enough to shift public perception and distort reality. There is a responsibility of acknowledging a diverse truth. We should consider why we avoid acknowledging historical nuance, why we may fail to engage more globally, why we may dismiss or downplay culturally relevant theory and practice, and why centering diverse concepts are labeled affinities rather than actualities.

For scholars, practitioners, and activists promoting work, it is evident that these contributions can universally inform academics and society. It is up to academia to act with integrity to reward, cite, and demand more.


The rural influence is a vibrant, distinct educational environment that is underresearched, with few qualitative studies that provide a voice for the lived experiences of rural general education  high school teachers as they navigate the changing landscape of academic dishonesty.  I sought to address that issue in the study “Academic Dishonesty in the Digital Age- A Rural Perspective.”


The purpose of this hermeneutical phenomenological study was to describe high school general education teachers’ experiences with academic dishonesty in the digital age in rural school districts in southwest Ohio. Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) provided a framework to place academic dishonesty in the digital age in the context of meaningful relationships and shared experiences, thus laying the groundwork for further theoretical consideration to study the implications in greater detail. After engaging the data using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), five common and interconnected themes emerged. This post describes the themes found as a result of this research.

Purposeful Pedagogy

The first and most dominant theme to emerge from listening to the voices of the 13 teachers was Purposeful Pedagogy. In addressing academic dishonesty in the digital age, every educator pointed to the importance of being proactive and purposeful in structuring their classroom and instructional practices.


Terms such as accountability, creativity, diligence, personalization, proactive, and purposeful were used by the teachers as they recounted how their pedagogy had evolved due to 21st-century technologies. The participant described such technology being used as legitimate learning tools, changing the dynamic in the 21st-century classroom.

A sample of thirteen high school general education teachers in rural school districts emphasized the need to be proactive in methodology and practice. This need for purposeful pedagogy was described as requiring authenticity, adaptation, diligence, and a student focus. Such a shift to meet the modern needs of the classroom takes time and can be demanding. However, the accountability measures of purposeful pedagogy lie in the relationships that are formed to engage the 21st-century learner.

Culturally Conditioned

Each of the educators I interviewed emphasized a need to recognize how a changing culture affects 21st-century teaching and learning. In all instances, whether teachers pointed to technology, the rural setting of their schools, or other influences, the shifting dynamic they faced in their classrooms highlighted this changing culture. In considering culture shifts, the teachers first turned to their students. Each reflected on how students today, born into a digital age where technology is part of their daily lives, are culturally conditioned.

The teachers went beyond technology to speak to cultural conditioning based upon a rural identity. Their perceptions described a level of apathy within the rural community, which makes its way into the classroom and to a lack of perceived support found in the homes of their students. The teachers also described a poverty mindset that impacts attitudes on the importance of education. Similar to the first theme, the educators point to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships in their classrooms to counter this cultural conditioning.

Blurred Lines

I describe this theme as the eyeglasses with which to view the previous two themes. It is the very nature of the data found here that calls for clearer vision on the assimilation of 21st-century technologies into the classroom as legitimate learning tools and its effects concerning academic dishonesty. Although each of the teachers described an excitement concerning the capabilities that technology brought to teaching and learning, all expressed uncertainty of the creation of the gray/hazy pedagogical situation. Thus, the risk created by the incorporation of 21st-century technologies into the classroom of these 13 educators blurred their vision to what now constitutes academic dishonesty and where their responsibilities lie as an educator.

Knowing Their Voice

This theme, at its core, represents the student-teacher relationship mentioned in the first two themes. In reflecting on this fundamental strategy, the teachers described a pedagogical framework in their classrooms to engage with students to listen to those conversations that guide instruction. Each of the educators put forth a need to change what they did in their classroom to hear the voices of their students – getting to know their touch. This engagement speaks to the underlying factor of building relationships – to getting to know the voices of their students - motivation. However, as noted by these rural educators, creating strong relationships with students provide a motivational influence within their student but is also pedagogically demanding and time-consuming. However, all attested to the need to know their students’ voices due to the changing climate of the 21st-century classroom.

The final theme to emerge spoke to what is needed moving forward concerning academic dishonesty within the changing dynamics of the 21st-century classroom.

Clarity and Consequences.


Accountability, consequences, common language/vocabulary, and commitment were used by the educators as they discussed the need for a clearer understanding of academic dishonesty for staff and students. Although all the educators in the study acknowledged the difficulty of creating such change, this struggle did not deter their call for uniformity and clarity on what academic dishonesty means in the digital age, and what the consequences should be for such misconduct.

The three guiding research questions formulated for this study investigated four areas of the phenomenon that included how teachers experience academic dishonesty, how they define it, how their role has evolved, and the connection of this experience to their pedagogy.  



The interrelated nature of the five emergent themes provided guidance and insight to respond to the three research questions.  The figure illustrates the relationship of the research questions and the five common themes.


The experiences of the participants in this study suggest that the rural influence on academic dishonesty in the digital age is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon.  The themes point to the importance of building strong, genuine relationships in rural classrooms to counter academic dishonesty in the digital age. Proactive and purposeful measures are necessary to create instructional practices that promote academic integrity.

 6(Adorable and creative, not at all like the picture I actually drew)[/caption]


“Draw a picture of your house.” I remember hearing those words as a student. I paused before looking up and realizing that the instructor was indeed serious.

I giggled.

“Draw a picture of your house,” she said again. I cannot draw. I remember first mocking the instruction to myself, then looking at the blank paper. Feelings of shame, then fear emerged as I realized the time for the exercise slowly ticked away.

In a rush, I drew a shoddy representation of home. It was a quick blueprint with little personality and less heart.

The next instruction came. “Now, introduce your classmates to your home using your drawing.” Our blueprint was to represent our home so that others might interpret where and how we live. There was a shame. I had not taken the time I needed to focus. The poor drawing barely represented my home.

We continued. I quickly described some features, taking great care to make fun of my artistic limitations to add levity to what was an embarrassing moment. Eventually, we went around the room.

The writing lesson was simple. Our blueprint provided scaffolding for the details of our own story. Then the artifacts within help to shape meaning. What others take from that shaping is the direct result of a synthesis of our authentic selves.

I remember how personal writing is. We often experience shame, excitement, passion, and fear when writing authentically. The act of writing is vulnerable, often at first imprecise and messy. However, it is our own. The blueprints of theory and practical experiences shape our ways of knowing. The critiques and competition of academic work add a sense of urgency. Nevertheless, it is ours. It belongs to us, and in the best of cases, can be shared as a glimpse of synthesis and an invitation to think.

Academic integrity does not always begin with respect for the work of others. It starts with respect for and confidence in your work. Your thoughts can compare to your house. We design the framing, the items that make it our own, and the unique features that are unmistakable to our styles and ways of being.

I wonder how often students feel empowered to celebrate their unique voices. In an era of curated images from the Home and Garden Televisions (HGTV) Dream Home, to a curated set of selfies on Instagram, the unique is often diluted in favor of a brand. How can a student be authentic when there is immense pressure to be a highly marketed version of their developing selves?

Tomorrow, October 16th, is the 4th Annual International Day of Action Against Contract Cheating.


As someone who researches academic integrity, there is a never-ending question: Why are students are so easily susceptible to companies and individuals who offer contract cheating services? I encourage you to join ICAI for this annual event to increase awareness, offer solidarity, and promote integrity. While institutions and individuals who stand together to educate students and combat contract cheating motivate me, I find equal inspiration in the opportunity to enhance the conditions that generate authentic, independent writing.

Independent writing is brave. It requires the trust of the instructor or classroom environment, careful time management, vulnerability, and honesty. It requires an understanding that the best stories are authentic.
The learning that comes from this type of writing may not reveal itself immediately, but it is lasting. As with the writing process, creating a home takes time. We have stories of meaningful artifacts that represent the best and worst parts of ourselves. Much may be ordinary, but it is ours. We personalize it, we protect it, and when we feel comfortable, we share it with others.

It is essential to give space and time to students learning to find their authentic voices. In doing so, we should take care to offer comfort. Are we finding source material that speaks to a diverse set of students? Do translated texts keep the nuance of original meaning? Do students see themselves as capable in the classroom? How much time do students have to write authentically?

I have never learned to draw well, but these days I recognize it was never about that. What is important is to spend more time creating art that is my own.

How do you inspire students to authentically share themselves with others?

The cheating dilemma. To Faculty, reporting a case of academic dishonesty may seem like an ineffective time sink, but students see this as something to exploit. Some instructors believe that they have created a course where students are unable to cheat. This mentality or belief that you are too busy to educate your students may be why they are continuing to cheat in your class. 

If you are teaching this semester, when is the last time you looked up your class online? No, I’m not talking about the course number, but seeing what is out there on Quizlet, Course Hero, or even just Google? If there are materials online you don’t want students to access, have you requested they be removed?

Are you addressing cheating and ethics in  your course? Or do you leave a university mandated statement on your syllabus and think that its enough? If you catch someone cheating in your class, are you following your university’s policy on Academic Honesty, or are you just ignoring it because it’s easier that way? 

Forbes recently released an article that addresses some concerns administrators are facing when it comes to upholding university standards, stating  "What’s also common, and more damaging, is that same report found that many teachers simply don’t believe cheating happens in their classes. Administrators are nearly twice as likely to say cheating happens than teachers. The truth is that cheating happens in every class, with every teacher. Those who don’t acknowledge it are in denial and, frankly, part of the problem."

If you aren’t a part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Not reporting student’s does not help them avoid unethical behavior in the future. Instead, it creates an atmosphere where cheating is not only acceptable, but expected. 

The New York Times recently ran a piece on contract cheating in the United States. The article points out that as early as 2015, Australia faced issues involving mass scale contract cheating. But while Australia and the United Kingdom are facing the issue, the United States lags behind. The article points out that “contract cheating is illegal in 17 states, but punishment tends to be light and enforcement rare. Experts said that no federal law in the United States...forbids the purchase or sale of academic papers, although questions remain about whether the industry complies with tax laws.” 

Even the USA Today is reporting on the ease of student cheating given the rise of technology in the last few years, going as far as pulling tweets from students that read “someone tell me how to cheat on my math test tomorrow with my apple watch“. 

Students want the accountability and the honesty. No one wants to feel like they are losing out to cheaters. Students have responded to their peers requests for cheating assistance with disdain, tweeting back “If you have to use your Apple Watch to cheat on all of your exams maybe you shouldn’t be in college”. When you hold your students to a higher standard, they might actually surprise you. 

What are you doing to fight cheating at your institution? Comment and let us know!