One of the hard lessons we have had to learn (from the pandemic-related changes to our teaching and delivery of assessments) during the pandemic is that while we may have been moderately successful at enforcing compliance with academic integrity and misconduct policies, we have not been as successful at promoting a culture of integrity; when no one was looking, things went south quickly.

It comes as no surprise, then, that there seems to be an increased interest in restorative practices (RP) approaches to academic integrity. Besides providing effective tools to align academic integrity work with the aspirational goals related to civic education that we find reflected in postsecondary institutions’ mission and vision documents and often also in strategic plans, RP also operate on four principles tied directly to the promoting integrity, namely, “inclusive decision making,” “active accountability,” “repairing harm,” and “rebuilding trust” (Karp, 2019, p. 9). [not sure which URL to use here, or whether to use a reference (see below).

A quick word on definitions. I use RP as an umbrella term and restorative justice (RJ) as a sub-category underneath this umbrella that applies RP principles in a criminal justice setting. Thus, the information provided below referring to RJ also applies to RP more broadly.

Reservations remain, however, and these seem to be at least in part due to some persistent myths regarding RJ and RP. The following is an attempt to address some of these. Howard Zehr addresses many of these myths in his excellent Little book of restorative justice (2002):

Myth 1: RJ/RP first and foremost aims at forgiving the wrongdoer, reconciling with them, and at reducing recidivism

Although reconciliation and forgiveness may be part of the outcome of a restorative process, neither of them is necessary, nor are they the primary concern. The main focus of RP is on the harmed parties and on addressing their needs.

Myth 2: RJ/RP are an easy way out for offenders/allows them to shirk responsibility

This might seem counterintuitive, but in my experience and in that of other RJ/RP practitioners I have spoken with, engaging in an RP process is in fact more difficult for students who engaged in academic misconduct than participating in a quasi-legal, disciplinary hearing. An acknowledgment of responsibility is a precondition for a case to be considered appropriate for a restorative resolution attempt. Also, the RP process itself requires engaged listening, participation, and reflection as well as active accountability, as opposed to the often passive role students play in disciplinary hearings.

Myth 3: RJ/RP is a form of mediation

Mediation is mostly associated with finding a compromise between conflicting parties, who share responsibility in a conflict and whose interests are considered on a level playing field. In RJ/RP there are responsible parties and harmed parties, and although there may be harm on both sides, the focus is on an action that caused harm (e.g., academic misconduct), and the responsible party needs to show a willingness to explore the harms as well as ways to actively repair them.

Myth 4: RJ/RP might be appropriate for less serious offenses, but it not for serious ones

RJ/RP require engaged participation and have been shown to work better for more serious offenses. What is important is that the responsible party is held accountable and is supported in doing so.

Myth 5: RJ/RP is much more time and resource intensive than quasi-legal, disciplinary procedure

Although this may be the case in some cases and contexts, it is not necessarily so. The restorative procedures we have developed at MacEwan University keeps the time commitment about the same, while leading to much more satisfactory outcomes (see link to video interviews below).

Myth 6: Assigning educational outcomes is a form of RJ/RP

RJ/RP involve powerful processes that have the potential to be not only educational but also community-building. Deciding on outcomes is a collaborative effort and decision, and it is the process itself and the principles it is based on that makes it restorative. Assigning educational activities as the outcome of an otherwise adversarial, quasi-legal disciplinary procedure is quite different.

Myth/Contentious Issue: RJ/RP are an appropriation of Indigenous legal practices

RJ/RP integrates a blend of influences, including from Mennonites in North America and Indigenous traditions in New Zealand and North America. Although there are similarities with Indigenous legal practices, there seem to also be important differences. Chartrand & Horn (2018) provide an excellent discussion of this topic.

More information on RJ/RP and their application to academic integrity is provided in the ICAI Webinar: Academic Integrity and Restorative Practices, and short video interviews with MacEwan faculty members and a Students’ Association representative on the topic can be viewed here.


Karp, D. R. (2019). The little book of restorative justice for colleges and universities: Repairing harm and rebuilding trust in response to student misconduct, 2nd edition. Good Books.