Upholding Integrity in a Compromising World

It used to be the stigma of the unintelligent or learning disabled kids to peak over a peer’s shoulder or sneak a cheat sheet into class during an exam. It used to be the bad kids with a poor moral compass that were associated with cheating; however, academic dishonesty has evolved to involve many types of students in today’s classrooms. Our highly competitive culture has forced students to believe that success can only be attained by outperforming their peers. Because students are afraid of falling behind in the competition, they sacrifice their academic integrity as a means of getting ahead. This demonstrates a “the end justifies the means” mentality, which is prevalent in our society, despite its claims to uphold values such as honesty and truth. By ignoring long-term principles in order to attain short-term results, students will only perpetuate the growing cultural habit of doing whatever is necessary to rise to the top. Unfortunately, there are some parents who only compound the issue. Instead of instilling moral values into their children, parents defend their kids rather than the teacher when their child has been caught cheating. This has created teachers who have abandoned upholding academic integrity because they are afraid of confronting angry parents who refuse to discipline their dishonest child. This behavior holds in stark contrast to the past when parents were more likely to side with the teacher instead of fighting against them.

 

Having comprehension of this conundrum, what can a teacher do to prevent academic dishonesty from reigning in their classroom? First of all, a teacher must clearly define their expectations of honesty to students and refuse to compromise on them even when pushback and other negative responses are received. One way to ensure that students are both aware and in agreement of your standards is to have them sign a covenant at the beginning of the school year pledging academic honesty, and, if necessary, an integrity statement on each test and homework assignment. Another strategy is to reduce the “cheat to compete” mentality. This can be done by:

1) Keeping student grades/rankings extremely private,

2) Allowing students to turn in a rough draft of a paper or project so that there isn’t as much pressure for perfection the first time it is turned in

3) Only assigning homework when it truly assists in cementing student understanding, and/or  

4) Implementing a PBL classroom where the mastery of skills, information, and collaboration is esteemed rather than rote memorization and regurgitation.    

It is also essential that all students feel valued by their teacher. From my own experience, I was invigorated to perform well and to avoid disappointing a teacher when I was aware of their genuine concern for me. Praising and encouraging effort over intelligence is one way that teachers can cultivate a culture of genuine care for students. Trevor Ragan, in a YouTube video he created on praise mindsets, outlines how students who have been praised for effort are far more eager to attempt challenging tasks and they respond with endurance and minimal frustration when they are unable to complete it. On the flip side, when the students who are praised for intelligence face challenges, they fear failure and of appearing foolish. These types of students are prone toward aggravation and are quick to give up when they don’t understand a new concept right away.       

 

In our technological age, students must also consider how to have integrity as digital citizens. Plagiarising is certainly a major aspect of this digital responsibility. There is a huge misconception among students who believe that if their discussion posts, projects, or papers don’t contain any direct quotes, then there is no obligation for them to cite that source. However, if a student’s work reflects knowledge that was clearly gained from an outside source, and remains uncited, then they are stealing intellectual property. Any researched or un-original thought must be credited to its rightful source. Refraining from abusing technology’s sharing abilities is also vital for keeping digital integrity. Because of the connectedness of our age, it is incredibly easy to pass around or publicize test or homework answers. There are also apps and websites such as Yahoo Answers, PhotoMath, HwPic, Slader, and Homework Helper where students can access exact answers to their homework without doing an ounce of work. Such abuse of technological resources only compromises a student’s character and does not promote actual learning. This circles back to the beginning of this post, if students view school as a competition then they will be more inclined to pursue whatever means necessary to get to the top, but if a love of learning and development of character is cultivated, then cheating will not be seen as a viable option.

 

As a Christian educator, I must recognize that the seriousness of academic dishonesty lies not in a student attempting to deceive me, but in their attempting to deceive God. From a human standpoint, students may get away with their sin, but they can never escape the eyes of God. Verses such as Hebrews 4:13 and Proverbs 15:3 come to mind when supporting this fact. In them, the omniscience of God is displayed, declaring that we are naked and exposed before the one who knows the inner workings of our hearts, both the good and the evil, and to whom we will one day have to give an account. Nothing is hidden from the sight of our Lord and Savior, and as we are progressively sanctified, we shouldn’t continue as slaves to sin that grace may abound, but live as ones who are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6).   

Resources:

Bochicchio, K. (2008, May 22). Beat the Cheat: Teaching Students (and Parents) It’s Not OK to Copy. Retrieved October 17, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/student-plagiarism-teacher-strategy

K. (2011, November 07). Why the End Does Not Justify the Means. Retrieved October 19, 2018, from https://butnowyouknow.net/2011/05/12/why-the-end-does-not-justify-the-means/

Learning Management System. (2017, November 6). Retrieved October 17, 2018, from http://edutechwiki.unige.ch/en/Learning_management_system

Legal Aspects of the Use of Video Cameras in Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved October 19, 2018, from https://www.ncjrs.gov/school/ch2a_18.html

Linshi, J. (2016, June 17). Homework Answers: 7 Apps That Will Do Your Homework For You. Retrieved October 19, 2018, from http://time.com/3545695/homework-apps/

Pope, D. (2014, April 20). Academic Integrity: Cheat or Be Cheated? Retrieved October 17, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/academic-integrity-cheat-or-be-cheated-denise-pope

Price-Mitchell, M. (2015, June 9). Creating a Culture of Integrity in the Classroom. Retrieved October 17, 2018, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-pathways-creating-culture-integrity-marilyn-price-mitchell    

Ragan, T. (2014, January 30). Retrieved October 19, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWv1VdDeoRY&list=LL7Sz5Im8tBENjotsy4uxyPw&t=0s&index=7

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