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Creating a culture of academic integrity

Why do students cheat?

Research studies point to a number of key factors that motivate students to cheat. Students are more likely to cheat or plagiarize when they:

  • Believe that others are getting away with cheating
  • Believe that the stakes are too high to fail
  • Find no intrinsic motivation for learning
  • See grading criteria as arbitrary or don’t understand how they are being assessed
  • Don’t understand that what they are doing is cheating (e.g., they are unfamiliar with citation practices).

How to create a culture of academic integrity

While no strategy is guaranteed to eliminate cheating completely, there are a number of ways to discourage and prevent cheating.

Here are some basic steps you can take as you design your course, craft your syllabus, or think about the first day of class:

  • Clearly define what constitutes cheating. Students may not know that certain practices and forms of collaboration qualify as cheating. Be sure to articulate your expectations regarding student use of AI-based tools to complete assignments.
  • Explain the importance of academic integrity to the class, to your discipline, and to students’ learning. Help students understand the short- and long-term consequences that come with cheating or plagiarizing.
  • Replace high-stakes exams/assignments with a series of lower-stakes assessments. Provide students opportunities to practice, learn from mistakes, and try again.
  • Explain the relevance of your course content. Cheating may be a sign that a student doesn’t understand the value of taking time to learn the information and skills associated with the course topic.
  • Share your grading criteria in advance (e.g., through a rubric) to help students understand your expectations and approach to grading.
  • Create plagiarism-proof assignments, for example, by asking them to incorporate something that relates to their experiences or requiring them to apply their learning to a situation.
  • Add reflective components to your assignments. Prompt students to explain or justify their responses to exam questions. A quick scan of these reflections can indicate whether a student is thinking for themselves.
  • Allow students to work together. Eliminate the lure of copying, but having student collaborate to develop answers.

In the video below, Jim Pfaendtner, former UW Professor and Chair of Chemical Engineering, shares how he talks about cheating with his students.

The challenge of AI-based tools such as ChatGPT

Online tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) to generate text, such as ChatGPT, are increasingly at the forefront of teaching and learning conversations. Learn more about strategies for communicating with students and designing assignments with these tools in mind.

Questions about academic misconduct?

Instructors who suspect a student has engaged in academic misconduct can find support and guidance by connecting with their campus student conduct office.