Campus / Honor Code Review / News / October 19, 2011

Academic integrity lecture: Creating ethical learning

Featuring faculty discussion on academic integrity regarding students and the future of the Honor Code, Dr. Tricia Bertram Gallant led a presentation Tuesday entitled “Creating the Ethical Classroom: Enriching Teaching, Learning & Academic Integrity.”

Gallant, from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD), began the presentation with data on how college students do not view certain behavior (copying homework, working with others on individual assignments, etc.) as cheating or being dishonest academically.

Gallant said the problem of cheating stems from lack of communication and from students experiencing negative situations such as stress, pressure and family issues. She said that Knox’s concern with having unproctored tests is that it is easy to cheat because the likelihood of getting caught is slim.

If a student is caught cheating, Gallant emphasized having the response be a teachable moment without putting all the burden of the response on the faculty.

Philip Sidney Post Professor of English Robin Metz said in Knox’s past, the results of Honor Board hearings were published regularly in The Knox Student – with names removed and courses unidentifiable – which resulted in a “chilling effect” and “desired result” in students seeing the consequences.

“Transparency is always great. I think that’s a fundamental value of integrity. You can’t have integrity without being transparent, I think,” Gallant said.

Associate Dean of the College Lori Haslem said there was no opposition to publishing the hearings again.

As Advisory Council Chair for the International Center for Academic Integrity, of which Knox is a member, Gallant said the center thinks it is best to have a graduated response to students cheating.

“We also recognize that, anyways, you’re in a different situation, you’re becoming a professional, that you need to learn and we’re an educational institution and that’s what we’re here to do. So, our first response is going to be primarily educational, our second response maybe not so much, so our third response is get the heck out,” Gallant said. Gallant said that in teaching professional integrity and ethics there need to be opportunities for learning from mistakes and failures.

Gallant mentioned that Honor Board members said they wanted a different system and “they have been trying to incorporate educational responses to some of these violations.” As cheating is a systemic and therefore community problem, Gallant said students should be heavily involved.

However, with the responsibility of Honor Board placed mainly on students, things can fall through the cracks or “the alternative of being loaded with staff and administrative responsibilities.”

“They can’t offer a class to help them. They need faculty, they need staff assistance,” she said.

“My reading of the Honor Code is that … my responsibility is not to engage in very much mediation in that at all but to take it to the Honor Board,” Professor of Economics Rich Stout said. “In a sense I feel that would effectively cut the faculty member out of using this as a teaching moment.”

Some faculty discussed the possibility of more involvement after a student is caught cheating and before having to report to the Honor Board.

“If I don’t have any impact on how the student is going to be sanctioned, I don’t want to take a student to this, simple as that. Because I want to have influence, because it’s my class, it happened in my class. It’s my deal. Sure, there are guidelines, but I decide. If it’s more automatic then I’m going to be uncomfortable,” Assistant Professor of History Emre Sencer said.

Gallant suggested that faculty should be able to be involved with minor violations of academic integrity by talking about it and even assigning some educational outcomes, but the response should come from a central office.

When faculty members were asked what they would like to change about the Honor System, Sencer responded by wanting to change the grading system, as professors face the dilemma of finding more creative ways of accessing student learning to avoid cheating.

One way to avoid cheating, Gallant said, is to teach students that academic integrity in the classroom is related to their development of being a professional.

After faculty were asked what was next for the Honor Code, chair of the Honor Board Review committee Mary Armon said the committee is “mostly in information-gathering mode now.” She said they were going to ask faculty and students via surveys so that they can “shape the way the code looks to be appropriate” and “still fit with Knox.”

“It’s a teaching and learning issue, and it’s a community issue,” Gallant said. “It’s not students dealing with students because it’s a student problem or faculty being all alone and having to deal with it in your class. It’s too much. It’s a community issue and Knox College is well-posed to do that, you have the history of it.”

Sheena Leano

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