Saturday, August 23, 2014

Creating a culture of Academic Honesty

Created by Dianne McKenzie using Paper iPad app 2014

Last term we undertook a referencing audit and found there were inconsistencies across the board with regard to expectations of the students and to what was being taught, which led to a lower than required standard. This year academic honesty has become a focus with a whole school ethos being developed through the Academic Honesty Policy being revisited, staff being upskilled and expectations of the students being made consistent. The new IB documents on academic honesty have been released at the right time for our school.

Academic honesty is more than just not plagiarising. It is respect for creators and information, it is a matter of integrity and ethics and of time management. To use one of the IB learner profiles, it is a principled behaviour that promotes behaviour demonstrating "integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness and justice, and with respect for the dignity and rights of people everywhere." This is an ethos that needs to be promoted in schools. Academic honesty is not just about not getting caught, it is about being honest and ethical because it is the right thing to do.

Something that I feel very strongly about is that students are very much influenced by teacher behaviour and teachers need to be modelling appropriate behaviour in all aspects of their lives that are exposed to students. Teachers need to hold themselves to the same or higher expectations they hold for the students (Reed 2011) . This also applies to being academically honest.

How many presentations,  posters, handouts, information packages are created without correct citation? How many unit plans borrow inspiration from other sources without accreditation? How many times do we create things without putting our name on them, to give others the opportunity to do the right thing? How many times do we just take and share without accreditation? Most people are happy to share what they do, accreditation is one way to show respect and appreciation for the creator. 

Many of the articles on academic honesty in the classroom focus on assignment setting, student learning and punishment rather than how teachers can be good role models.  Colin Purrington  wrote a couple of blog posts "Kids learn to plagiarise from their public school teachers" and "Preventing Plagiarism", both offering practical ways that teachers can be modelling academic honesty. He suggests teachers "Explicitly model good attribution behaviour ... Always". Setting the example that academic honesty is important and that it can be done (even when you are in a hurry) and how it should be done. 

Deborah K. Reed published an article for Learning Forward JSD entitled "Plagiarism isn't just an issue for students" (2011 p.48)  Where she outlines instances of academic dishonesty by teachers and examines possible consequences. She states "The notion that students should be allowed to plagiarise in their work has always stricken teachers as absurd" and, if it was not necessary for teachers and academics to be held to the same standard, then academic honest policies need to be abolished.

If students are exposed to examples of academic honesty often and it is integrated into normal teaching practise, they will get it and standards will improve. Think about your own practise, what do you do? How do you teach it? Is it modelled?

What about school official documentation? newsletters? policies? Are they setting an example for the whole school? Do the students see academic honesty being used in their every day lives or is it just an expectation we have for them as students set apart from real life?

The most effective way to improve academic honesty is through many conversations from kindergarten. If you get them older than this, start conversing anyway. As a class go through your schools Academic Honesty Policy (do you have one?) and the expectations for everyone - including the teacher.  Place the policy somewhere where it is visual and accessible and refer to it often. Use the policy as a tool for learning. The new IB guide "Academic Honesty in the IB educational context" has a checklist for what an effective Academic Honesty policy can look like along with suggestions on methods of teaching. The IB has also published a companion document "Effective citing and referencing" which is also very useful. There are many tools to help teachers and students be honest in their academic life. We promote the use of Easybib at our school, there are others that also do a good job.

Teachers and adminstrators have a responsibilty to be models of academic honesty, otherwise what they 'teach' is not authentic.  Use the schools Academic Honesty Policy and add the words "teacher & administrator" alongside the references to student. Bring the meaning home. In most cases teachers and administrator talk the talk without walking the walk.

Take responsibility for your own learning about how to be academically honest, upskill so you know how to do it, embrace it and make it a part of what you do. Always. Not just when you have time or when you could be bothered or remember.


IB learner profiles [PDF]. (2013). International Baccalaureate organisation.

Purrington, C. B. (n.d.). Preventing plagiarism [Web log post]. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from

Purrington, C. B. (2014, March 3). Kids learn to plagiarize from their public school teachers [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Reed, D. K. (2011). Plagiarism isn't just an issue for students. JDS, 32(1), 47-49. Retrieved August 11, 2014, from

Using this page
Anyone may link to this Library Grits without asking prior permission, I’d be honored and happy that you have found it useful. However, I would appreciate if you cited it correctly if you use any part of it wholly or seperately.

This page can be cited as follows :
McKenzie, D. (2014, 23 August)  Creating a culture of Academic Honesty. Retrieved from

1 comment:

Staceyt said...

I agree in particular Dianne about modelling positive behaviours in the classroom. Teacher education is key to making this happen.