Promoting Academic Integrity in Your Course

Seemingly every year, there is a new platform or website that prompts us to think about how we are assessing student learning and how we can ensure that students are demonstrating what they know with integrity. What follows are several strategies for promoting academic integrity, as well as some specific information on Artificial Intelligence tools (or AI tools, e.g., ChatGPT) that may help inform how you assess learning and create a learning environment that fosters trust and academic integrity.

Strategy #1: Design Opportunities for Authentic Assessment

Perhaps the most effective strategy for ensuring academic integrity involves authentic assessment—tasks that call for students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have learned in a real-world (or close to real, authentic) context. Authentic assessment requires students to transfer knowledge, often by engaging in higher order thinking skills (see Bloom’s Taxonomy). The extent to which assignments call for the demonstration of learning in authentic, creative, and/or personalized ways minimizes students’ ability to outsource academic work. This might involve having students identify themes in various course readings, class discussions, learning experiences (e.g., a lab, service-project), or their personal lived experience. Furthermore, designing maximally authentic assignments is an evidence-based practice that will help students engage more meaningfully with course content.

For more on assignment design with an awareness of AI bots (e.g., ChatGPT), please see the specific information included below

Strategy #2: Structure Assignments to Lower Grade Anxiety

The following strategies can lower anxiety, which drives many students to consider cheating.

  • Build structured flexibility into due dates (e.g., by offering a set number of late submissions)
  • Allow more time for major assignments (whether as a general rule or by individual request)
  • Scaffold major assignments, establishing incremental check-ins or due dates to ensure students are making adequate progress
  • Redistribute the relative weight of major assessments, to reduce the stakes of any one assignment

Strategy #3: Communicate Why Academic Integrity Matters

Have clear expectations and take time to explicitly and repeatedly highlight relevant sections of your syllabus (e.g., descriptions of assignments, sources of academic support, flexible due dates, appropriate use of AI tools, relative weights of assignments, etc.), the University’s commitment to academic integrity, and your own commitment to supporting students. 

Make sure students are aware of Cornell’s Code of Academic Integrity. You may also wish to include an academic integrity affirmation (e.g., test item, statement) that students complete on your syllabus or individual assignments.

Explicitly ask students to honor the Code of Academic Integrity. Here are some sample appeals you can modify for your needs:

Logical appeal

Cheating diminishes the value of this credential/course/degree. There will very soon come a time when you will need the skills and knowledge being assessed in this course, and you don’t want to find yourself in a position in which your pre-requisite/credentialed knowledge is fraudulent.

Emotional (moral) appeal

Cheating is a temptation, of course, but it’s your personal integrity on the line. We are Cornell (YOU are Cornell), and we are called to do the right thing.  

Personal appeal

As I have made every effort to continue our class’s sense of community and purpose, I’m asking you to make every effort to be honest and honorable in the demonstration of what you have learned in our class.

Let students know that you are but one of many resources on campus that are available to help with their specific challenges. This could even include creating a brief assignment to promote students’ familiarity with the supports available to them. Knowing that you are aware and that you appreciate how challenging the undergraduate experience can be may encourage students to come to you before compromising their integrity.

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What to Know about AI Tools (including ChatGPT) 

Most recently, artificial intelligence toolsincluding ChatGPT, DALL-E-2, and Co-Pilothave generated a great deal of curiosity and some concern throughout higher ed. As we continue to learn more about the influence of AI on teaching and learning, it will help to keep the following in mind:

  • ChatGPT is currently a free tool that is capable of completing a broad range of tasks and responding to a wide range of prompts and in any number of styles and degrees of sophistication. It can answer questions, write essays, poems, computer code, jokes, and much more.
  • AI tools have limitations. Becoming more familiar with what AI tools can and cannot do will likely help inform your assignment design. For example, ChatGPT currently has several significant limitations. ChatGPT cannot yet
    • Write about anything that has happened since 2021. This is because ChatGPT is an enclosed ecosystem (meaning that it is not internet based and not updated in real time). 
    • Generate personal reflections. This tool doesn't know about students' personal experiences and therefore would not be able to apply course content to personal experiences or vice versa.
    • Generate non-text based responses (e.g., infographics).
    • Make predictions.
    • Make connections among specific course readings/materials. (Source: Torrey Trust’s ChatGPT & Education.)
    • Guarantee accuracy. It sometimes fabricates information, including references.

Strategies to Consider for Teaching and Learning with AI Tools

  • Consider trying ChatGPT yourself, to see what it "knows" and doesn't know about your discipline, what it can and cannot do. This will require you to sign up for an account, and you should know that your use will help ChatGPT learn and improve.
  • Define clear expectations regarding the use of AI tools in your syllabus. This may include tips about the types of issues that may come up in relation to your discipline and your preferred teaching strategies (i.e., the appropriate–or perhaps prohibited–use of AI tools like ChatGPT, etc.), as well as expectations for including attribution when such tools are used. 
  • Explicitly communicate with students about what ChatGPT or similar AI tools can and cannot do, emphasizing those aspects of your assignments that cannot be outsourced. This may include structuring class discussions about expectations and being clear in directions for all assignments.
  • It is tempting to seek technology-based solutions for preventing inappropriate use of ChatGPT or similar AI tools. Tech-based solutions for addressing concerns about students using AI in ways that compromise their integrity are less likely to be effective or sustainable, especially as this technology is changing rapidly. Establishing trusting relationships with students and designing authentic assessments will likely be far more effective than policing students.
  • The framing of AI as a learning tool is important. As AI tools improve, they are likely to become more and more integrated in how we learn and work. Recognizing that these new tools are not likely going away, how can we enlist the capacities of AI to enhance learning? Are there opportunities in your course(s) to have students experiment with ChatGPT or similar AI bots to develop a deeper appreciation of the nuances of your discipline?

If you have specific questions and would like to schedule an individual or group consultation, please contact us.

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