Faculty members learn that academic integrity is more than stopping cheaters

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For many, the term "academic integrity" may be synonymous with preventing cheating, but a recent workshop on campus showed faculty there's more to creating an ethical classroom than just preventing cheating.

Sponsored by the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education, the Creating the Ethical Classroom Initiative, which took place on July 22 and 23, was designed to help participating faculty members teach students about the importance and relevance of academic and professional integrity.

Andy Lau, associate professor of engineering design and a member of the College of Engineering's academic integrity committee, said of joining the workshop, "I felt I wasn't doing enough to help students, to help them see that integrity is important."

Seventeen faculty members from aerospace engineering, agricultural and biological engineering, architectural engineering, bioengineering, electrical engineering, engineering design, engineering science and mechanics, industrial engineering and the Women in Engineering Program, participated, as well as faculty from the colleges of Earth and Mineral Sciences, Education and Science.

The faculty examined what integrity and ethics mean and how they could better incorporate those concepts into their respective classes.

"These are things we all aspire to embody," said course instructor Tricia Bertram Gallant of integrity. An international expert on academic integrity, Gallant has authored three books on the subject and serves as the director of the University of California at San Diego's academic integrity office and an advisory council member of the International Center for Academic Integrity.

Teaching about integrity and ethics goes beyond admonishing students not to cheat. Instead, Bertram Gallant advises faculty to rethink their approaches to teaching and assessment to better support ethical behavior and decision making by their students.

In the end, it's more than simply knowing right from wrong, Bertram Gallant stated. "Decision making is a skill."

As part of the workshop, the faculty drafted plans for altering their course components to reduce cheating and enhance integrity, developed "integrity talks" for their teaching and learned how to respond to cases of student cheating when discovered, including how to effectively talk with the student.

Sarma Pisupati, associate professor of energy and mineral engineering called the workshop "preventive medicine." He said, "This really helped me look at my own practices."

For many of the faculty, the workshop dispelled the notion that integrity and ethics in the classroom meant stopping cheaters.

"I always thought of academic integrity as something uncomfortable to talk about with my students," said Megan Marshall, an instructor in agricultural and biological engineering.

But, said Christine Masters, associate professor of engineering science and mechanics, "I'm leaving with a much more empowered sense of including academic integrity in my classroom."

Although the workshop itself lasted for only two days, the participating faculty plan to get back together later this summer and throughout the academic year to discuss their progress in better integrating academic integrity and ethics into their courses.

Moses Ling, associate professor of architectural engineering, added, "I signed up for this thinking what I would do with my students, but after reading the material and workshop, I'm thinking more about what I do with me."

Contacts: 

Thomas Litzinger

Work Phone: 
814-865-4015

Thomas Litzinger, director of the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education and professor of mechanical engineering

Last Updated August 13, 2013