Does a Code of Ethics or an Honor Code help keep most unethical academic behavior in check?
Only if students and faculty have bought into the system! This is the biggest challenge with honor codes. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to establish an honor code, or any effort to deter cheating for that matter, if students are not permitted to play a role in developing the solution. Social Psychologists, Drs. Evans and Craig speak of the weight of the communities' attitudes in determining the potential success of an Honor Code.
"Intuitively, beliefs about the efficacy of strategies to reduce or prevent cheating may predispose success or failure. For example, if students believe that an honor system to promote academic honesty won't work, chances for success of the system introduced by their teachers may be jeopardized from the outset."
Dr. Gary Pavela, the director of judicial programs at the University of Maryland and the past president of the National Center for Academic Integrity, fully supports the notion of student participation in formulating an Honor Code:
"Such balancing and sharing of authority is premised upon the assumption that control of academic dishonesty will not be accomplished by threat of punishment alone. Ultimately, the most effective deterrent will be a commitment to academic integrity within the student peer group. Only by giving students genuine responsibility in a collaborative effort with faculty and staff can such a commitment be fostered and maintained."
Trusting students to participate in the establishment, promotion and enforcement of community values is a difficult challenge. Traditionally, schools have been hierarchical with students being at the bottom. But educators are realizing that when trusted and when given an opportunity to participate in the vision of the school, students have a great deal to contribute. Moreover, this participation has had other positive consequences. Namely, the adolescent desire to belong has results in expressions of loyalty to the school, rather than the sub-group. The more of this type of loyalty which we can inspire, the less cheating behavior we will see.
Prevention at Home
I have always felt that parents should review their children's work regularly to see what is being accomplished. Does this help prevent cheating?
I am sure that this is important, but as the student gets older and more independent, it is less likely that parents will be checking work. The most important thing parents can do is to model integrity. Just last night I was attending a movie with my family. My son ran into a classmate whose father was in the adjacent line. When we simultaneously reached the front to purchase our tickets, we all clearly heard the boy's father say "One adult, two children" to the ticket agent. Since the children's age for a reduced rate was clearly demonstrated on the board and our sons were the same age it was obvious that the father lied about his son's age in order to reduce his fee by a couple of dollars. Although such a "white lie" seems harmless, it models to children that corners can be cut, little lies don't matter and honest is good when its expedient.
Finally, what is the most important thing you and I can do to prevent cheating?
- 1. Model integrity, no matter what the cost.
2. Don't assume young people know why cheating is wrong, both from a personal and corporate perspective.
3. Enable students to understand the meaning and relevance of an academic lesson.
4. Foster an academic curriculum which perpetuates the "real-world" application of knowledge.
5. Don't force cheating underground - let students know that you understand the pressures and, at least initially, be reasonable in responding to violations.