Dr. Kristin Spencer
By Dr. Kristin Spencer on February 12, 2021

Academic Integrity in Higher Education - Part III: Fairness and Respect

Previously, we discussed Honesty and Trust, which must be reciprocal in an effective learning environment. But Academic Integrity doesn’t just encompass the actions and behaviors of the student.  Faculty must also adhere to the fundamental values of Academic Integrity in their classroom to assist in the success of their students. This is done by setting clear expectations, incorporating impartial grading procedures, and providing students with the ability to demonstrate their knowledge in multiple modalities. “Fair, accurate and impartial evaluation plays an important role in educational processes, and fairness with respect to grading and assessment is essential to the establishment of trust between faculty and students,” states the International Center for Academic Integrity.1 Additionally, not all students learn the same way, so it is important that we as educators provide them with the opportunities to learn and demonstrate their knowledge with various methods. This differentiation allows the instructor to provide ways to learn that align with students’ readiness, interests, and learning preferences.2

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Historically, college level courses have consisted of lecture, memorization, and testing. However, this is no longer meeting the needs of our diverse student population. We need to provide our students with opportunities in which to be a part of the learning process. This requires understanding individual student needs and providing a learning environment that will encourage a love of learning through fairness and mutual respect. When students feel that they are truly a part of the learning process, they will have more trust in their instructor and in turn, strive to be a better student.

"Teachers have an opportunity to issue an irresistible invitation to learn. Such an invitation has three hallmarks:

  • Unerring respect for each student’s value, ability, and responsibility,

  • Unflagging optimism that every student has the untapped capacity to learn what is being taught, and

  • Active and visible support for student success.

When a teacher exhibits these hallmarks, students feel the teacher is trustworthy and will be a reliable partner in the difficult and risky work of real learning. That feeling enables the teacher to forge connections with students as individuals."2

Is this easy? No. Will it have a positive impact on your students? Most definitely. So how do you start? First, determine how your students best learn as individuals. This can be done with various learning assessments (such as the VARK Questionnaire). Then you can begin to look at what you can incorporate into the class to meet each student's needs. For example, you will need to look at how you are currently presenting the material. Are you using a traditional lecture format (complete with PowerPoint)? Are you assigning readings from the text? The key is to provide options. This doesn’t mean you need to throw out the methods you’ve always used, but rather add to them. Keep the lectures and chapter readings, but add other opportunities and provide choice. This could include videos, case studies, or student-led research.

The next, and perhaps most critical, step is to broaden the modalities of assessment. As previously mentioned, we as educators tend to rely on the tried-and-true method of written tests. However, we have all had that student who has demonstrated a good understanding of the material, but just does not do well on written tests. Perhaps you were that student. This is where we need to provide various assessment options. This can include papers, presentations, or video demonstration to name a few. By allowing students to choose, they will truly feel like they are a part of the learning process. They will have a desire to do well, and you as the instructor will see an increase in student engagement. “The most dynamic and productive learning environments are those that foster active engagement.” 1

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1 “Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity.” International Center for Academic Integrity, ICAI, 2013, www.academicintegrity.org/fundamental-values/ 

2 Tomlinson, Carol Ann, and Tonya R Moon. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. 2013, www.studentachievement.org/wp-content/uploads/Assesment_Student_Success_in_differentiated_classroom.pdf 

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Published by Dr. Kristin Spencer February 12, 2021
Dr. Kristin Spencer