For Faculty

This year, a major goal of the CHLS is to “reboot” the Honor System at UMW.  Honor Week 2014 is an important part of that effort.

What, as faculty, can we do to improve the honor climate at UMW?  The main thing is to talk about integrity with our students.  We should express our personal investment in academic integrity, help students understand why the academic enterprise is important and how to engage with it honestly.

We therefore invite faculty to talk about academic integrity and/or honor with every one of your classes during Honor Week (September 8th – 12th, 2014).  Click HERE to let us know you’re participating and stand up for honor.

There is no single right way to talk about honor.  Some of you might take a whole class period, some 15 minutes.  Some might discuss technical aspects of citation, others might ask what it means to join a scholarly conversation.  Still others might connect it directly to course material.

You know your classes best, and so you are encouraged to talk about integrity in a way that is meaningful, relevant, and authentic to you.  Be passionate if you like, or be practical.

Finally, we know that figuring out one more thing can be the last straw.  Thus, the comments on this post are a place to find and share ideas about how best to talk about honor and integrity.  Please share your plans for Honor Celebration with your colleagues.  In this way, we can grow the integrity culture at UMW together.

Please use the comment form below to describe how you plan to (or actually have) communicated with your classes about honor. Remember that this is a public space, so please represent UMW well.

6 Responses to “For Faculty”

  1. Surupa Gupta says:

    I try to adopt an approach that combines the technical aspects with the broader, ethical aspects of the conversation. For example, for take-home midterms, the citation requirements are clearly spelled out in the assignment. Usually, for midterms, students are asked to write one analytical essay that addresses a major theme in the part of the course that has just been completed. When I discuss the rationale behind needing citations, I tell my students that I want to see that they have read and understood the arguments that the authors are making in the books/articles assigned in the syllabus – this is the practical aspect of the assessment. I then go on to discuss a bit about the broader scholarly conversation that they are addressing and adding to. I point out that just as they would not want their contributions to go unacknowledged, they need to acknowledge the scholars on whose shoulders they stand. I also go into the practical aspect of how to cite, what format to use and provide links on Canvas.

  2. I require considerable group work in my methods course (and some of the others), and allow and encourage students to collaborate on lab assignments and study together for exams. I have this statement in my syllabus:

    Honor Code: Although group work is required, and study teams are strongly encouraged, each student is responsible for assignments designated as individual assignments. Moreover, the spirit of the honor code implies that even if the work is conducted in a team, you should not “free ride” on the work of others but carry a fair load. Remember that the honor code allows us considerable freedom to work in a collegial environment of support and trust that mimics that of a research site.

    Thus we talk in the first week about how the honor code needs to be interpreted in my course when people are working together on most projects. I tell them that researchers seldom do their research in isolation, and that the kind of quantitative sociologist survey research we’ll be doing is never done outside of a team.

    The work in the class is interactive and cooperative in nature. Since I cannot be everywhere at once I expect them to teach one another as well, and evaluate them on their ability to work as a team. My focus is couched typically on collegiality and professionalism; even if they’re NOT going to someday be working as researchers, I think it’s important to treat them as if they are. Also, I like them to think about how honor extends beyond college: how it should be incorporated into the workplace automatically, even if it’s not labeled that.

  3. Being an historian is fundamentally about integrity and honor. I talk to my students about how the citation is at the core of the writing process in my discipline, not just in the sense of showing one’s work but in the way that it allows a way for us to acknowledge we are part of a larger community of scholars.

    But I will also bring to these conversations my own experiences as a student at Mary Washington in the early 1990s, and as a student and teacher at other schools with less successful Honor Codes. While it is easy for new students to see UMW’s Honor Code as an external, punitive system of rules and restrictions, that view misses the point of our vibrant, living, student-run and student-and-faculty supported system. It works because the students and the faculty make it work on a daily basis. Students (and faculty) here have internalized the principles which are, in many ways, the bedrock of our identity as citizens of Mary Washington.

    It’s a simple thing, but I ask them to talk to their friends at other schools and ask if their tests are unproctored. They are often surprised to hear how few of their friends have that kind of experience at their schools.

    Finally, I talk about the empowering aspects of being in a community of honor. In particular, I emphasize how the presumption of honesty and integrity transforms the teacher-student relationship. I tell them how the Honor Code creates a partnership between students and faculty, an academic community of trust, scholarship, and learning.

  4. David Toth says:

    Having attended an undergraduate institution with an honor code and having taught at an institution without one, UMW’s honor code is very important to me. It allows me to feel comfortable giving take home exams and to focus my energy on teaching well and not babysitting or spending a great deal of energy to design cheating-proof assessments. I want to make sure students know what benefits they get from UMW’s Honor System and I will be discussing what the honor pledge means on the first day of classes with the students in each of my courses.

    Here are some of the things I intend to explain to my students. To me, the honor code is not only about the benefits like take-home exams that students can get, but it is also about the education that they are paying for. If they really want to get their money’s worth out of higher education, then they need to embrace the opportunity to learn. Receiving an A in some class where a student cheats sets the student up for failure in their career, as they probably have not mastered the subject matter. If they need to use knowledge or skills from the class in their career, then the cheating will catch up to them. For the students, I want them to understand that honorable behavior is important not only inside academia so they can have take-home exams for my courses, but it is also critical in their careers.

  5. Jeremy Larochelle says:

    On the first day of classes, I plan to incorporate a direct discussion about academic integrity into my explanation of expectations for each course. I will discuss the importance of fostering a strong sense of integrity as a way of assuring success not only here at UMW but throughout one’s career. In addition to a liberal arts education encouraging life-long learning, I would argue that it also inevitably encourages taking pride in one’s work with integrity and honesty.

  6. David Rettinger says:

    To get the conversation started, let me describe one of my favorite metaphors in discussing cheating.

    In football, many behaviors are against the rules and are subject to penalties. Holding the jersey of an opponent is a penalty in those circumstances when a player should be blocking with his body. If a referee “calls holding” it results in a 10 yard penalty (or so). Observers might criticize the player for doing a poor job, but there is no moral component to this transaction. However, if a football player were to hide a razor blade in his equipment and slash his opponents during play, there is no appropriate penalty. It’s completely outside the range of acceptable behavior.

    Students see cheating as “part of the game” and the Honor System as a set of penalties. We see cheating as antithetical to the academic enterprise. One of the goals of this conversation, when I have it, is to help students understand what is being lost when they cheat. In particular, their personal integrity, the integrity of their education, diploma, and of UMW is affected by even small behaviors.

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