Positive classroom climates – wherein students feel connected to the instructor and the other students in the class – can also foster academic integrity. Research shows that student stress, heavy workloads, and personal responsibilities can contribute to academic dishonesty. Creating a culture in which students feel comfortable approaching their instructor with concerns about their experience in the class or about a particular assignment can be an effective intervention. Moreover, when students report a more positive relationship with their instructor they are less likely to knowingly participate in academic dishonesty (Stearns 2001).
Some faculty are hesitant to signal openness to discussing student concerns because they fear students will come to expect them to make adjustments to classroom expectations or policies in response. While an instructor may sometimes decide that extending a deadline or redefining a requirement is appropriate, often faculty find other avenues of support more effective: pointing students to offices on campus that can provide additional assistance, sharing information about appropriate peer collaboration that might prove helpful, working through a tricky piece of course content that might be an obstacle to further learning, etc.. Creating an environment in which students are comfortable approaching their faculty about concerns related to their learning opens up opportunities to provide other forms of guidance.
Faculty members turn to a number of pedagogical practices to develop relationships with their students. A few examples that BC faculty make use of include:
- Asking students to submit “This I Believe” essays during the first week of class.
- Arriving a few minutes prior to the start of class and sticking around a few minutes after class wraps up to speak more casually with students.
- Requiring all students to come to one office hours session during the first weeks of the semester.
- Having students fill out a survey or a brief index card with some basic biographical information.
- Sharing, as comfortable and as appropriate, a little bit of information about the instructor’s own life.
- Providing opportunities for students to connect the course material to their own most pressing questions.
While instructors can mitigate academic dishonesty by getting to know their students, instructors can also seek to mitigate academic dishonesty by introducing students more deeply to the university’s identity (as a Jesuit, Catholic liberal arts institution) and commitments (most notably to student formation). Cultivating students’ sense of responsibility to their community and the values of that community can lend weight to the transparent conversations faculty and students are having about academic integrity.