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Academic Integrity and Honor Pledges

Posted by:
April 27, 2016

by Dana Bodewes, Instructional Designer

As the end of the semester approaches, many students will inevitably begin to feel the pressure of impending papers, projects, and exams. While the prevalence of cheating varies and is difficult to measure, most faculty are concerned with ensuring the academic integrity of student work in their courses. Depending on the assessment, a variety of strategies can be employed to promote academic integrity.

One popular practice is to have students submit written work through the TurnItIn originality check available on Sakai. Other strategies include creating exams with variation in questions, question order, and/or answer choices. Some faculty prefer to discourage cheating by providing more authentic assessments that inherently require students to construct original work in support of learning outcomes. In her chapter on “Preserving Academic Integrity”, Nilson (2010) provides numerous suggestions for preventing cheating, including the use of honor codes or pledges.

Honor pledges require students to promise to adhere to a specific set of expectations when completing an assessment. While conflicting research exists on the efficacy of honor pledges, many researchers such as Miller, Shoptaugh, and Wooldridge (2011) have found that honor codes and a climate of academic integrity promote student character and moral standards that maintain academic integrity. Gurung, Wilhelm, and Filz (2012) identified three key elements of honor pledges that positively influenced reports of academic honesty: length, formality, and consequences. The authors found that, in tandem, all three factors strongly influenced students reported likelihood to cheat.

Campus culture, classroom culture, and peer culture may all influence the prevalence of cheating. In my opinion, it is critically important to repeatedly communicate expectations for student behavior. Honor pledges and discussions about academic integrity may influence students’ commitment to such values. Just as important, using an honor pledge is also a statement of the instructor’s values and models a strong commitment to encouraging academic integrity.

If you have a strategy for promoting academic integrity in your courses, please share your ideas in the comment section below.


Gurung, R. R., Wilhelm, T. M., & Filz, T. (2012). Optimizing honor codes for online exam administration. Ethics & Behavior, 22(2), 158-162. doi:10.1080/10508422.2011.641836

Miller, A., Shoptaugh, C., & Wooldridge, J. (2011). Reasons not to cheat, academic-integrity responsibility, and frequency of cheating. Journal Of Experimental Education, 79(2), 169-184. doi:10.1080/00220970903567830

Nilson, L. (2010). Preserving academic integrity. In Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (3rd ed) (p. 83-88). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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