Matatika pūmātauranga

Academic integrity

“ICAI defines academic integrity as a commitment to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. By embracing these fundamental values, instructors, students, staff, and administrators create effective scholarly communities where integrity is a touchstone. Without them, the work of teachers, learners, and researchers loses value and credibility. More than merely abstract principles, the fundamental values serve to inform and improve ethical decision-making capacities and behavior. They enable academic communities to translate ideals into action.

Scholarly communities flourish when community members “live” the fundamental values. To do this, these communities must invoke them, regularly inviting staff, students, faculty, and administrators to consider and discuss the role of ethical values and their ability to inform and improve various aspects of life on and off campus. When a society’s institutions are infused with integrity, they create a stronger civic culture as a whole.” (International Center for Academic Integrity, 2021, p. 4)


Academic integrity requires more than a one-time conversation. It is something that needs to be thought about when designing a course and assessment tasks and addressed with students throughout the semester, in courses at every level.

Jason Stephens (University of Auckland) emphasises the need to create cultures of integrity, looking at three levels of intervention for an educative approach (rather than solely punitive approach) to address academic integrity.

Students,Teachers,Administrators,and Parents Students Students andTeachers Individual RemediationImmediate and consistent responses to academicdishonesty; ethical and effective procedures foradjudicating contested cases of misconduct;“development” sanctioning aimed at strengtheningunderstanding of and commitment to AI. Context-Specific PreventionClassroom-or course-based, subject area-specificdiscussions about the importance of integrity and whatconstitutes dishonesty; fair and caring instruction andassessment; real-time, in situ reminders of AI. School-Wide EducationFirst year orientation program, student assemblies,student handbook, honor code reading and signingceremony; student-led honor boards and councils; schoolculture that promotes academic engagement and honesty. Fig. 1 Creating cultures of integrity: a three-level model of intervention (Stephens, 2016, p. 997)

Each level of Stephens’ (2016) pyramid model represents both the chronological order of the intervention (starting at the base, with School-wide Education coming first) and the size of the scope of the intended audience (narrowing as it progresses up each level) (p. 996):

School-wide education

Stephens (2016) says that school-wide education in academic integrity is the “primary level of intervention” and “comes first.” It “is intended for all students and community members. It is education and socialization that is aimed at enculturation – the acquisition of the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary for acting appropriately in a given culture,” (p. 997).

It is important to make sure all teaching staff on the course, including any teaching assistants, have the same understanding of academic integrity, their role in supporting the faculty as well as the University’s guidelines, policies and processes around it. This may involve some training.

University of Auckland’s guidelines on academic integrity:

Context-specific prevention

In Stephens’ model, context-specific prevention is described as, “any intervention aimed at promoting integrity or reducing misconduct in a specific classroom, course, or program of study.” (p.1000-1002). These can be:

  • Positive development interventions aimed at increasing students’ knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to academic integrity, e.g., discussing the importance of academic integrity in class.
  • Behavioral control techniques aimed at reducing cheating by manipulating the opportunity and incentive structures of the environment, e.g., randomized order of exam questions / response choices.

With regards to Rethinking Assessment, context-specific prevention strategies are of most relevance, which we will explore further below.

Individual remediation

  • Responses to student cheating, e.g., misconduct procedures.

In addition to taking an educative approach in developing academic integrity, research has also highlighted the importance of developing a more “personalised teaching and learning relationship” (Bretag et al., 2018, p. 10) in preventing academic misconduct (See: Assessment to foster academic integrity, p10). When students don’t feel valued or cared for by teachers or the institution, they are more likely to be able to rationalize cheating. Some factors that can foster better teaching and learning relationships include:

  • Connecting with and getting to know students and building trust.
  • Using “non-assessable forums” for students to feel safe to ask questions, try, and make mistakes.
  • Using formative in-class assessments that are no/low stakes.
  • Giving students opportunities to approach teaching staff for help.
  • Teaching staff ensuring students understand what is required in assessments.
  • Giving sufficient feedback to ensure students learn from the work they do.

See also Developing a culture of academic integrity in your course.

Designing and framing assessments with academic integrity in mind

“While assessment design cannot prevent cheating, it is a vital tool for fostering integrity. Assessment drives learning, so where assessment is poorly conceived, students will be more likely to rationalise or resort to cheating.” (Bretag et al., 2018, p. 8)

When assessment types are used primarily because they are “efficient or expedient”, or when they are used “due to the misperception [that] they alone will ensure integrity,” it is more likely to result in academic misconduct (p. 3).

We must therefore rethink not only how we design assessments, but how we frame them for students. It is vital that we ensure learning outcomes are clear and descriptive and we communicate how assessments are connected to them. Assessments should be “fair and meaningful representations of what students should have learned” (Stephens, 2016). Designing authentic assessments and communicating to students their relevance to real-world issues/scenarios that occur in the professions and communities, as well as their relevance to “where they are in their learning journey.” (Bretag et al., 2018, p. 10), can give greater meaning and purpose to assessment tasks.

Be transparent with students about how they will be assessed. Provide rubrics or detailed grading criteria for all assessments so that learners know what is expected of them and understand how their work will be graded. This will reduce anxiety and stress, and therefore decrease the likelihood of cheating or outsourcing assessment tasks.

Placing emphasis on learning for greater development (i.e., the development of competence e.g., “to learn as much as I can”, “to develop my skills and understand”) rather than performance (i.e., the demonstration of competence e.g., “to earn higher grades than others”, “to show others that I’m smart”) can also assist. Research has shown that the former is negatively associated with cheating and the latter (often) positively associated with it. Ensure that you provide constructive feedback so students can understand how they can improve. Stephens (2016) also suggests “individualis[ing] evaluations of students’ progress and offer[ing] it to them privately” as well as “avoid[ing] practices that invite social comparisons of performance.” (p. 1003).

The series of publications from Contract cheating and assessment design provides a useful overview of considerations, risks, and ways to mitigate them for different assessment types. Below are more general considerations for better assessment design.

Considerations for better assessment design

Incorporate formative activities or more frequent, low stakes assessments and self-checks.

Consider multi-staged assessments that require evidence of work in progress (e.g., project proposal, collection of data, experiment reports, references) and include multiple checkpoints for tracking student progress and giving feedback.

Design assessments that require higher order thinking e.g., tasks and questions that require students to analyse, evaluate and create capabilities (refer to Bloom’s taxonomy and SOLO taxonomy).

Include assessment tasks that are less likely to be outsourced, e.g., reflections on practicum, oral presentations, or personalised assignments. These can include tasks that allow students to incorporate some of their own personal experience, ideas, or reflections.

Where possible, create opportunities for students to have some “choice and voice” in the assessments they are required to complete. See Student choice.

Consider your design of collaborative assessment tasks carefully. Group work can be used to “teach about the challenges and benefits of collaboration” (Bretag et al., 2018, p. 5). Clear expectations around collaboration and individual responsibilities need to be set and scaffolded into the course. For more information, see Academic integrity and group assessments and Collaborating with integrity (p11).

Change assessments each semester or create multiple versions that can be rotated over the year so that students cannot copy the work of previous cohorts.

For tests, consider using question banks and randomising the questions. Replace questions that simply recall facts with questions that require higher level cognitive skills, for example analysis and explanation of why and how students reached an answer.

Use plagiarism detection software such as Turnitin whenever possible, and discuss with students how this works.

Developing a culture of academic integrity in your course

“As educators, we must do our best to exemplify intellectual integrity ourselves – in everything from how we treat students and each other to how we approach the subject matter, to how we approach mandatory high stakes testing, to how we think and talk about politics.” (Stephens, 2016, p. 1003)

Careful assessment design alone cannot avert cheating, but when combined with efforts to educate students and develop a culture of academic integrity in their courses and scholarly communities they are a part of, it can foster a greater likelihood of integrity in learning.

Educate students about what academic integrity means and why it is important

Talk with your students about what academic integrity means and why it is important early on and give them reminders through your course and ‘just in time’ before starting assessments. Be clear about your expectations both orally and in writing and provide specific examples. The Academic Integrity Course can assist. Some issues you may wish to address include:

  • What are the University’s policies on academic integrity?
  • What are their responsibilities and the consequences of academic misconduct?
  • What is considered dishonest and unacceptable?
  • What type of help can students seek for their work?
  • What are your expectations of group work? See Collaborating with integrity (p.11) for an exercise that can help generate discussion around expectations.
  • Inadvertent or naïve misconduct, e.g., when a student thinks they are helping another student by allowing them to copy their work.
  • What do you expect students to do if they suspect it is happening in your class?
  • What contract cheating is (p.14) and what the risks are. Emphasise that these services may retain user logs and it is possible to detect student activity. Further, there have been instances of companies blackmailing students (Nicholls, 2021).

Make the link between “academic integrity” and “personal integrity,” and indeed “professional integrity.” Introduce students to what it means to have integrity as psychologist, economist, historian, biologist etc., and explain why integrity in the field matters (e.g., professionalism). Discuss case studies from your field in class that reflect both ethical and unethical motives and their outcomes to give students a sense of why developing a habit of integrity in their work now will matter after they graduate.

Teach/reinforce research and citation skills

Explain academic integrity and responsible research by discussing what is challenging about doing work in your particular field (e.g. What is the original argument? What is the boundary between collaboration and individual work? What is “common knowledge” in your field? What is your own practice for doing research and documenting sources? (Stephens, 2016, p. 1002).

Identify common errors students make in note-taking and research preparation or assign a plagiarism exercise or conduct one in class (p. 1002).

Direct students to approved academic support (e.g., Piazza online discussions, office hours, tutorials, QuickCite for referencing help, library drop-in sessions, Libraries and Learning Services workshops and online resources like Learning Essentials). Include this information in their assessment instructions.

Keep communication lines open

Encourage students to talk with you if they are having difficulties. Remind them of the different ways they can do this throughout the course e.g., office hours, contact email addresses, including those of class reps.

Inform learners about procedures for applying for extensions or aegrotat/compassionate consideration.

Remind students that (most) assignments can be submitted a few days late with only a small deduction (refer to your faculty’s guidelines for assessment). In other words, that it’s not worth getting stressed out and cheating just to get an assignment submitted on time.

The theme of Academic integrity relates to the TeachWell core capabilities:

  • Aligning intended learning outcomes, teaching approach and assessment.
  • Facilitating student understanding.
  • Encouraging the engagement and learning of all students.
  • Establishing a safe, inclusive and supportive learning environment (physical and/or digital).
  • Designing assessment opportunities that enable students to develop and demonstrate their capabilities.

… and the University’s principles of assessment:

  1. 4. Assessment is reliable and valid, and is carried out in a manner that is inclusive and equitable.
  2. 7. Assessment design and practices support academic integrity.

Useful tools

Taumata Teitei Vision 2030 and Strategic Plan 2025

The theme of Academic integrity links with the values and principles of:

Recognising the importance of kinship and lasting relationships.

Getting to know our students and developing stronger, more personalised learning and teaching relationships with our students can help students know they are valued and actually help mitigate academic misconduct.

Caring for those around us in the way we relate to each other.

Designing assessments with academic integrity in mind, together with developing a culture of academic integrity from the start of the course, takes greater effort, but demonstrates care for our students. This encourages students to succeed by taking an educative approach and designing in support for academic integrity, rather than relying on punitive measures.

Respect and integrity
We act with integrity, openness and honesty at all times. We take responsibility for our choices and actions, and trust that others will fulfil their responsibilities. We are values-led in our relationships, creating genuine opportunities for the communities we serve to engage in ethical and responsible partnerships.

Taking an educative, rather than punitive, approach to designing for academic integrity builds a culture of personal responsibility and mutual trust.



Bretag, B., Harper, R., Saddiqui, S., Ellis, C., Newton, P., Rozenberg, P., & van Haeringen, K. (2018). Contract cheating and assessment design: Exploring the connection. Australian Government Office for Learning.

International Center for Academic Integrity [ICAI]. (2021). The fundamental values of academic integrity (3rd ed.).

Nichols, K. (2021, December 1). Students who cheat don’t just have to worry about getting caught. They risk blackmail and extortion. The Conversation.

Stephens, J. M. (2016). Creating cultures of integrity: A multilevel intervention model for promoting academic honesty. In T. Bretag (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity (pp. 995-1007). Singapore: Springer Singapore.

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