For the past several weeks, my 7th period class has been increasingly frustrating to me. The students are supposed to enter the room, get their warm-up papers, and work on the five daily problems independently while I take attendance, check homework, and give some assistance to those who are struggling. This takes about 10 minutes on most days. Recently, though, the students are being less and less independent. They're trying to ask each other for help, comparing answers, and some are blatantly copying from others. On this type of task, I consider those behaviors to be cheating. I thought most of this problem stemmed from the opportunity they had to influence our most recent seating chart. So, they got new seats on Monday. Today, the same problems were happening. I stopped the kids and launched into a heartfelt lecture.
"Raise your hand if you understand what I mean by 'independent work.' Good. Everyone knows that concept. Who can describe it for us?" I started.
"When you do your own work without your classmates' help," someone offered.
"Exactly. So that means that during this time, you shouldn't be talking to other students. You also shouldn't be looking at their papers. You shouldn't be comparing answers. All of those things are forms of cheating. I would like you all to have integrity. Do you know what that is?"
"Doing the right thing when no one is looking," said one student.
"Being honest," another suggested.
"For sure. I want to be proud of all of you because you show integrity. That's much more important to me than your score. Now, I know some of you are worried about your grades. Some of you might be feeling pressure from home."
At this point, there are lots of small, quiet nods. This is, after all, an advanced group. These are the parents who will send e-mails the second their child gets an 89 instead of an A.
"Look, I want you to keep your integrity. I would much rather you earn a slightly lower grade honestly than get a higher score because you cheated. I think your parents would agree. If you're not sure, ask them at dinner tonight. I want to be proud of you and for that you need integrity."
After this, they got back to work, and I had a kid who got a near perfect paper yesterday ask for help. "But you did so well yesterday, what's wrong today?" I asked. "I got help yesterday," she admitted. I answered, "Thanks for being honest about that today. Now let's see where you're getting stuck."
My next step is to develop a class honor code. These kids are largely college bound. I want them to see how important it is to be truthful and work hard. If they don't learn that lesson now, I'm afraid they might learn it at a time it costs them a semester's tuition or more.
Here's the questionnaire I'm going to use to get the conversation started.
How do you teach your students to have academic integrity?