Tips for Faculty and Teaching Assistants
Please note that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic the majority of courses at Stanford are currently operating virtually. We encourage teaching staff to visit the Remote Teaching Tips page for guidance specific to the remote environment.
Your Role in Upholding the Honor Code and Fundamental Standard
Teaching staff file well over 100 reports of alleged violations of the Honor Code every year. Each case is investigated and, if there is sufficient evidence, forwarded to a Judicial Panel for review and sanctioning. The majority of these cases involve violations such as plagiarism, unpermitted collaboration, revising and resubmitting work, and unpermitted aid. The majority of the students found responsible receive the standard sanction: a one-quarter suspension from the University and one or more educational components. Most faculty and TAs opt to give such students a "No Pass" or "No Credit" for the assignment or course involved.
The length of this message may suggest that teaching at Stanford mainly involves responding to cheating problems. That is not true at all. Most Stanford students are here to learn and behave honestly. They value your teaching and their own accomplishments.
Faculty play a crucial role in promoting academic integrity in the classroom. Playing a proactive role with students in educating them about the Honor Code and its application within a particular class makes upholding the spirit of the document easier for students. Below you will find some examples of best practices for faculty in their classrooms as well as detailed examples of what is and what is not permitted practices under the Honor Code and some tips to help you and your students. The Office of Community Standards can also provide you with suggestions on strategies to educate students on academic integrity within your class.
Best Practices Include, but Are Not Limited to
- Discuss the Honor Code and its importance for your course, scholarship in the field, and Stanford.
- Specify what constitutes unpermitted aid for each assignment (including use of the Internet), and be available to answer questions.
- Specify citation expectations for each assignment.
- Include this information on the syllabus and in conjunction with online course materials.
- Ensure that faculty, teaching assistants, section leaders and students all have the same expectations.
- Avoid assignments or exam problems where students have access to past solutions.
- Have a student pick up a graded exam from a course staff member and look it over for any grading errors before leaving with it.
- Take reasonable steps to discourage students from violating the Honor Code and report any potential Honor Code violations you discover.
- Be open to student suggestions on how to improve requirements and procedures.
What Is Permitted Under the Honor Code Includes, but Is Not Limited to
- Providing alternate versions of tests.
- Controlling what comes into the testing environment (prohibiting electronic devices, backpacks, etc.).
- Giving an exam early or late due to illness/emergency or a Stanford-sanctioned event (e.g., athletics).
- Dispersing seating, assigning seating, and/or creating seating charts.
- Controlling whether students can keep copies of the exam.
- Copying tests showing original work to compare against re-grade requests.
- With clear advance notice, using software to systematically compare work submitted to other sources.
- Announcing if there are penalties for working “past time” on an exam.
What Is Not Permitted Under the Honor Code Includes, but Is Not Limited to
- Proctoring (being present in the examination room during an examination), with the following exception:
- Instructors and teaching assistants may remain in the examination room to distribute and explain the examination, to transmit additional information, to answer questions, to collect examination papers, or to investigate specific reports from students that cheating has been observed.
- Setting time limits for take-home exams (other than when they are due) unless electronic time-stamps are used. Please visit Exams and the Honor Code for further guidance about time limitations on take-home exams.
- Prescribing closed-book take-home exams.
- Engaging in penalty grading as an alternative to reporting a potential Honor Code violation.
Tips for Preventing Honor Code Violations
- Remind students of the Honor Code and the usual penalties for violations. Share some personal thoughts about why you value academic integrity. Link your support of the Honor Code to its importance in your discipline and profession. The most profound discussions often involve personal stories about your experiences with the Honor Code or issues of academic integrity.
- Remind students of their obligation under the Honor Code to take some action if they observe cheating in progress. Reporting a problem to you or our office may be necessary if other responses are ineffective or inappropriate.
- Consider allowing students to bring into an exam one 3x5 or 4x6 card on which they can write whatever they wish. Deciding what to put on the card seems to help in exam preparation and also to reduce the temptation to use unpermitted notes.
- Ask students not to sit near their study partners. Study partners frequently do similar work and make similar mistakes. Sitting some distance apart ensures that copying is not a likely explanation for similarities in their work.
- To the extent possible avoid multiple-choice questions on quizzes and exams.
- For writing assignments consider building in milestones. For example you might require that drafts be submitted periodically for review and at least a week or two prior to the paper deadline. Discourage last-minute topic shifts.
- The Honor Code prohibits students from submitting their own work in more than one class without explicit instructor permission. If you expect original work or conversely would permit a student to expand on previous work please be clear about what you would expect or permit.
- Do not assume your students know how to cite properly. Many upperclassmen and even graduate students have been found guilty of plagiarizing. It is important to discuss plagiarism and to provide examples of adequate and inadequate acknowledgment of sources.
- If you are in a technical field it is important to emphasize that using the concepts, structures or computer code of another without acknowledgment is also plagiarism.
- If students are allowed to consult with each other about assignments, but are not allowed to submit group work for credit, be as clear as you can both orally and in writing about where the boundary lies between permitted and unpermitted collaboration or consultation. Explain that if students receive aid that they use in their assignment they should note that assistance. Students from cultures that emphasize the value of collaboration and teamwork seem to have extra difficulty understanding and observing limitations on collaborative work. Instructors are increasingly recognizing the difficulty of setting limits on collaboration that students both understand and respect. Sometimes, guidelines are ignored. Students who recognize the educational value of working with others on intellectual tasks may view barriers to that collaboration as counterproductive. Therefore they may probably view such barriers as not seriously intended. Unfortunately these infractions are still Honor Code violations. They usually receive penalties similar to those for situations that are deliberately dishonest.
- Consider photocopying a 20% random sample of original graded work prior to returning the work to students. Announce this plan both orally and in writing. Students and faculty in large science/math classes have assured the Office of Community Standards that such random photocopying is a strong deterrent on the temptation to alter graded work and submit it for re-grading.
Responding to Possible Honor Code Violations
- If you believe that a student is behaving dishonestly, do something. You will be right or you will be wrong. But in either case the student will benefit from learning that his or her behavior caused a reasonable person to have doubts. You are responsible for the integrity of the academic process. It is appropriate for you to take some action if you believe that integrity is being violated.
- Do not assign academic penalties on the basis of suspected dishonesty. The Honor Code prohibits so-called penalty grading. If after questioning the student about the problematic work, you continue to believe that cheating occurred, refer the situation to the Office of Community Standards. If the evidence of misconduct is weak, the student will get the benefit of the doubt.
- In an exam setting the prohibition on proctoring does not prevent you from entering the room in response to a report that cheating has been observed. You may confiscate notes or other materials, ask students to change seats, quit talking to each other—whatever is appropriate given the particular circumstances. You may mark exams to allow later comparisons or to indicate the point at which notes were confiscated. But do not confiscate the exams themselves. (Should there not be adequate proof of dishonesty it is difficult to assign a course grade if the student was not allowed to complete the examination.)
- Whatever the setting if you cannot figure out how best to handle a possible problem consult with our office. You can do so anonymously. We will preserve confidentiality. Seeking advice does not commit you to filing a concern.
- If grade entries are needed simply do not assign the student a grade; leave the actual grade unassigned until the matter in question is resolved.
Resources for Promoting Academic Integrity Inside the Classroom