Teaching Hub

Under Pressure: Four Ways to Enable Academic Integrity

by Alexandria Gholston, Department of English

An olympic running track

Imagine you are an Olympic athlete, and you are about to compete for your country. Imagine the pressure of having your family, friends, teammates, and your country all counting on you to represent them in front of the world. How would you handle such pressure? Would you fold, or would you embrace the moment and seize the opportunity to put all of your hard work on display?

Athletes competing at the Olympics spend four years working on their craft, all for that moment. They train, practice, and make sacrifices to get to that world stage. Stepping up to the starting line (court, pool, floor, etc.), the pressure starts to build on them. But they remind themselves that they have been working hard for this moment, and it’s nothing they haven’t done before. They think about people and things that motivate them the most, and they seize the opportunity. Remembering those things helps ease any pressure.

Why do students plagiarise?

When it comes to academic integrity in higher education, one of the offenses that instructors most often see is plagiarism. To an instructor, plagiarism can be frustrating, and the question “Why do students commit plagiarism?” may often arise.

Plagiarism can be attributed to many things, but one of the most significant factors is pressure, and college students are surrounded by it. Starting at a young age, students are often socialized to believe that they have to go to college in order to be successful. Maintaining good grades is also a requirement, and students may often feel pressured to keep a good standing. Likewise, students are often intimidated by writing assignments because they do not think they can write.

How can we ease the pressure?

As instructors, how can we help students offset the pressure that comes with writing assignments? Here are some tips that I have found useful:

  1. Intrinsic Motivation: If students are only focused on getting a grade, they will be more likely to cheat. Make assignments rewarding for students inside and outside of the classroom. Show them ways that can apply what they learn to their everyday lives.
  2. Relatable: Help students connect assignments to events, trends, or personal things that interest them.
  3. Use Class Time: Use some class time for writing, talking about the assignment, and offering feedback for students with questions.
  4. Lowering Stakes: Avoid assigning big writing assignments at the end of the semester. This only maximizes the pressure on students. However, if this is an important part of the class, consider assigning smaller writing assignments throughout the semester and be sure to use some class time for writing.

Alexandria Gholston is a graduate student in the Composition, Rhetoric, and English Studies (CRES) program in the Department of English.