Academic Honesty and Stanford's Honor Code
At Stanford University, the Honor Code is an undertaking of the Stanford academic community, individually and collectively, to uphold a culture of academic integrity in the classroom. Here we offer background information about academic integrity issues in higher education and pedagogic strategies to support and promote academic integrity.
What is academic integrity?
The term academic integrity generally means a commitment to a set of fundamental values that support research, learning, scholarship, and service in academia.
At Stanford, the Honor Code is the university's statement on academic integrity, first written by students in 1921. It articulates university expectations of students and faculty in establishing and maintaining the highest standards in academic work.
The Stanford Honor Code
The revised Honor Code (effective September 1, 2023) has been clarified to encourage clear communication between faculty, instructors, and students.
Stanford’s Honor Code has three components:
- Students will support this culture of academic honesty by neither giving nor accepting unpermitted academic aid in any work that serves as a component of grading or evaluation.
- Instructors will support this culture of academic honesty by providing clear guidance, both in their course syllabi and in response to student questions, on what constitutes permitted and unpermitted aid. Instructors will also not take unusual or unreasonable precautions to prevent academic dishonesty.
- Students and instructors will also cultivate an environment conducive to academic integrity. While instructors set academic requirements, the Honor Code is a community undertaking that requires students and instructors to work together to ensure conditions that support academic integrity.
Practices for supporting academic integrity and student learning
Here are some practices that instructors and students in instructional roles can use to promote a learning environment that supports academic integrity and works to uphold the Honor Code.
Many strategies that help students abide by the Honor Code also enhance their learning. While there are many reasons why students, intentionally or unintentionally, might violate the Honor Code, this will likely hinder their learning and compromise their academic experience and, potentially, their future careers.
For details of these and similar strategies, see “Teaching strategies to support the Honor Code and student learning”.
Decide on your course policies
What constitutes permitted and unpermitted aid might be different for a course you are leading than for other courses. Depending on your course goals, this might include how to collect and cite research, student collaboration and group work, approved tools, exam protocols, and so on. Be thoughtful as you decide what is appropriate based on the goals of the course, the requirements of the discipline, your teaching philosophy, and the needs of your students.
Guidance on Generative AI
The Office of Community Standards’ (OCS) guidance on generative AI tools states that the use of generative AI tools, like chatbots, image generators, and code generators, is treated analogously to assistance from another person. In particular, using generative AI tools to substantially complete an assignment or exam (e.g. by entering exam or assignment questions) is not permitted. Individual course instructors are free to set their own policies regulating the use of generative AI tools in their courses, including allowing or disallowing some or all uses of such tools.
These pedagogic strategies for adapting to generative AI chatbots can help you determine how to best address generative AI in your course.
Clearly communicate expectations and policies to students and across instructional teams
Discuss the Honor Code and your own individual course policy on academic integrity in your course syllabus. The CTL course syllabus template contains samples of how to do this.
Consider providing examples of what is permissible or not, and review these expectations on the first day of class and before each assignment and assessment. Be prepared to respond to student questions.
Giving a quiz graded on completion to help students identify what is and is not plagiarism can be helpful to check for understanding.
Frame assessments as part of the learning process
Some students may view good grades—or simply submitting a finished assignment—as an end in itself, and so value the outcome more than the learning process. Others might see assessments as unfair or busy work, intended to create high pressure situations, or a way to rank students against each other, rather than to support their learning.
To provide students with a sense of purpose and fairness in assessment, it can be motivating for students to understand the purpose behind the design of the assessment and what you expect to see. Using rubrics for feedback and assessment can make grading more transparent and consistent, so students can demonstrate their learning.
Assessments can be opportunities for students to get valuable feedback, reflect on their learning strategies, and practice important skills. Explain how your assessments support the learning process and encourage them to do their best and be honest, so that the assessment can accurately inform you if they need more help.
Well-designed assessments can reveal where you might improve the course, or areas where students need more support, such as misconceptions they might pick up.
Design assessments that encourage students to demonstrate individual learning
Rather than just ask for an answer to a question that could be provided by another source, ask students to explain how they arrived at that answer. This can give you (and your students) more information to help identify where their gaps in understanding are and requires a more considered and unique response from each student.
Assessments can also be designed to encourage students to demonstrate reasoning and originality. For example:
- Include opportunities for students to demonstrate their problem-solving and reflect on their processes, such as project or problem-based assessments.
- Where suitable, include opportunities for students to demonstrate their originality, such as in personal response papers and creative work.
- Create assessments that require synthesis and critical analysis, such as combining sources and approaches, which also encourage higher-order thinking.
- Get students to show their drafting and editing process alongside finished work.
- Encourage students to think about and respond to contemporary issues or recent questions in the field, where there is less chance an answer that they can copy already exists.
Address the importance of integrity in your field
You can play a valuable role in discussing with students the value of academic integrity in the field of study. What happens if a researcher plagiarizes another scholar’s work? What are the consequences of misrepresenting one’s ideas or falsifying data?
Work with them to foster the habits of academic integrity, such as accurately noting and acknowledging research sources, and being transparent about their methods and sources.
Foster well-being and belonging
Although there are many reasons students may violate the Honor Code, addressing the reasons that students may feel pressured to complete assessments or perform well every time, or other stresses that can affect academic performance, may help mitigate some of these factors.
Consider these optional assessment strategies:
- Frequent and low-stakes assessments: Administering multiple low-stakes assessments reduces the overall weight and stress students associate with each assessment. Students may feel less pressure to take extreme measures to get every answer correct because an incorrect answer will not impact their grades as much. More frequent assessments also provide students with increased opportunities to practice and get feedback on their performance.
- Consider instituting exam or assignment resubmissions: Consider allowing students opportunities to earn points back on questions that they missed. This can be particularly important if you must include an assessment in your course that is worth a large percentage of a student’s grade, but is helpful in any type of assessment to encourage reflection and growth in student learning. This practice not only incentivizes students to learn from their mistakes and fill in their gaps in understanding but also reduces the stress associated with the assessment. This technique also places value on student learning rather than student performance, as students are rewarded for improvement.
- Provide flexibility in final grade components: If an instructor offers a greater number of assessments during the quarter, more flexibility can be given to calculating a student’s final grade. Flexibility can be automatically built into a grading scheme for all students at the start of the quarter by allowing students to drop a number or percentage of assessments. Such flexibility also can assist students who face unexpected difficulties during the quarter without requiring them to disclose details to instructors.
Instructors can also support students’ sense of self-efficacy by regularly encouraging them to connect with various learning programs on campus, such as academic skills coaching, subject matter tutors, and writing tutors.
Consider short and synchronous assessments
Reducing the overall length of an assessment can make it less feasible for students to receive unpermitted help from websites or other sources. Synchronous assessments also remove the temptation or pressure for students to share assessment content with other students completing the assessment at a later time.
Work together with students
The third part of the Honor Code states that both parties must cooperate to establish optimal conditions. Trust between students and faculty is key. Communicate with your students about the Honor Code and consider working with them to adjust as needed your assessments, rubrics, and grading policies over time.
You might invite students into a dialogue about the purpose and uses of AI, collaboration, primary and secondary sources, and so on. Crafting a collaboration and resource policy together can be a valuable learning experience to reflect with students on the purpose of the course, be transparent about learning objectives and pedagogical choices, and encourage buy-in and community-building within the class.
By connecting to student interests and sharing your passion for the subject, students can become more intrinsically motivated to learn for the sake of learning, rather than learning for the sake of a grade (e.g., to perform on a test). This resource on promoting intrinsic motivation has strategies to help you.
What about plagiarism detection tools?
Tools such as Turnitin, Unicheck, and Plagiarism Checker from Grammarly typically compare uploaded student work to a database of other works to detect matches and help determine the originality and sources of the student work. Some plagiarism detection tools also leverage AI technology and can detect AI-generated text to varying degrees of accuracy, but this technology is new and not reliable.
Instructors may use plagiarism detection tools with clear advance notice. Students must be informed that their assignments will be checked with this technology.
See Tips for Faculty & Teaching Assistants on the OCS website for current policy guidance on plagiarism detection tools and the Honor Code.
See also Guidance on technology tools for academic integrity for a more detailed discussion.
What about proctoring exams?
The Honor Code has been clarified to encourage clear communication between faculty, instructors, and students. The revised Honor Code applies to cases filed after September 1, 2023.
The approved proposal to update the university’s Honor Code includes the addition of new text to improve clarity and to launch an Academic Integrity Working Group (AIWG) to evaluate equitable practices for proctoring in-person examinations through a multi-year study.
The AIWG proctoring study
While the Honor Code no longer explicitly prohibits proctoring, such practices, defined as the reasonable supervision of exams by an exam administrator, are still prohibited unless done as a part of the Academic Integrity Working Group pilot program.
The AIWG will begin its work during the 2023–24 academic year. The study is expected to span two to four academic years. During this time, proctoring will be limited to the few courses that are part of the study. Unless your course is part of the study, proctoring will remain forbidden, and there is no need to adjust your syllabi for proctoring at this time.
- Honor Code, Office of Community Standards (September 2023)
- Interpretations of the Honor Code, Office of Community Standards (Spring 2023)
- What is Plagiarism?, Office of Community Standards
- Tips for Faculty & Teaching Assistants, Office of Community Standards
- Exams and the Honor Code, Office of Community Standards
- Teaching strategies to support the Honor Code and student learning, Teaching Commons (2020)
- Filing an Honor Code concern, Office of Community Standards
- Guidance on technology tools for academic integrity, Teaching Commons
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Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative. April 2015. Assessments That Support Student Learning.
G. Gibbs and C. Simpson. 2004. “Conditions Under Which Assessment Supports Student Learning,” Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, V. 1, pp. 3-31
International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI). 2021. The Fundamental Values of Academic Integrity. (3rd ed.).
Lang, James M. May 28, 2013. “Cheating Lessons, Part 1.” The Chronicle of Higher Education.