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Using Honour Codes in the Classroom

Students need to understand what honesty means and what kind of citation and other practices are necessary to preserve it. A class “honour code” can be used as a way of helping students both understand and make an initial commitment to the principles of academic integrity. 

This idea of a class “honour code” is similar to discussions that occur in many York classrooms around a code of conduct for the class, but extends the discussion to underlying values. There has been considerable research (McCabe and Trevino, 1996 et. al.) on honour codes, and much of it has suggested that such codes may be effective in reducing academic dishonesty.  This is principally survey research which depends on students self-reports on “one or more instances of serious cheating.” So in fact, the difference, (54% on campuses with honour codes, 71% without) may be partly a measure of willingness to disclose.  However, one very encouraging finding (McCabe, Trevino & Butterfield, 1999) is that students at universities with honour codes tend to conceive the academic integrity issues differently and are less likely to argue a view which seeks to rationalize plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty.

Issues of academic dishonesty may be reduced if you incorporate discussion around an "honour code" early in your course. The goal is to clarify what we are defending with the rules and procedures around citing sources and not engaging in practices which are academically dishonest.