Teaching Ethically

Faculty and student team contributes chapter to upcoming book.

Randolph College's Honor Code played a significant part in a chapter of a new book set to be published in February, Teaching Ethically: Challenges and Opportunities (American Psychological Association).

The chapter, written by Holly Tatum, a Randolph psychology professor; Beth Schwartz, The Thoresen Professor of Psychology and assistant dean of the College; and Jerry Wells '12, a double major in psychology and creative writing, focuses on how instructors and students are affected by an established honor system and its governance. The chapter also explores the history of such self-governing regulations, their influence on pedagogical decisions, and their effectiveness on academic integrity.

"It really affects my relationship with students in a very positive way," said Tatum of Randolph's Honor Code, in which students take an oath of honesty and are allowed to take their tests unproctored in designated private areas around campus at times that are convenient to them.

"Unless someone breaches it, I trust students 100 percent, and I don't have to put in place procedures to make sure they don't cheat," she added. "So they don't see me as the person policing them, and I think that is very meaningful for the way in which I conduct my classes, the ways that I assess my students."

Wells said his friends at other colleges without honor codes lead different types of lives academically. "As a student here, I would never think to do something, because I want to keep my privileges and keep that trust," he said.

Schwartz said the chapter is an important contribution to the book because there are few comprehensive references regarding the implementation and effectiveness of honor codes. While there has been research addressing honor systems and their influence on academic integrity, only a few researchers have exclusively studied them. This new book will help bring the issue to the forefront.

"Faculty and administrators are voicing concern for what appears to be a nationwide problem concerning academic integrity and cheating," Schwartz said. "However, too often policies are created that do not take into account the empirical evidence from researchers addressing this very issue. There are ways to more effectively increase academic integrity, and those best practices should be followed. Interestingly, we've heard so much lately about the problem of cheating and honor issues at academic institutions. We have some understanding of what works to decrease academic dishonesty, but I am hoping more researchers take on this important issue and further address what practices faculty and institutions should consider."