Best Practices for Faculty

Promoting Academic Integrity & Preventing Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty can often be a reflection of something deeper that the student is experiencing, such as language or cultural misunderstandings, improperly planning ahead for exams or papers, or suffering from a lack of confidence in the subject. 

This page provides information about how to identify and discourage academic dishonesty from occurring in the classroom. While it is each student’s responsibility to understand and abide by university standards towards individual work and academic integrity, instructors can help students understand their responsibilities as students at Columbia University.

Instructors and teaching assistants are encouraged to make use of the Center for Teaching & Learning programs and services, especially those focused on student engagement and inclusivity. Through creating a learning environment that stimulates interest and activity, instructors will likely encounter fewer instances of academic dishonesty.

Note on Attributions: 

  • Recommendations that are included below was created by Abigail MacBain, GSAS, Academic Administration Fellow (Spring 2020), the Director of Academic Integrity, and the Academic Integrity Working Group which consists of Columbia faculty and administrative support units (i.e., Columbia Libraries, Center for Teaching & Learning, Berick Center for Student Advising, Writing Center, Center for the Core Curriculum, Copyright Advisory Services, Residence Life, Student Conduct & Community Standards, Center for Career Education, Columbia Engineering and Columbia College, and the School of General Studies).


Common Reasons Why Students Engage with Academic Dishonesty

  • Poor time management or disorganization, lack of motivation

  • Anxiety and avoidance behavior towards classwork

  • Fear of failure; lack of confidence in ability to do work independently

  • Misunderstanding directions and/or expectations

  • Cultural or regional differences in what comprises academic dishonesty

  • Disconnectedness or lack of interest in the course, subject, instructor or material

  • An absence of personal ownership and pride over individual work

  • Depression or other mental health problems

  • Undiagnosed or under treated conditions

  • Personal problems that lead or contribute to any of the above issues


Ways Faculty Can Respond to Academic Dishonesty

  • Identify which policy violation that the student is suspected to have violated in your course.

  • Speak to your Department Chair for advice (if needed) on filing a report with the University. Get the additional context needed from teaching assistants or co-instructors about submitting an academic integrity referral report to Student Conduct & Community Standards Office.

  • If comfortable, set up a time to talk with your student(s) directly about what you suspect is academic dishonesty, why that is unacceptable in your course, why their actions could have violated the academic integrity policy at Columbia.

  • Discuss alternative academic support resources that the student could have consulted that could have prevented a possible violation of academic integrity expectations. (ex: Asked for an extension, being honest about not understanding the assignment etc.)

  • Submit an Academic Integrity Violation Referral form (can be done anonymously if contact information is left blank; however, that prevents Student Conduct & Community Standards from following up with the reporter, particularly if the report is unclear or if there is not enough information to pursue or investigate a case). You can always consult by emailing the staff for advice at

  • If you can, best practice states that by continuing to stay connected to the student if they remain in your course will help with the student re-engaging in the course material and learning from their integrity mistakes. 

  • You can decide what grade the student earned in this instance. 

Note: Even if you believe it is a first time case of academic dishonesty, the issue should be reported to the University in order to determine if the student has had other reports made or may be struggling in other classes or with their own well-being.


Preventing Academic Dishonesty: Establishing Standards for Academic Honesty

  • Include the university policy on academic integrity into the syllabus, and use it to establish your tone and proactive expectations for positive and honest student work

  • Define and provide examples for what constitutes plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty in your course

  • Habitually reiterate academic integrity standards throughout the semester, especially before tests and assignments that are “high stakes.”

  • Articulate permitted “study” online resources and how to cite those in homework, writing assignments or problem sets

  • Clarify when students are and are not permitted to collaborate with others on assignments or utilize study guides for tests

  • Communicate your expectations and consequences on late work, missed tests, attendance, and extra credit

  • Discuss the ethical, academic and legal repercussions of posting notes and class materials to online sites (i.e., Chegg, GitHub, CourseHero).

  • Professors should consider watermarking their syllabi, problem, and solution sets to prevent student uploads to Chegg, CourseHero and other similar third party marketed "study" sites.

  • Communicate and include policies on disability accommodations in your syllabus and approved absences that require students to register through appropriate channels.

  • Remind students illicit short-term solutions could permanently impact their long-term personal and professional goals.

  • Help students understand underlying connections in the material and why it’s important that they actually learn this material, especially if connected to their major or intended career.

Course Structure

  • Structure assignments into smaller parts (“scaffolding”) that will be submitted and checked throughout the semester to aid with planning and help students' avoid procrastination.

  • Prioritize grades for “low-stake” assignments instead of examinations to reduce testing anxiety.

  • Engage student creativity by adding a project that requires presenting information in a manner other than a paper (such as a poster, video, story, art project, or presentation).

  • Develop peer evaluation projects to help students view work from the mindset of an instructor.

  • Assign partial credit for homework corrections, allowing for greater engagement. 

  • Allow extra credit that makes use of campuses resources to encourage familiarity.

Classroom Practices

  • Provide feedback on assignments that doesn’t involve checks or letter grades.

  • Schedule check-ins about projects to reduce students' last minute writing or frantic emails about assignment requirements. 

  • Share your methods for taking notes, summarizing arguments, and citing sources. 

  • Consider using resources such as TurnItIn for identifying writing issues or potential plagiarism in your course

  • Encourage peer evaluation to help students think in the mindset of an instructor

  • Notify students of campus resources (Academic Support Resources, Writing Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Disability Services) that can help address issues or anxieties they may be facing

  • Clarify when collaboration and group learning is permitted and when independent work is expected

  • Avoid assigning textbook exercises where the answers can be found online


These suggestions were taken from various sources of best practice. Sources are included in suggestions that were found in various articles (see Recommended Academic Integrity Online Sites and Articles below) that positively support the prevention of dishonesty in academic exams and classrooms. 

  • Create multiple test layouts to prevent copying 

  • Vary test structure and questions instead of recycling old tests 

  • When possible, separate students and remove bags, coats and cellphones

  • Deactivate Courseworks site and other online class resources during test time

  • Prioritize sections involving independent thought and essays over multiple choice

  • Add a section where students must explain multiple choice or True-False answers

  • Provide examples for short answer and essays beforehand to let students know the type of content you expect

  • Make your own study materials to discourage students from looking online

  • Discuss proctoring expectations with TAs and co-instructors prior to test times

  • Remind students that special accommodations must be arranged through the Office of Disability Services well in advance of deadlines and exam dates

  • Have students write and sign a pledge on blue books certifying that the work inside is their own; mark all blue books that are distributed for the exam

  • Clarify if and when bathroom breaks will be permitted during testing time

  • Collect all extra blue books or other testing materials and scrap paper at the end

Working with Teaching Assistants (TAs)

  • Establish expectations for TAs in terms of tutorials, attendance and assignments

  • Tell TAs what to do in cases of suspected cheating or classroom difficulties

  • Provide lists of campus and online resources for both TAs and students 

  • Create grading sheets and rubrics to determine what qualifies as an A, B, C, D, or F paper; identify key components that must be included for full marks

  • Collectively grade 3-5 papers with TAs to make sure their styles align with your thinking and the grade range you expect.

  • Clarify reading points and deadlines you would like TAs to emphasize in tutorials.

  • Schedule regular check-ins regarding course content and student concerns

  • Encourage TAs to share study and writing techniques with students


Recommended Academic Integrity Articles & Digital Resources

AI Technology


Classroom Policies


Academic Integrity


Alfred Lerner Hall, 6th Floor

Call: 212-853-1772