Designing Assignments that Encourage Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity - Do your own work, cite your sources

Encouraging Academic Integrity

In an ideal environment students would always cite their sources, write their own ideas, and turn in independent work. However, sometimes students break plagiarism rules, unintentionally or on purpose, and we are forced to penalize students instead of provide constructive feedback.

Changing how assignments are designed can help alleviate this problem. It is difficult to Google  answers for authentic assessments that build on prior learning and personal experience.

Here are some ways to design, or re-design, assignments that encourage academic integrity so that you can focus on providing feedback:

Use Assignment Sheets

Most important for any written assignment is the assignment sheet itself. Provide students with an assignment sheet for all written work; doing so clarifies the required task, the parameters for acceptable collaboration, and criteria for evaluation. Rubrics are helpful for clarifying expectations.

Change Assignments Frequently

  • Change your assignments slightly from semester to semester to discourage students from recycling previous students’ work.
  • For large classes, change assignments slightly from section to section to discourage the exchange of papers among friends in different sections (where students are likely to have different graders as well).

Use In-class Writing Assignments

Short in-class writing assignments provide instructors with opportunities to:

  • become familiar with and assess students’ abilities and styles early on so that sudden changes in their writing are more noticeable
  • give students a chance to write extemporaneously, when they cannot become tempted by or mired in others’ words
  • practice using sources: consider asking students to summarize, paraphrase, and/or respond to a source.

Make Your Assignments Specific

Students are far less likely to be able to plagiarize a unique assignment, since sources available to them will not meet the specific requirements of the assignment.

  • Consider a less well known piece:

Rather than: Discuss the importance of literacy to freedom in Frederick Douglass’s Narrative.

Try: Discuss the connection between literacy and freedom in Poynter’s abolitionist tract.

  • Pose a more focused question:

Rather than: What artistic movements influenced the Impressionists?

Try: In what ways does this particular Impressionist painting reveal the influences of earlier movements?

  • Ask a question that requires application, rather than explanation of knowledge:

Rather than: Explain the basic functions of the vascular, skeletal, muscular and nervous systems.

Try: A cat jumps off the end of a table onto the floor. Describe how its vascular, muscular, skeletal and nervous systems contribute to this action.

Rather than: Write a review of The Matrix (reviews are especially common on the Web).

Try: How well does The Matrix exemplify Smith’s “nostalgic futurism” in contemporary film?

  • Consider a tight comparison:

Rather than: Analyze Douglass’s attitude toward white abolitionists.

Try: How does Douglass’s notion of audience change between the Narrative and his Life and Times, and how do these two texts differ as a result?

  • Use a “touchstone” assignment:

Ask students to connect their ideas to another aspect of the class—use a point from lecture, a quotation selected from one of your readings (try to choose a less-obvious quotation), an image, or a graph.

Rather than: Discuss how the accused/condemned were treated in Salem.

Try: Using Mary Easty’s petition, explain the condemned’s perspective of the Salem trials.

Assigning Research Paper Assignments

Some suggestions other faculty have found useful in discouraging plagiarism are to:

  • Assign short writing assignment(s) early in the class; this activity will give you the opportunity to see students’ writing capabilities (which makes noticing anomalies easier) and give students a chance to practice
  • Avoid open topic research paper assignments: either select a question (or a series from which students choose) that limits their range OR require a research question in advance of students’ starting their research
  • Consider using shorter, focused assignments alongside long longer papers, or in place of one longer paper, if several are assigned in the course
  • Require that students use local sources—pamphlets, local newspapers and journals, flyers, interviews, etc.
  • Require a bibliography in advance
  • Avoid general annotated bibliographies that only require a summary of the sources themselves; many of these are readily available on the Web
  • Require a bibliography with short summaries of how students see each entry fitting into their topic
  • Require that students turn in part or all of print sources with the final draft
  • Require long papers to build from shorter, earlier papers
  • Utilize SafeAssign in Blackboard and allow the students to see their results

Use An Honor Agreement

You might consider asking your students to sign a statement of agreement concerning academic misconduct. Although not legal documents, these agreements do signal to the students your seriousness about the subject and deflate students’ counter charge that your policy concerning “what you wanted” was not made clear to them. Click here for an example of an Indiana University faculty member’s honor agreement.

Use GCC’s New Plagiarism Policy

At SUNY Genesee Community College we have a new Plagiarism Policy in Procedure 220:

Plagiarism and Cheating: Cheating is obtaining or intentionally giving unauthorized information to create an unfair advantage in an examination, assignment, or classroom situation. Plagiarism is the act of presenting and claiming words, ideas, data, programming code or creations of others as one’s own. Plagiarism may be intentional – as in a false claim of authorship – or unintentional – as in a failure to document information sources using MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago or other style sheets or manuals adopted by faculty at the College. Presenting ideas in the exact or near exact wording as found in source material constitutes plagiarism, as does patching together paraphrased statements without in-text citation. The purchasing or sharing of papers or projects between students or the re-use of papers or projects submitted for more than one assignment or class also constitutes plagiarism.”

This statement must be posted in every syllabus.

Following this statement, faculty should clearly explain their policy and/or procedures related to managing instances of plagiarism.

For example:

“Plagiarism will not be tolerated. I will ask you to upload your papers to SafeAssign in Blackboard. If plagiarism is found in any essay or assignment, the assignment will receive a “0” without an opportunity to rewrite. You may also be reported to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.”


“The penalty for violating the plagiarism policy is severe. Any student violating the plagiarism policy is subject to receiving a failing grade for the course and will be reported to the Dean of Students. If a student is unclear about whether a particular
situation may constitute an honor code violation the student should meet with the instructor to discuss the situation.”

It is definitely better to design assignments that inherently discourage plagiarism than to engage in the disciplinary process that results from plagiarism.

Original post courtesy of

Edited by: Judith M Littlejohn, 8/27/18

Academic Integrity Image from the University of Waterloo,  CC-BY-NC

Icebreaker: Find Someone Who . . . .

Three People Interacting

Icebreakers help us create a sense of community which is essential when we are going to collaborate with people.  In the classroom, especially in a foreign language class where students need to try to get their mouths to pronounce unfamiliar words and sounds, people need to know that they are in an environment where it is safe to take risks and make mistakes.  Using icebreakers at the beginning of a semester facilitates the process of getting to know one another; this one is a favorite in face-to-face classes.

This icebreaker is a game of BINGO.  It’s important to take a few moments before playing to make sure that everyone knows the rules of the game and understands how to play because not all of our students are from the United States and some might not be familiar with it.  Ask the class for a volunteer who can explain what the object of the game is and how you get a BINGO by having 5 answers vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.

It is easy to customize the BINGO with questions that relate to a specific discipline or instead use general questions that simply help students to get to know one another, as in the example below.

Remember:  When giving the instructions to students, emphasize that the game is an excuse to meet people; everyone is to get up and move about the classroom.  When they approach a classmate, each student should introduce him/herself and then ask the classmate a question. If the person responds positively, the asker should record his/her name and answer a question for that person in return. Again, it’s more about getting to know classmates than about winning the fabulous prize for getting a Bingo!  Also, for that reason, students can only use each classmate’s name for one square.

Demonstrate:  Do a few practice examples – either you can approach students and model the interaction you desire or you can ask students to model one or two examples.

Play:  Then, have your students begin the game.  They should approach a classmate, introduce themselves, ask a question, and if the person responds in the affirmative, write the person’s name and a detail or two in the appropriate box.  If someone gets four in a row, the student should say BINGO and then call back their answers as this step will allow students another opportunity to hear classmates’ names and learn a little bit about them.  If you have small prizes (pencils, bookmarks or candy, for example) to award to the winners, it adds to the fun.

BINGO Board:

Has studied at another college besides GCC

Has a child Has taken public transportation Has visited another country Plays a musical instrument

Plays on a sports team

Was born outside the United States

Exercises every day

Works while attending college

Has friends or relatives who speak another language

Takes more than three classes

Has visited both Niagara Falls USA and NF Canada


Commutes more than 30 minutes to study at GCC

Has the same major as you

Is the first in his/her family to attend college

Wears glasses to read

Has attended a concert during the past year

Speaks a language other than English

Has a pet

Likes pizza Has studied at GCC for more than 1 year Has taken classes in another community college Has completed an internship

Takes classes at more than one GCC campus center

Use this as a template to create your own board – edit away!

Download yours here: BINGO Board – Find Someone Who


Submitted by:

Jeanne Mullaney

Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures

Community College of Rhode Island

Edited By:

Judith Littlejohn, Genesee Community College, 8/19/2018

Image of three people interacting is “Conversation at Wikimania 2014” by Ragesoss, CCBY,

Teaching Tip Image

This Teaching Tip is part of a series. Faculty and staff of SUNY Genesee Community College are encouraged to join the TLC Organization for more professional development opportunities. To request enrollment or suggest a topic, email

August 19, 2018, Judith M Littlejohn

First Day of Class

Room with tables and chairs

The first day of class is your opportunity to present your vision of the class to your students. It is helpful if you can introduce yourself as a scholar and educator and provide insight into how you will teach the class and what you will expect them to contribute to the learning process.

Consider that several of your students may be “shopping” for a schedule the first week of classes. They may be looking for a class that will fill a particular time slot, include a particular learning environment (i.e. lab-based or lecture style), or a class with a certain workload to balance the demands of their other courses and extra-curricular responsibilities. Thus, students will appreciate a clear roadmap of what you will require of them over the course of the semester. You may also want to model, as specifically as possible, the classroom environment you intend to foster during the class. For example, if they will spend a good deal of time doing group work over the course of the semester, you may want to break them into groups the first day.


How to Create an Inviting Classroom

Professors who established a special trust with their students often displayed the kind of openness in which they might, from time to time, talk about their intellectual journey, its ambitions, triumphs, frustrations, and failures, and encourage students to be similarly reflective and candid.

–From the chapter “How Do They Treat Their Students” in Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do (Harvard Press, 2004).

Introduce Yourself

The point of an introduction is to establish yourself as a unique individual sharing the classroom with other unique individuals. Other than providing your name and the name of the course you’re teaching, here is some information you may consider sharing:

  • Personal biography: your place of birth, family history, educational history, hobbies, sport and recreational interests, how long you have been at the college, and what your plans are for the future.
  • Educational biography: how you came to specialize in your chosen field, a description of your specific area of expertise, your current projects, and your future plans.
  • Teaching biography: how long have you taught, how many subjects/classes have you taught, what level of class you normally teach, what you enjoy about being in the classroom, what do you learn from your students, and what you expect to teach in the future.
  • In making your decision about what information to share, consider how much you want them to know and how much you want to reveal about yourself.

Allow the Students to Introduce Themselves

This is your opportunity to focus on students as unique and diverse individuals. Consider how introductions can lead into a productive and welcoming classroom environment. Instead of just asking general questions concerning their name, major, and years at GCC, ask them questions that are pertinent to the subject and the atmosphere you want to build through the semester. Here are some examples:

  • In a geography or history class, you may want to ask students to introduce themselves and explain where they are from. You could mark these places on a map of the world as they talk.
  • In a math class, you may want to ask the students to introduce themselves and state one way mathematics enriches their lives every day.
  • You may also want to have the students break into pairs, exchange information, and introduce one another to the class.

This may also be a good time to give your students an exercise that enables teachers to assess the state of their students’ previous or current learning. For example, the Background Knowledge Probe is a short, simple questionnaire given to students at the start of a course, or before the introduction of a new unit, lesson or topic. It is designed to uncover students’ pre-conceptions about the area of study. Additional examples of Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs) can be found on Vanderbilt’s Web site.

Discuss and Evaluate the Room Environment Together

As your students are introducing themselves and you are talking to them, ask your students to comment on the acoustics and remain conscious of how well you can hear and see each of them. Consider, with their input or alone, how you would change and optimize the seating arrangement. At the end of the introductions, ask them to move to optimize communication and make note of unexpected needs for a microphone, lighting changes, seating arrangements or other environmental controls.

Truth in Advertising:

Course Expectations and Requirements

What happens between you and your students in your classroom or lecture hall depends largely on what you want to happen. How you treat each other and how you and your students feel about being in that place with each other is modeled and influenced by you.”

–From the chapter “Classroom Contracts–Roles, Rules, and Expectations” in David W. Champagne’s The Intelligent Professor’s Guide to Teaching (Roc Edtech, 1995).

  • Course overview: Provide a map of where the class will start and end, and what you expect them to understand at the end of the semester.
  • Departmental Requirements/Expectations: If your department sets standards and requirements, you may want to establish that you are required to work within those parameters.
  • Presentation of material: Tell your students how you will provide them with the materials they need to be successful in class. Do you post Web-based materials in Blackboard, or rely on electronic course reserves through the Library? Will your students have to schedule evenings to watch films or attend performances? Will you lecture and expect them to take notes on your presentations?
  • Expectations for class time: How will the student feel confident and competent in your classroom? Is the class discussion-based? Do you follow your syllabus or do you improvise? Do they need to bring their books every day? Tell them what they can expect and how they can interact within those expectations to thrive in your classroom.
  • Expectations outside of class: Provide them with an idea of what they will need to prepare for the course outside of class. Is their preparation primarily reading and writing individually, or will they be working in groups? Will they need to turn in assignments electronically outside of class hours? Give them enough information so they will be able to plan their schedules accordingly.
  • Instructor responsibilities:
    • Establish what you will provide for your students to be successful in your class. This may include in-class material, study guides, meaningful and prompt feedback on assignments, facilitation of discussion, attention to students with special needs, and a positive and welcoming classroom environment.
    • Assert your boundaries: Let your students know how to contact you and when. For example, communicate or provide your office hours, office phone number, availability for instant messaging, email, and when you do not respond (evenings, weekends, and traveling, for example). If you are traveling during the semester, you may want to explain the dates that you will not be available.
    • You may also want to alert your students to their actions, habits, or situations that detract from your ability to fulfill your responsibility. For example, if late assignments, lack of participation, or sleeping during your lectures distracts you from timely and persuasive teaching, explain why you cannot tolerate these events and how you handle them when they occur.
  • Student responsibilities: If attendance is required, participation is mandatory, or you want them to read the assignment before class, explain to your students that this is expected of them throughout the semester. Explain policies on absences, make-ups, emergencies, and accommodating special needs, as well as the consequences of plagiarism and/or cheating. You may also remind them that they are responsible for their success and communicating with you when they have need assistance or have other concerns.
  • Assessment: How will you assign the course grade at the end of the semester? How many assignments will you grade? Do you have grading policies and/or rubrics or criteria for grading? How soon after an assessment is due can they expect feedback?
  • Cooperation/communication/resources: Finally, you may want to spend a few minutes discussing college, department, library, or other resources for students to use through the course of the semester.

By giving students an interesting and inviting introduction, I was able to reduce anxiety about the course and help students view the class as a collaborative learning process. Every field has its own exciting research or striking examples, and it is a good idea to present a few of these up front. The teaching challenge is to find special ideas within your own field. Your class will thank you.”

–From “How to Start Teaching a Tough Course: Dry Organization Versus Excitement on the First Day of Class” by Kevin L. Bennett, in College Teaching, 52(3), 2004

Additional Resources:

  • Angelo, T. A., and Cross, K. P. Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers. (2nd ed.) San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
  • Erickson, B. L., and Strommer, D. W. Teaching College Freshmen. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.
  • “The First Day of Class: Advice and Ideas.” Teaching Professor, 1989, 3(7), 1-2.
  • Johnson, G. R. Taking Teaching Seriously. College Station: Center for Teaching Excellence, Texas A & M University, 1988.
  • McKeachie, W. J. Teaching Tips. (8th ed.) Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 1986.
  • Scholl-Buckwald, S. “The First Meeting of Class.” In J. Katz (ed.), Teaching as Though Students Mattered. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, no. 21. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985.
  • Serey, T. “Meet Your Professor.” Teaching Professor, 1989, 3(l), 2.
  • Weisz, E. “Energizing the Classroom.” College Teaching, 1990, 38(2), 74-76.
  • Wolcowitz, J. “The First Day of Class.” In M. M. Gullette (ed.), The Art and Craft of Teaching. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Summary Checklist

  • Introduce yourself
  • Allow the Students to introduce themselves
  • Discuss and evaluate the room environment together
  • Course overview
  • Departmental requirements/expectations
  • Presentation of material
  • Expectations for class time
  • Expectations outside of class
  • Instructor responsibilities
  • Student responsibilities
  • Assessment
  • Cooperation/communication/resources

This teaching guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Edited by Judith Littlejohn, August 1 2018

Teaching Tip Image