Dr. Bill Taylor, a Professor of Political Science at Oakton Community College, wrote a letter to his students regarding academic integrity.  I think this is awesome.  It spells out exceptionally well what he expects of his students and what elements of integrity they should expect out of him.  It makes his procedures for assessment and professionalism transparent to the student.  I think in teacher education, we would also liken this to dispositions.  But Dr. Taylor does a masterful job of explaining why academic integrity is important to him as an individual and why it should be respected by a profession.

What are your thoughts?  Does your school have a code of conduct for academic honesty?  Is it taken seriously?  Should teachers write letters like this home to students — either for middle school, high school or college?  What about elementary schools?  We’ve all sat through the fourth grade reports on dinosaurs, where each student said the exact same thing.  Or for me, worse yet, is where you can tell the parents did the school project.  Where’s the learning?  What might this letter look like to elementary school students?

I’m considering doing this with my students.  What do you think?  Should I?

About Michael M Grant

Dr. Michael M. Grant is a passionate professor, researcher, and consultant. He works with faculty members, schools and universities, and districts to integrate technology meaningfully and improve teaching and learning. When 140 characters just won't work, then he blogs here at Viral-Notebook.com. He has a beautiful wife and three equally beautiful daughters, who will change the world.

25 Thoughts on “A letter to my students …

  1. I agree. Dr.Taylor’s letter is a smart approach in explaining the expectations from the students. Not only did he discuss the integrity on the part of the students but also on the part of the professor. For me this represents the partnership in the teaching/learning experience. I think students would appreciate the discussion over the “why” of integrity and as a result, would form a closer connection with their professor and their learning.

  2. I teach all of my courses (all graduate-level) online. It might be a good activity for the first week of classes to have a threaded discussion about this letter. I really don’t think it would be effective to simply supply the letter to any age group of students, but a discussion about it would be worth a try. It would show that the issues are important enough for some devoted class time. Now, what would a letter like this look for elementary students…..hmmmmm…….

  3. Susan Strauser on February 15, 2010 at 3:49 pm said:

    I think the letters are an effective way to personally tell the students how you feel about integrity and what is expected. I do not think this would work for younger students but would be effective for middle school and on. I think it would be a great idea to write one of these for your students.

  4. I think the discussion would be helpful althrough I agree it will not be for every age group because some of the students will not take it seriously. However, I do agree that this could be helpful. Discuss it with the students then send a letter home to the parents to have it signed.

  5. I think this would make for a great thing to do for all grades. As Chuck stated before, I think not only should a letter be sent home to the students and the parents, but it should be openly discussed in class. It’d be beneficial for the students to hear specifically what their teacher expects from him/her. The children can also be involved in the discussion as to what the letter means to them personally, and how they are going to work towards achieving those goals.

  6. I thought the letter to students was an excellent idea that should be taken on by all teachers, no matter what grade they are teaching. It allows the students to know learn what is expected of them, and in this case also allows them to know what should be expected of the teacher. Once I become a teacher I plan to write letters similar to this to my students as well as to their parents.

  7. Lucy Ford on February 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm said:

    Yes, I think this is a great ideal! I think it can serve as mutual agreement or contract between the student and the instructor. It simply makes a commitment with all parties involved to adhere to rules and guidelines.

  8. This is great for middle and high school students. I am a mother of a 6th grader and I would love to receive such a letter for his teachers. For my elementary son what approach would Dr. Taylor have, may be its mind puzzling but something to think about.

  9. Rheanna Sargent on February 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm said:

    I really liked this letter and at one point in time in a students time of education should read it. Academic integrity is a very important characteristic in any persons life, it can really have an effect on who you become as a person and like Dr. Taylor said it can have an effect on those you come in contact with, like the example Dr. Taylor gave- Would you want a doctor operating on you who had cheated to get by in medical school? I THINK NOT! I think that if you are passionate about your major then you should not cheat or just “get by”, because it is going to be your career, you should know what you are doing thoroughly.

  10. Nitu Alam on February 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm said:

    I completely agree with Dr. Taylor’s statement that “integrity is important in all areas of life.” The idea of the letter is great, however it might not be as useful when it comes to students of younger age. What about an activity where they are required to compose a paragraph or two about the wrongs of plagiarism? Another idea is for them to create a short story about a person who cheated on a test or assignment and how they learned a lesson the hard way. I feel that the idea as a whole is terrific, and could be used to educate our students about academic integrity through various activities.

  11. Erica Conrad on February 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm said:

    I think that this idea about academic integrity can be viewed differently depending on the certain situation that it applies to. I think that every school no matter what educational level should have some type of rules laid out for all of the students to be shown. In college, every student is capable and able to understand what they are doing. If we are talking about lower levels like high school or elementary, a teacher can find different ways to make sure the work is their own. For example, they could make the projects so they have to be finished in class so that you know mom isn’t doing the work for them at home. If their is no time for that make them present it to the class and grade them on the knowledge along with the project.

  12. I think this is a great idea to do with your students that way they are aware of what is expected of them.

  13. Di Di Ross on February 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm said:

    I believe the letter is an excellent idea, could be modified for all grade levels, and is becoming a necessity for parents to understand that the teaching of integrity is a team effort. I will implement something similar to Dr. Taylor’s letter with my classes simply to keep expectations clear and standards high.

  14. I believe that academic integrity is very important to have for students as well as teachers. Parents should know that the teachers are concerned about their child’s education. The only way to do this is to make the parents aware of the students’ progress. Also, the students need to know what is required of them on a daily basis, and this is a good tool to show them what is expected.

  15. @everybody, thank you so much for contributing. I’m really surprised that there really weren’t any real dissenters or folks who thought this was “over the top” or “too much.” I also really liked @Di Di, Erica, Deena and others who really connected the academic integrity piece and the relationship to parents, too.

    Do you all think college students (or younger) would take this seriously?

  16. Federico on February 16, 2010 at 10:31 pm said:

    Well, I will have to dissent then. But, before that, let me say that I find Dr. Taylor’s letter a good instructional design effort of sorts, for it teaches about something at the same time that he is addressing an academic issue at the beginning of a course. I also agree with him and many of you about the importance of integrity in all areas of life. However, is the message getting through?

    I teach language and many times I have this realization that something I am saying, though appropriate for the level my students are at and for the lesson I am going through, it’s simply not registering, being understood, or, in the end, communicated. This may be because, at some point, my students and me are not in the same page. There are concepts and words that they simply have not been exposed to. Dr. Taylor does an excellent work at describing what integrity is and how it’s shown, and how it’s going to be measured/evaluated. Still, can his students relate to the importance of integrity? what about to the word/concept integrity itself? Just a dissenting thought. 🙂

  17. mreed-uu on March 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm said:

    Dr. Taylor made a very wise decision by writing to his students and making them aware of his beliefs of academic integrity. By writing out his personal beliefs, his students are aware of what he stands for. As a college student I would personally take Dr. Taylor’s views of integrity to heart. Now I cannot speak for other college students, but I like how Dr. Taylor goes in depth about how academic integrity applies to certain areas of his class and curriculum. I believe that even in the younger age groups, the parent’s of the children would appreciate the teachers concern regarded their child.

  18. Legon Craighead (UU) on March 10, 2010 at 5:53 pm said:

    I believe that it is vital to make known the standards you have for academic integrity within your classroom. The thing that I thought was best in Dr. Taylor’s letter was that he put standards for himself as well as his students. I have personally been in classrooms that had set rules for students that the teacher did not always abide by. It made the rules seem pointless to the students because they knew that the teacher did not follow them. The fact that Dr. Taylor is willing to set standards for himself that the students are able to us to gauge his performance was very respectable. It shows great commitment to his students and his desire to model what he expects of them. It is my opinion that all teachers should have these standards for their classroom and make them known to their students. It will differ in intensity and word choice depending on the age of your students, but all classrooms should be built on a base of academic integrity.

  19. Lacey Hampton (UU) on March 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm said:

    I think that this letter is wonderful. As a student, I appreciate honesty and openness in a professor and Dr. Taylor definitely exhibits those traits. Setting clear standards for his students, and himself, lets them know what they can expect in his course and gives them a much better chance of success. I feel that most college and maybe even high school students would appreciate that kind of candidness from their instructor. However, simply typing up a letter and sending it home is not enough-for this to be effective, the teacher would certainly need to first discuss the subject with the students, because honestly the letter is a bit too long and many students would simply overlook it. And this seems obvious but if you put something out there like that as an instructor, you have to be certain you live up to your end of the deal, or the students will lose respect for and trust in you.

  20. ryoung(UU) on March 13, 2010 at 8:27 pm said:

    Reading this gave me a great respect for Dr. Taylor. Integrity is such an important thing to have. Integrity can be a hard thing to find these days, but it is something each one of us should have in our lives. I greatly appreciated that he not only told what to expect of his students in this area, but that he too was held responsible as a professor to have integrity.

  21. Tara Thomas on June 18, 2010 at 5:37 am said:

    This letter is an example of the high character that drew me to teaching. I alway thought of it as a noble profession and the idea of learning as a great opportunity and responsibility. I have had some responsibilties that I have made me become a little jaded.
    I remember being a freshman in college in a class of over 100 people. Everybody received the syllabus. The next day, less than half of the students showed up. I just could not understand how flip some people where about education.
    When I graduated, it was such a great feeling of accomplishment. Although some of the cremony was boring and hard to hear, I was just so proud to have made it through and to have gained knowledge that would help me teach others and become an independent adult. I remember getting my diploma and going to my seat and seeing others get theirs, unzip their robes, throw them in the truck, and walk out the door.
    I know I may seem really “pie in the sky” here, but seeing people be so unconcerned about the awesome opportunity that so many others want but will never have shows not only an lack of concern but also integrity.
    We need more educators who explain and demand integrity and even more to show it. If this were the case, maybe we would have fewer problems with plagarism, deception in relationships (real and in cyberspace) , and less chance of this whole financial mess that we are muddling through now.

  22. Ellan Thompson on June 19, 2010 at 3:55 am said:

    I think that’s a great ideas to give this to your students. It shows that you are serious as an educator and you are concern about your students being learners in your classroom community. As for sending it home to my students, I don’t think the students or parents would take it seriously, if they read it at all. For the most part, I feel that character begins at home and most student react the way their parents do. In cases like those I pull out my character hat and teach the students what they failed to get at home.

  23. Amy Johnson on November 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm said:

    As an elementary teacher, I believe that most of my parents would appreciate receiving a letter explaining expectations for teacher and student. Every year, I send a letter home introducing myself and listing some expectations, but not to this extent. Thank you Dr. Taylor for being so open and bold. People (not just students) can rise up to expectations if they are made known in the beginning.

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