single image

Pedagogo S3E6: Restorative Justice and Academic Integrity

Dr. Divya Bheda is joined by Dr. James Earl Orr Jr., a senior higher education administrator who currently serves on the Board of Directors for the International Center for Academic Integrity. Dr. Orr discusses the principles of restorative justice and the educational benefits that can be realized when they are applied to situations involving academic misconduct.

Guest Bio:

Dr. James Earl Orr Jr. is a senior higher education administrator with over 16 years of experience serving on the leadership teams in academic affairs, student affairs, and strategic enrollment management across multiple universities. Dr. Orr currently serves on the Board of Directors for the International Center for Academic Integrity and is a recipient of the Waldvogel Exemplar of Integrity Award for “demonstrating courage and perseverance in championing the ideals of academic integrity in the face of opposition and adversity.” He has overseen the revision process of the academic integrity policies and procedures at two major research universities and consults with several other campuses on their revision processes. Dr. Orr consistently presents on pedagogy strategies to promote academic integrity, organizational responses to academic misconduct, and campus partnerships to enhance the academic integrity of institutions. He is recognized for his professional experience in overseeing the implementation of educational programs designed to promote a culture of honesty, integrity, and student success. 

Dr. Orr earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Tennessee at Martin. He obtained his master’s degree and Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from Mississippi State University. 

Transcript:

Announcer:

Pedagogo, the show that brings education to your ears and meta mastery to your assessments. Today’s episode discusses restorative justice and academic integrity, and how you can apply restorative justice principles to foster a culture of honesty, integrity, and engaged learning. Pedagogo, brought to you by ExamSoft, the digital assessment solution that gives you actionable data for improved learning outcomes. When integrity matters, ExamSoft has you covered.

Divya Bheda: 

Hello again, dear listeners. Thank you for joining us for this engaging episode of Pedagogo, where you all and I get to learn from an experienced expert on restorative approaches to academic integrity, Dr. James Orr. As you know, season three of Pedagogo has been all about big ideas and trends in education. And one of the big issues that has come up this past year with COVID-19 in play and remote testing gaining prominence has been the issue of academic honesty and integrity. 

Divya Bheda: 

Research, higher ed news, social media, and list of faculty conversations, and various other surveys seem to indicate that there is a perception that this issue of academic dishonesty and integrity violations has been on the rise during this past year. I know from a number of direct conversations with higher ed colleagues across the board, the faculty, and institutions are constantly looking for ways to mitigate and preempt this issue. So the time is right for this conversation. Dr. Orr James, thank you so much for being here today and having this conversation with us. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward to the conversation. 

Divya Bheda: 

So, we are here to learn from you about what we can and should do as educators to facilitate and promote academic integrity. I know we want to hear your thoughts and gain your insights about best practices around how to address violations as well. 

Divya Bheda: 

But before we begin this conversation, let me tell our listeners a little bit about you. Dr. James Earl Orr Jr. is a senior higher education administrator with over 16 years of experience serving on the leadership teams in academic affairs, student affairs, and strategic enrollment management across multiple universities. 

Divya Bheda: 

Dr. Orr currently serves on the board of directors for the International Center for Academic Integrity, ICAI, and that’s how I’ve go- I came to meet him and is the recipient of the Waldvogel Exemplar of Integrity Award for demonstrating courage and perseverance in championing the ideals of academic integrity in the face of opposition and adversity. 

Divya Bheda: 

He has overseen the revision process of the academic integrity policies and procedures for several campuses and universities, including research I universities. And he consistently presents on pedagogy, strategies to promote academic integrity, organizational responses to academic misconduct, and campus partnerships to enhance the academic integrity of institutions 

Divya Bheda: 

So let us start with the fact that you have been in the academic integrity space for well over 15 years. Could you share a little bit about your journey on what drew you to this particular space and why… what made you so passionate about it? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, absolutely. So it’s, it’s very interesting. I started off as a graduate student and I didn’t have any idea about academic integrity in terms of the space and what it meant as a profession. Uh, but the institution I was at had just implemented these huge revisions to it’s academic integrity policies and procedures. And we were fortunate to have one of the co-founders of the International Center for Academic Integrity at our institution as the vice-president for student affairs. 

Divya Bheda: 

Wow. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So one day I was talking to him and he said, “Hey, would you like to join this work?” And I said, “Yes, I’d love to learn from you and learn more about the whole field.” 

Divya Bheda: 

As you have been working in this space, could you talk to us a little bit about this relatively new concept of restorative approaches to academic integrity and how that’s coming together and how it’s working in the higher ed space? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, absolutely. So the, the idea of restorative justice started in the criminal justice system. Uh- 

Divya Bheda: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

… it is a space that we’ve recently started talking about in higher ed, particularly in the idea of academic integrity. 

Divya Bheda: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

But the fundamental foundation concepts of this idea of our processes and procedures being studentdevelopment focused has been something that we’ve been talking about since the 90s. But what restorative justice does is it gives us a foundation, and sort of a structure that we can use to structure our student developmental conversations around academic integrity. 

Divya Bheda: 

If you were to share with our listeners, what is a restorative approach? If you could lay that out for them a little bit so that then we could talk about how it’s playing out in the academic integrity space- 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. 

Divya Bheda: 

… that would be wonderful. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Absolutely. So, restorative justice essentially allows an opportunity for, and I’m going to use legalese language that I typically don’t use, but- 

Divya Bheda: 

No, that’s good. (laughs) 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

[crosstalk 00:05:40]. Uh, it allows a, uh, a victim- 

Divya Bheda: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

… and the person who has perpetrated a crime, if you will- 

Divya Bheda: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

… to have an opportunity to have a conversation. 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And as part of that conversation, it allows the person who is the offender, or who has… who have perpetrated the crime to hear the impact of their actions, but not only hear the impact of their actions, but have an opportunity for the victim to communicate the impact that it’s had on them and their world view. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And then, through that conversation, it allows the person who has committed the crime, again, if I’m using legalese language to learn from what they’ve done, learn the impact of it, but also identify ways to restore back the trust that they have breached. 

Divya Bheda: 

Right. So it s- it sounds it’s almost like a healing approach, right? Like a healing approach for all parties involved and an opportunity, especially for the perpetrator of the crime, so to speak, to learn and to improve their behavior or their actions going forward. Right? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Absolutely. Because if you think about traditional ways of how we, uh, punish people who commit crimes, it is you do something and then you receive the punishment. And oftentimes, the person who the crime has been perpetrated against, they, they never get a chance to discuss the impact that has had on them with the person, but also in conversations with the person identify what’s the best way forward? What’s the appropriate response to this? 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Which when you think about higher ed is perfect for the higher education setting when we’re trying to be student-focused and learning-focused. 

Divya Bheda: 

Right. So, if you were to translate this to then to higher ed, how does, how does it translate? Are we talking about students who possibly engage in violations as, as then having to explain or justify their actions? Could you draw the parallels for us? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, absolutely. If we think about it in a higher education context, what it allows a student to do, uh, particularly if we’re talking about academic misconduct is to learn from their actions. So to hear why their actions might constitute a violation of academic integrity policies, but not only why but the impact that that has on the academy and the impact that it has on this community of trust. But then work collaboratively, whether it’s with a faculty member or someone in the conduct office, or maybe someone that they cheated off of to work collaboratively, to identify what the appropriate response is and that response being learning-centered. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So I always use the example of, uh, from a learning center, response may be if a student has plagiarized that having them do service hours may not be the best approach. But what a restorative justice approach may do, it may lend us to say, “You know what, the best approach for this student is a plagiarism seminar.” 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Using those situations as learning moments for the student and then allowing them to restore back to the community and go back and be really good members of the university community. 

Divya Bheda: 

So as I’m listening to you talk about, you know, restorative approaches and then how that translates into academic integrity, best practices. I know earlier you had talked about, we don’t want to call it separately, restorative approaches. We want to call it best practice approaches, uh, to student integrity. Could you share a little bit more about that? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, I think that oftentimes, um, when we begin to attach labels- 

Divya Bheda: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

… it becomes very difficult for us to take into consideration the context of… whether it’s K through 12, whether it’s students who are working on their bachelor’s or master’s or doctorate, and to take it to that context that, that exist in various institutions of higher learning or institutions of learning. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So, what I like to do is to think about it as taking the concepts of restorative justice, this idea that we want to be learning-centered, and that we want to have an opportunity to be restored back to the community and doing that through a conversation and saying, how do we establish our responses to academic dishonesty around those, those big overarching principles? 

Divya Bheda: 

So, so what I’m hearing you talk about is the importance of context, the importance of being learning-centered for students, and the importance of healing and an opportunity for the student to show improvement, as opposed to a punitive compliance-oriented consequence for the student. Right? 

Divya Bheda: 

And what I have often seen in higher ed is the punitive, like, all one size fits all compliance statement in a syllabus or a process that is, “You did this. This is your, like you get a f- you, you failed that assignment or you failed that course or that class or something.” And so could you share a little bit more about how faculty can think about this in terms of them applying it in their own classrooms or contexts? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, what you described is very important because, ah, restorative approaches is being learning-centered. So if we were to boil it down, we say, we wanna do three things. We want to be learning-centered in our response. And part of that means having a conversation with the student. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Traditional modes of responding to, uh, academic misconduct, if you look at the history of it, oftentimes it’s approached from very much solely a legal perspective. And under that legalese perspective, many institutions and learning spaces, what they’ll do is if a student commits some form of academic misconduct, they say, “We have to go to a hearing panel.” And you get this huge hearing board that comes together and the student is, they’re thinking about the court system, so their role, and they view their job as not accepting responsibility, even if they know they did something wrong, right? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And it’s very adversarial in nature. But with a restorative approach, we’re trying not to be adversarial in nature and have it be a conversation as learning focus. And now, that doesn’t mean that the sanction won’t result in, um, sometimes separation from the institution. Sometimes it may result in failure in the course, but what it will do is have a conversation so that you can see what will best meet the learning needs for that particular situation. 

Divya Bheda: 

So, if you were to lay that out as a process, how would that play out? Could you walk me from beginning to end through that process? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. No, the important thing to note though, is that many institutions are going to have different processes, policies, and procedures. And so what I’ll do is I’ll describe things on both ends of the spectrum. And I’ll start with maybe you’re at an institution or you work in a school system that has a very legalese approach. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And that means that all situations have to go before a hearing panel, right? So, how do you have a restorative conversation in that context? Well, the way that you do it is that if you suspect that some form of academic dishonesty has occurred, you don’t wanna immediately accuse the student of engaging in academic misconduct. It’s important to have a conversation with the student. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And when I have those conversations, I do four things. The first thing that you wanna do is to engage the student. Because when a student is suspected of some form of academic misconduct, that doesn’t make up the totality of who the student is. So, [crosstalk 00:13:18] 

Divya Bheda: 

I love that you said that. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Oh, yes. Yeah, you know, and because oftentimes we see the incident that’s happened and our immediate response is, “You’ve plagiarized or you’ve cheated and, and you are, you’re a bad person.” Right? 

Divya Bheda: 

Yeah. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

But there are often things going on in students’ lives that we just don’t know about. So, I like to engage them. And then after you’ve engaged them, then you wanna have a conversation where you identify the particular action. So if it’s plagiarism, you wanna go through and say, you know, “Here’s what I’m seeing. And can you tell me a little bit more about it?” 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So you’re helping them identify the action. But here’s the important piece that I think is so critical for a restorative approach is then you want to reflect with the student. Does the student’s actions are they consistent with the institution’s values? Are they consistent with the student’s own values and have a conversation with the student about that? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And then you would move into the phase about where you’re taking action. So, if it’s something that has to be reported where you’re reporting it, uh, and if it’s a sanction, it has to be assigned, then, then you’re going through that process. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Now, on the other end of the spectrum is that a lot of institutions have built into their process something that I think is so critical and it’s often called an expedited review or a administrative resolution. And when those are built into processes and procedures, the only thing you really have to add is the conversation I’ve just described, but doing that as you’re talking to the student about the alleged incident. 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. So could you share examples of the administrative, you know, actions already that are built-in? So are you saying like a seminar on plagiarism so that the student understands that they’ve committed plagiarism or something like that, is that what I’m hearing? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. So, um, when we think about a case resolution, we know that the literature is very clear as is the case law that not all cases of academic misconduct have to be resolved through a hearing panel or through a court system like procedure, unless you’ve established that in your policies. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And so, an administrative resolution or a, some places calls this a faculty-student resolution allows you to have a conversation with the student. And then the student has an opportunity to accept responsibility for their actions and accept the sanctions that you might assign, accept responsibility but not accept the sanctions, or not accept responsibility. 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

But one of the pieces that I hear you mentioning that is so important is, is this idea of what do our sanctions look like? 

Divya Bheda: 

Yes. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So if we’re, if we’re talking about restorative, what is the… what do they look like? The first piece is that I’m, I’m not a fan of, of one size fit all sanctions. I think that when we do that, it promotes inequities and it’s also not learning-centered so that I believe that sanctions have to be designed so that it promotes the learning for the student, whether that’s a plagiarism seminar, whether that is going to a study skills and time management, student success workshops, because most students who engage in academic misconduct, they don’t do that because they are bad people. Oftentimes they are making, uh, they have poor study habits. They have poor time management skills, and all of that leads to academic misconduct. 

Divya Bheda: 

I love how you’re bringing it together. So yes, so one size doesn’t fit all. Don’t approach it as an adversarial relationship, approach it as a learning opportunity, you know. Engage in the four steps where you’re talking to students, you’re engaging them in conversation having, “I see this, what do you see? Am I right in my perception? Going through, you know, a reflection process and then figuring out actions. And then you’re talking about variation and sanctions. 

Divya Bheda: 

So I love that you’ve highlighted the fact that a lot of times the student is more than that particular incident or that particular action that they are whole human beings. And a lot of times what leads to them engaging in any kind of academic dishonesty are poor skills in other areas where they may need actually remediation and support. So I really appreciate that. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. And sometimes they may just not understand what the standards are, right? And so is this idea of that we use incidents of academic dishonesty as teachable moments. Now I wanna be very clear when I say teachable moments. That also means that sometimes the most… some of the most important lessons that I’ve had with students is the student who was struggling. They engaged in academic dishonesty and they’re sanctioned with separation from the institution. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

I had one student, he, uh, he would come back. After he was o- on suspension for a year, he came back and he would bring me cookies every month. He just stopped by the office and bring cookies. And he said to me, he said, “Dr. Orr, I really appreciate the conversation that you had with me. And you know what? I did need to step back a little bit. Um, and I appreciate you all for, for suspending me during that time period.” (laughs) Now, suspension is not always the answer, right? 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

But it’s this idea of you have the whole gamut of sanctions that you’re using when you’re responding to incidents. 

Divya Bheda: 

Such an important point. You are so right. So, when we think about the issue of academic integrity violations, what are some common mistakes that faculty and institution make when personally dealing with such issues and how can they be avoided? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, they- 

Divya Bheda: 

You talked about one size fits all, yep, if that approach doesn’t work. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

No, it doesn’t. And you don’t wanna be on too extreme. So, uh, one extreme is you have some institutions they say, “If we catch you cheating at our institution then expulsion is the only sanction. So you are, you’re suspended from the institution and you can never come back.” Right? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Well, what that actually does is it drives cheating underground because people will see actions that can- that constitute plagiarism or cheating or academic misconduct, and they won’t report it because they’ll think that the response is too severe. So, what you’re really doing is driving cheating underground. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And then on the other end, you’ll see institutions that say, “We wanna be very soft. So, if you engage in academic misconduct, we’re going to give you a zero on the assignment.” Well, many times that actually incentivizes cheating because students who do the cost-benefit analysis, “If I cheat, then if I’m called, I’m going to receive a zero on this assignment. But if I don’t cheat, I’m gonna fail this assignment,” right? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So, you have to avoid those extremes in terms of thinking about how you’ll respond. The second piece is committing to responding in a learning-centered manner. So when the situation happens, really identifying what the causes of academic misconduct are, and then how do we help the student to restore them and help them learn so that they can go on and be successful. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

The third piece that I would encourage people to do is to talk about academic integrity continuously and often, that it’s not something that you talk about at one time, but you have to talk about it throughout, uh, throughout a student’s journey with you. And not only talk about academic integrity, but demonstrate that you value integrity, that you value integrity personally over grades, over, uh, outcomes that you personally believe that it’s important to act with integrity and honesty. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And I found that when you do those things, particularly this idea of promoting a culture of integrity and honesty, that reduces the academic misconduct that occurs. 

Divya Bheda: 

So, James, what you’re saying is the main mistake to avoid is an extreme approach because too stringent or too lenient sanctions can be counterproductive, right? And so on the proactive side, I hear you saying that we need to focus on the causes of dishonesty so that the students can learn from their mistakes and have the opportunity to become successful. 

Divya Bheda: 

But what I also hear you saying is this emphasis on the need to create a culture of integrity and honesty. Can you tell us a little bit more about this? In your experience, what have you done from a practical standpoint to foster this kind of culture? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

I was at one institution and at this institution we, we really wanted to build the ethos of integrity being important. And so, we didn’t have a requirement that students report cases of academic misconduct that they saw. Faculty had to report it, but we didn’t have the requirement that students reported it. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Well, what that institution found is they went from about five students a year reporting cases of academic misconduct to over 60 or 70 students per year reporting academic… cases of academic misconduct after we removed the mandatory reporting requirement. And these were students who reported cases and were willing to, to sit down and talk to the student that they had reported. Why was that? It’s because we began to address this ethos of creating a culture of honor and integrity, as opposed to simply saying, “We’re going to stop cheating.” 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Students could always, always report, but at sometimes, so you have something that we call traditional honor codes that require students to report cases of academic misconduct. 

Divya Bheda: 

Got it. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And our students, they were not reporting cases because the focus was very punitive in nature- 

Divya Bheda: 

Right. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

… and we removed the requirement, but we focused on integrity and honesty and the value of degrees. And then that created these ethos where students felt like at this institution, we don’t cheat. So if you are cheating, we’re going to, we’re gonna let somebody know about it and we’re also going to let you know that that’s not what we do at our institution. 

Divya Bheda: 

Nice. So it’s, it’s almost like an identity-building element of, “This is who I am. This is what our values are and our collective values are. And I wanna adhere to them in who I am.” 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Absolutely. And because we were using a restorative approach, students didn’t feel like that they were ruining someone else’s life if they reported them, because they knew that it was learning center and that th- they… that their peers were gonna have an opportunity to be restored if you will, as members of the community, 

Divya Bheda: 

This is so wonderful. Such an a, such a, (laughs) such an insightful and wonderful conversation. So I wanna build on a few things that you have said for our listeners. It sounds like communication skills, like faculty communication skills are so, so key to making any of this possible, both in terms of having the initial exploratory conversation of engaging the student, as well as in the reflection process, as well as trying to figure out, what is really the student context and why did this happen? Right? 

Divya Bheda: 

And then when you also mentioned that it has to be… the, the focus on integrity has to be consistent. It shouldn’t be a one-time thing on the first day of class. When you go through the syllabus where you touch on, “If you violate, like, here are the consequences and, you know, all of you obviously shouldn’t engage in any violation,” and that’s it. Right? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

That’s right. 

Divya Bheda: 

So could you give, (laughs) could you give a few examples, like practical examples of, let’s say I am s- a student who cheated, right. What would be some tools or some phrases, or how would that interaction play out as if you were having that conversation with me, and then how should faculty have it be a consistent focus in the classroom as well? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. So, one of the things to make it a, a consistent focus in the classroom is that there should be an element where it talks about academic integrity on the syllabus. Uh, I also think that if you can give an academic integrity quiz, so, if you’re at a place that has a policy on academic integrity maybe they have a quiz already built, if not, have the students go read the policy and then you quiz them on it. That’s absolutely important. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Another piece that I would encourage faculty and institutions to do that I’ve done at multiple institutions is something called understanding the code, where at the beginning of the semester, we would reach out to faculty. And we would say to faculty, “Encourage your students to attend one of these sessions.” We do the same session for three nights in a row, so that students would have options to attend. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

We did it virtually in the midst of COVID, of course. Um, but what we did is talked about academic integrity and why it was important so that we supplemented the conversation that the instructor was having in the classroom. And what we found is doing that gave students a greater understanding of what academic integrity was. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And then, the other piece is that if I’m having a conversation with a student, one of the things that I like to do is to be hard on the issue, but easy on the person and to depersonalize the incident. Because one of the things you’ll hear a student say is that, “I’m not a cheater.” You know, because that, the idea, even if their actions constitute cheating, the idea that someone may be accusing them of being a cheater, that’s something that most of us, we, we… it doesn’t resonate with us. It causes us to many times not to wanna accept responsibility for our actions. 

Divya Bheda: 

Yeah, and get more defensive in the process. Yes. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Absolutely. And if you’ve been watching court TV, then you start- 

Divya Bheda: 

(laughs) 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

… denying, denying, denying. 

Divya Bheda: 

(laughing) [crosstalk 00:26:47] 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So, so it’s this idea of focusing on the… what occurred and the incident and letting the student know that you know that they are not a cheater. That, that we are addressing their actions and their behavior, but not who they are as a person. 

Divya Bheda: 

Right. I love, I love how you frame that again, the idea of depersonalizing it and helping the student realize that you recognize ’cause that’s important for the student to realize that you recognize as their faculty member, that the student is more than this and communicating that to the student.  

Divya Bheda: 

So, based on your experience, and again, like the number of years that you’ve been in this field, what do you see are common reasons why students engage in, in such behaviors? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. Uh, one is procrastination. So many times students, they wait till the last minute to do their assignments and they make poor decisions. A second reason is that sometimes they don’t understand the expectations. So, on some assignments, it might be okay to work in groups, on other assignments, it may be individual work. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And even when we talk about group work, on some assignments, it may be okay if you and I work in a group, but at the end of the day, I have to submit my answer and you have to submit your answer. So we often see this idea of this, um, this push and pull on what’s appropriate collaboration and what’s inappropriate collaboration. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

The other piece that you see is usage of outside resources, what are the resources you can use, and what resources can’t you use? There has been a major, a major shift towards the usage of what we call contract cheating. So where you’re, uh, whether that’s paper meals, where, where someone is having someone write their paper for them, or do assignments for them as well. 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. And so, I can see already from the first couple of reasons that you shared why student success skills are like these additional study habits or time management skills. And I can see already why that would be important. I can also see why an under a stronger, deeper understanding of what constitutes plagiarism or what constitutes a violation would be important so that students can see an example and say, “Oh, okay, I shouldn’t do that. If I’m working in a group or if I’m collaborating, or if I’m getting mentored in some way, how do I still maintain my academic integrity?” So, thank you for those examples. 

Divya Bheda: 

And so, switching the conversation into the faculty side of the house, what would you say are, are ways in which policies can be written, whether it’s in the syllabus or maybe at the faculty committee levels, academic committee levels that would promote a restorative approach? So what should be some of the things that faculty keep in mind when they think about this issue and handling it? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, the, the first piece is, is the, and I mentioned this earlier, is the idea that not all cases of academic misconduct requires a full-blown hearing to resolve those cases. That, no matter how much we try, hearings in general, tend to be adversarial in nature. And it tends to be something where the student views our role as defending themselves as opposed to learning. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

So I think that whereas we’re putting together academic integrity, policies, and procedures, one of the first things that we wanna look at is the ability to resolve cases of academic misconduct outside of the hearing panel, right? 

Divya Bheda: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Hearing panels are important, it’s, it’s critical, but there needs to be other avenues to resolve cases. I also think that it is absolutely critical that there has to be a body or an office at a central level, at an institution that is receiving all the reports of academic misconduct. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Oftentimes as faculty, we want to be the ones that, that determine responsibility and that sanctions the student. And there is a role for faculty to play in the adjudication process- 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

… but there has to be a central body that’s keeping track of all the cases of academic misconduct. So that one, we can ensure that the sanctions are fair and equitable, but also so that we can see if a student is… if their behavior is extending beyond the boundaries of a specific department or a specific college or a specific school. 

Divya Bheda: 

Okay. With these two steps, if I were to take that a little further, when we think about, you know, a learning center approach, when we think about different needs for different students, different reasons why they do it. So it sounds like have multiple options, multiple ways to move forward. What would you say then to faculty who are nervous about, um, equality versus equity? Right? 

Divya Bheda: 

Like, we… what if this student complains that the other student had it light and I didn’t get it… I didn’t have it light. And obviously, you’re giving us person-based response, a context-based response. Uh, what, what have you, so how would you respond to those faculty who are nervous about that differentiation to be equitable, you know, causing- 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. 

Divya Bheda: 

… yeah, coming back to bite them, so to speak. (laughs) 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Absolutely. And that’s why, I saw a model, what I view as a model is an approach that, um, several institutions have employed and it’s called a facilitated discussion model. And, uh, one of the institutions that where I, I wrote their policy and what we have… what we put into the policy is that when a faculty member suspected that academic misconduct was occurring, that they sent it to a central office to review it. And then the central office provided a facilitator who was responsible for facilitating the conversation, a restorative conversation between the faculty member and the student. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And then, at the end of that, the faculty member was able to recommend a sanction. And the central office that’s looking across the institution was able to ensure that the sanctions were fair and equitable. So we were able to have that restorative conversation, but also give, advice to the faculty member to help them ensure that what they were doing was fair from an institutional perspective, without us being prescriptive in saying that all cases of plagiarism received this sanction. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Because, you know, students really are in different spaces. If I’m a senior and I have taken, um, I major in English and has taken several English courses and I’m taking a writing course and I plagiarized in a writing course, that’s very different than a first-year student who’s taking their first writing course, and they’re learning how to conduct research and write a literature review. And so when we look at those sanctions, we have to look at them based on where the, the student is in their learning experience. 

Divya Bheda: 

Wow. I never thought of it like that. I, I like the idea that you shared about having a facilitator, because that takes the pressure off of faculty in terms of how am I gonna have this conversation? You know, does the student feel safe in this conversation? Do I feel safe in this conversation? It allows them to, to experience the impact of the incident while having a facilitator helping them communicate so they don’t have to gain all those communication skills. 

Divya Bheda: 

They can, they can be participants from their own perspective. What would you… What is usually, like, a role or a title for a person like this who would play that kind of role at an institution? If someone were looking to formulate this kind of a process? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. Uh, institutions will give them multiple different titles, um, depending, and depending on your culture of your institution. So, uh, I’ve been at institutions that’s had a very much, so, student led- student leadership gives students student opportunity. So we called them honor council delegates, and we actually train students to do the facilitated discussions. 

Divya Bheda: 

Wow. Nice. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And I’m so [crosstalk 00:34:53] I actually, I have an article coming out that looks at a peer to peer mediation and restorative justice conversations. And in that, I detail how we train students to actually lead those facilitated conversations. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

I’ve also been at institutions where faculty, where you have faculty and academic advisors across campus, that they’ve been the ones to help lead those conversations. And we just call it them facilitators or academic integrity advisors. So it depends on the culture, but I think if the culture is there and you can engage students in having those facilitated discussions, it is so much more powerful. 

Divya Bheda: 

No, thank you for this. It’s, it’s so nice to hear, you know, the accountability circles, part of restorative approaches, you know, being led by students, because then there is a, there is an element of learning, there is an element of commiseration and empathy that I think would benefit all parties involved. So, (laughs)- 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Absolutely. 

Divya Bheda: 

So I appreciate that. Just a couple of more questions. How should policy be written and enacted to be restorative? So you have shared already that we want like, um, a sampling plate where you have different options based on the needs of the student, based on the learning approach, but where should it come up? Should it come up at the, um, faculty Senate, faculty committee academic board, or where should such policies generate out of? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, I, I think it’s absolutely critical that, academic integrity policies, when they’re written that there be faculty engagement, there should be student engagement, there should be engagement from academic advisors. What I’ve done when I’ve, when I have, uh, revised policies or written policies, usually, I appoint a committee that consists of faculty, administrators, and staff, and they do the initial research where they look at what other institutions are doing, usually look at survey results and they do the initial crafting of the document. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And then at that point, we’ve put it through the faculty Senate, through the various governance organization, student government association as well. Uh, but usually that initial drafting is a committee that’s very broad across the campus. And then, of course, you have to make sure that the faculty are on board, that they review it, and the various governance bodies at an institution. 

Divya Bheda: 

And you also mentioned students. So at what point would you involve students in this process? 

Divya Bheda: 

I never considered, like, students being part of the policy development process, but that’s… that sounds like a really good idea. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Absolutely. Because one of the things that I found is that when you engage students in the policy development process, students are going to be able to look at the definitions and help us understand whether these are definitions that we’re writing that when the student reads them are they’re gonna understand them? Or even, what are the things that students are doing to cheat that we may not know, right? 

Divya Bheda: 

(laughs) 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And they say, “You should have this in the policy.” So it’s absolutely critical to have student involvement. 

Divya Bheda: 

That’s wonderful to hear.  

Divya Bheda: 

James, one thing you mentioned was, you know, to have a consistent focus on academic integrity in terms of conversations with your students, right, as faculty members. So how do faculty members do that? Is it just about relationship building with the students or is it something more? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah, it’s several things. One is that, uh, as you think about the course and, and the design, think about, “How do I deliver my course where I’m promoting this genuine commitment to learning?” So where students genuinely commit to learning, they’re less likely to engage in academic dishonesty. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

The second piece is to talk about your academic integrity perspectives during critical points in the semester. So usually that’s the be- beginning of the semester, uh, midterms, and then at the end of the semester, but to have that conversation. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

But here’s what’s far more important identify ways that you can demonstrate the importance of integrity to the careers of students, whether that’s having a conversation about professional codes of ethics, whether that is, if you’re having them respond to a reading prompt that you get a prompt that talks about integrity or someone who acted with integrity. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And you see that piece about responding positively when you see acts of integrity is also critical because what we want to do is to demonstrate to students not only what we don’t want to have occur, but what we want to see occur. 

Divya Bheda: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

And then, demonstrating that you value integrity and honesty as the instructor, and as you’re thinking about your assessment design and the pedagogy saying, “How do I deliver my course in a way, um, that’s fun, is engaging, is promoting student learning? But it’s also one that reduces the chances that academic misconduct might occur. 

Divya Bheda: 

Right. As I’m listening to you, it sounds to me also that then flexibility would play a big role, right? Like if faculty were to, um, appreciate and acknowledge a student coming to them, saying, “I mismanaged my time, I’m not gonna submit this. And I, you know, I’m, (laughs) I’m not able to do this in for whatever reason, for various reasons.” 

Divya Bheda: 

I would rather hear that from the student and then tell the student, “I would rather you come to me saying, you can’t do it on time than for you to do something together or copy something from a website and just put it together or have someone do it. I would rather you do it that way because integrity is important to me.” Am I misunderstanding what you’re saying? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

No, you are absolutely right. Some of the faculty that I’ve seen that has been most successful at promoting academic integrity, they have that conversation with the students at the beginning of the semester. And not only do they tell students that if you get in a time crunch, I want you to come talk to me. Or if you forget to do an assignment, then I want you to earn the grade that you earn, honestly. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

But they also talk to the students about how they respond when academic misconduct has occurred. They use examples throughout their career to let students know that they take it seriously, that they will work with you. If you come to me, I will work with you. But if you don’t come to me and you engage in some form of academic misconduct, here’s how I’m going to respond. 

Divya Bheda: 

That’s wonderful to hear. And so if a faculty member, so let’s say, again, in my consulting experience, in my training experience, when I do workshops on various topics, what I’ve found is a lot of times the syllabi will be very, um, I’ve had the whole, again, like the whole range of syllabi where you’ll have faculty members who are very cut and dry. Like, “This is what the syllabus, these are the learning outcomes, you know, get your stuff done. These are the compliance factors. This is plagiarism. This is academic integrity violation.” 

Divya Bheda: 

And then you’ll have other faculty who’ll introduce themselves build that relationship in their syllabus say, “Life happens, reach out to me if you have any issues.” But then when you get to that violation, academic integrity violation policy statement, it’s very cut and dry. And so in all kinds of communication in classroom and outside of classroom, I’ve often seen faculty, the minute they get two academic integrity violations and the consequences, it becomes very prescriptive and very, like I’m reading out what the, what the statement says, (laughs) as opposed to having a conversation with you, right? 

Divya Bheda: 

So when you have faculty doing this, and then you also talked about, you need to have a central system, you need to have committees, you… So let’s say a faculty member wants to change the way they approach academic integrity in their classroom. They don’t necessarily have a big policy at the institutional level, or it’s like a one size fits all policy. How do they start? What should they do? What should be the first step? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. If a faculty member is trying to change, uh, maybe you don’t have the institutional support, right? 

Divya Bheda: 

Right. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Maybe it’s something that you wanna do just in your class. 

Divya Bheda: 

Right. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

The first thing that I would encourage faculty to do is to take time and think about your assignments. So, rethink your assignments and ask the question, do my assignments, uh, do they promote authentic learning? The second piece is to list your expectations in the syllabus, but you don’t have to go pages and pages long. You just need to list your expectations and then have an open conversation with students about the expectations. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

But don’t just talk about your expectations. Have the students talk about their expectations for the class in terms of what do they believe is going to promote authentic learning? What’s gonna promote engaged learning? Because when you have students, when we involve them, and oftentimes we don’t wanna do this as faculty, because we wanna control the curriculum, which is fine. That’s our role. But when you have students who are involved in conversations about the expectations around honesty and integrity, it promotes that culture and social norming that’s so important in the classroom. 

Divya Bheda: 

You, you raised such a great point because a lot of times people don’t realize that the impact of the academic integrity violation is on the… classmates, right? In terms of who is, who is getting an opportunity or who is getting a better grade, or who is being perceived in, in whatever way. 

Divya Bheda: 

So there are… there is this, this collective consequence and not just the consequence for the faculty member in terms of this impacted how, like I give this test in the future, or you violated my trust. There is a violation of trust among the students. And that’s such a great point about restorative approaches too because restorative approaches is you’re, you are showing your collective responsibility to your whole community whom you have relationships with. So I appreciate that, you know, that strategy as well. 

Divya Bheda: 

So start in your classroom, have very transparent conversations with your students, involve them, have them articulate what academic integrity is and what it means to them to behave in a way of, or behave in an academically honest way. Any other tips for individual approaches that faculty can take? 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Yeah. And that the more you can build that community of trust and demonstrate that you value academic integrity. When students know that you value academic integrity, they’re less likely to engage in academic dishonesty. And the piece about, uh, designing assignments that promote authentic learning, so where you can, it’s not possible in all, uh, assignments, but where you can promote assignments that promote synthesis analysis, where the students are having to apply what they’re learning. So their learning becomes engaging. Then it’s less likely to promote academic dishonesty. 

Divya Bheda: 

I appreciate that you raised that point because that’s something that we’ve talked in a couple of other episodes where we are talking about, you should have assignments that are meaningful, that are real world, that are relevant for students, because if all they have to do is to write a paper that doesn’t seem connected to their life or their career trajectory in any way, then they are not invested and not tied into what they have to do. 

Divya Bheda: 

And so then there is more opportunity now… From what I’m hearing you say, there’s more opportunity for them to dismiss it and just say, “Okay, this doesn’t matter. And it’s okay if I cheat, because, like, this is not what’s important to me.” So thank you for bringing that perspective as well. Any other final thoughts to share before we close out this conversation?  

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

No, but thank you. This is a, it’s a journey. I would encourage people to remember that it’s a journey, it’s a process. And, uh, it’s an exciting one and it’s one that’s so, so deeply important to the academy. 

Divya Bheda: 

Thank you, Dr. Orr. To our listeners, I think what we’ve heard today is the importance of not approaching academic integrity violations in an adversarial manner to take context into, into account, to make sure that it’s learning-centered, it’s student-centered and they’re individual context centered, um, to have critical conversations and consistent conversations about the importance and the value of academic integrity. 

Divya Bheda: 

And then to have collectively resources across campus, both at the central level and at the local level where students can learn all these other skills as well. So they learn about plagiarism. They understand what it means, but they also learn all these other success skills, good study habits, good time management skills, all of that. So that can also help support engaging in academically honest behaviors. 

Divya Bheda: 

Thank you again, Dr. Orr. I really appreciate you, really appreciate this conversation. Thank you for all of our learning. 

James Earl Orr Jr.: 

Thank you. 

Announcer:

This podcast was produced by Divya Bheda in the ExamSoft team, audio engineering and editing by Adam Karsten and the A2K productions crew. This podcast is intended as a public service for entertainment and educational purposes only and is not a legal interpretation nor statement of ExamSoft policy products or services. The views and opinions expressed by the hosts or guests of this show are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ExamSoft or any of its officials, nor does any appearance on this program imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent.

Announcer:

Additionally, reference to any specific product, service or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ExamSoft. This podcast is the property of ExamSoft Worldwide LLC, and it’s protected under U.S. and international copyright and trademark laws. No other use, including without limitation, reproduction, retransmission, or editing of this podcast may be made without the prior written permission of ExamSoft.

Sign up for resource updates

ExamSoft Exam Software