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Punish or Educate? Cullen’s Research Focuses on Academic Integrity Policies

Courtney Cullen

by Larissa Lozano

Courtney Cullen, a PhD Student at the Institute of Higher Education, examines the impacts of academic integrity policies on student behavior and why education-based policies are more effective in preventing academic dishonesty in comparison to punishment-based policies. Her findings appear in the Journal of College and Character.

With research based on cognitive moral development theory, Cullen finds that the best way to prevent acts of academic dishonesty is to teach students to treat cheating as a moral issue. She argues that having measures such as honor codes and education-based policies are essential to promote moral development among students.

Placing an obligation on students to uphold integrity and clarifying institutional policies through honor codes highly decreases the number of students participating in academic dishonesty. Cullen cites that "71% of student respondents at an institution without an honor code, and 35% of student respondents at an institution with an honor code witnessed another student cheating."

Punitive policies focus on using harsh actions such as suspension or expulsion to prevent cheating and do not show students why their actions were problematic and promote accountability at the bureaucratic level instead of the institutional level.

"The last 30 years has seen increased focus on approaches that educate students in academic integrity and reintegrate them into their institutions when they cheat," Cullen claims.

Cullen argues that these educational approaches are a better alternative as students often have a limited knowledge of academic honesty and are not fully aware of university policies, which can lead to dishonest acts. By promoting a non-punitive environment through proactive communication between students, faculty, and administration, educational approaches increase trust in an institution.

"It takes an entire campus working together to develop a culture of integrity that embraces ethical and responsible students and does not simply focus on policing and punishing cheaters," states Cullen.

Read the full article here.

Courtney S. Cullen (2022) Pivoting From Punitive Programs to Educational Experiences: Knowledge and Advice From Research, Journal of College and Character, 23:1, 48-59, DOI: 10.1080/2194587X.2021.2017973

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Doctoral Student
Tuesday, May 3, 2022 - 1:28pm

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