What is Integrity?

Defining integrity in the context of learning

Integrity can have slightly different meanings depending on the context that it is being talked about, but ultimately it is about acting in a way that represents your ideas, opinions or work and being honest. For instance, this can be about things that you talk about, as well as what we have asked of you in an assignment. In the context of learning to act with integrity is also to make sure that you represent the ideas and work of others correctly, through citation, paraphrasing and any other form of attribution (whether verbally, in writing or any other work such as designs, drawings, code, practical tasks). To act with integrity means also to avoid fabrication and falsification when making experiments, collecting data, building artifacts. It means to behave honestly during your exams and test and, in general, in any context of learning.

Importance for students

For students, this means that when your teachers and instructors are reading your assignment, looking at your work or seeing you present on a topic, they know that the ideas and work that you present was done by you. It is fine to use other people’s work as good examples, but make sure that you say who or where you got the idea from. There are so many experts in the world in the topic you will study, it’s great to show that you have heard of them or admire their work, but make sure that if you use it for your ideas, this is represented.

If you are attempting to take short cuts in your course and cheat, this not only disrespects the instructor, but it also disrespects other students. Most students complete their work with honest and hard work, people trying to cheat show disrespect to the learning process and the honesty of other people. We take this really seriously and want the learning environment to be fair for everyone. If you don’t act with integrity in your learning, then ultimately you are cheating yourself by not learning skills that your friends and colleagues will learn.

Importance for instructors and teachers

As a staff member you have an understanding of integrity, what it means for students and instructors and what the rules are around plagiarism and other forms of cheating. If you don’t, make sure you keep reading and look up the Code of Ethics and Conduct. However, it is so important that you also model this behaviour to others, especially your students. Think about what you are presenting in your lectures and session guides. Have you referenced everything in there, including images? If you are asking students to present new ideas to you or critically consider other ideas in the field, are you also doing this in your educational materials and not just recycling what you have done before?

It is also important that you include teaching of integrity within your course materials so that this is not just kept as a separate point of conversation. Students see that we take this seriously for your teachers and instructors as well! Be vigilant about what is submitted and take any suspicion seriously so as not to devalue your subject.