Academic Integrity

This page provides teaching staff with advice on what they can do to enhance academic integrity in the classroom, what their responsibilities are, and provides links to both internal and external resources on the topic.  

Key Takeaways

The definition of academic integrity as it relates to staff and students

How to establish an academic integrity culture and take action on violations

How staff and students share responsibility in establishing academic integrity

Academic Integrity in DSC

Academic Integrity in DSC: Culture and Compliance

Academic integrity is defined as: ‘a commitment, even in the face of adversity, to six fundamental values: honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage. From these values flow principles of behaviour that enable academic communities to translate ideals to action’ (International Centre for Academic Integrity, 2014).

Or as the 19th century author, poet, and philosopher Henry David Thoreau put it:  ‘Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.’

Academic Integrity: Something Worth Talking About

In DSC we are committed to ensuring students understand the importance of academic integrity. Students need help to understand that academic integrity is not just about the preparation of assessments for their studies, but a way of thinking and behaving that demonstrates ethics and values in respecting and acknowledging others’ ideas and being ethical practitioners in their future professions. Cultivating academic integrity in your classrooms involves a careful juggle and enactment of both policy and practical tips for you to successfully develop these skills and qualities in your students.

Academic Integrity: It’s Everyone’s Business

RMIT University upholds academic integrity as fundamental to the scholarship we undertake as an academic community. Staff are expected to maintain integrity in all aspects of their work, and teaching staff have a responsibility to ensure students recognize academic integrity as essential to the scholarly skills and behaviours they acquire throughout their studies.

Staff should be role models for students in demonstrating commitment to the values of academic integrity.


What Can I Do?

  • Ensure your understanding of AI and its implementation is current by doing the staff micro-cred. Academic integrity at RMIT includes link to AI module for staff that covers both education and compliance
  • Be aware of RMIT policy and procedure regarding AI. Academic Integrity Policy
  • Model academic integrity in your teaching materials and PowerPoints by referencing sources of ideas and images.

Building a Classroom Culture of Academic Integrity: It’s Up to You

As a teacher, you have significant influence on a student’s decision to either act with academic integrity, or to cheat. A personalised learning relationship is as important as curriculum design when it comes to fostering high standards of academic integrity. Students more easily rationalise cheating when there is a perceived absence of care or interest from their teachers (Bretag et al. 2018).


What Can I Do?

  • Be approachable. Provide opportunities for your students to talk to you
  • Design early low-stakes assessment and authentic assessment tasks. Students are more likely to be engaged and less likely to cheat
  • Provide clear instructions for assessment tasks and check that students understand what is required
  • Ensure students receive feedback that helps them learn from the work they do
  • Discuss possible breaches of academic integrity with your students
  • Lead by example. Ensure your class materials reflect AI values
  • Foster a sense of belonging. The more students know each other and feel comfortable, the more they will help one another and come to you for advice
  • Remind students they can apply for an extension and/or Special Consideration if they are struggling to meet the due date (School and University policy permitting)

Creating a Culture of Academic Integrity: An Educative Approach

DSC recommends staff take an educative approach to developing academic integrity and this requires fostering both a culture of integrity and an understanding of compliance. In this way, we can support students to safely learn scholarly skills and behaviours throughout their program and undertake their studies with integrity.

Students need information and guidance on AI from their first class. As they continue with their studies and this information is reinforced, students will further understand the principles of academic integrity and applications to academic and professional practice.

Many factors associated with academic integrity breaches (also referred to as academic misconduct) can be influenced by the culture of integrity in the classroom. Misconduct can occur due to lack of understanding of how to comply with RMIT policy and expectations. To help set a positive culture for your students, make sure you are clear in the language, assessments and expectations that you set in your course.

What Can I Do?


  • Provide students with resources and encourage conversations that raise their awareness of the importance of academic integrity, particularly first year students and cohorts who may have started mid-year or articulated into the program
  • Design assessment tasks that negate opportunities for cheating.  Make sure to change the topic, question and context of tasks from previous years
  • Ensure your learning resources model good practice foracademic and/or professional integrity
  • Uphold values and practices of academic integrity in your own work and research.


  • Ensure your students are aware of expectations in RMIT academic integrity policies
  • Remember that RMIT academic integrity policies apply to you too. Work with the Library to ensure all learning resources in your Canvas shell are copyright cleared, and don’t forget to caption and/or reference images and text
  • Ensure your first-year cohort and new students complete the student micro-credential on AI

Academic Integrity Breaches

Responding to Suspected Breaches of Academic Integrity

All staff involved in assessing student work (including sessionals) are responsible for detecting and reporting any suspected breaches of academic integrity. Staff need to be consistent in their approach to managing either suspected or substantiated breaches.

Refer to this Senior Officer Response chart and the University Staff AI module for guidelines on responding to academic integrity breaches. Work with your program and/or course teaching team to ensure you are all familiar with what to do when there is a suspected breach. TEQSA have also developed this extensive guide for investigating suspected contract cheating as well as tips for interviewing students about a suspected case.

What Can I Do?


  • Use your academic judgement when you suspect a breach
  • If applicable, use Turnitin to check a suspected breach (text only). For images, you can use Google Imageor Yandex
  • Be firm but fair when you discuss suspected misconduct/plagiarism with students
  • Communicate privately with the student. The rest of the class doesn’t need to know!
  • Consider why the student chose not to act with academic integrity and how to avoid it in the future
  • Provide advice and information to the student about why they have been found in breach
  • Ensure they feel more confident to act with integrity with their next assessment
  • Consider the severity of the breach and the student’s level of understanding and skill in your response


Understanding Academic Integrity Breaches

One of the most concerning breaches of academic integrity is plagiarism. Despite our best efforts to motivate and influence students to act with integrity, there are still instances where students intentionally or unintentionally plagiarise another person’s work. Although it may be unintentional in many instances, it still amounts to plagiarism.
Understanding why students may plagiarise can help you to take an educative approach to address situations.

Unintentional Plagiarism 

Unintentional plagiarism primarily usually occurs through ignorance of academic writing conventions. It can also occur in creative disciplines where the borders between inspiration, appropriation and copying can be blurred. Unintentional plagiarism happens when students:

  • Lack sufficient language proficiency
  • Have inadequate academic writing and referencing skills
  • Are unclear about teacher’s expectations and marking criteria
  • Lack understanding of academic integrity
  • Have a different attitude towards plagiarism due to upbringing or cultural differences


Collusion occurs when a student collaborates on an assessment task with another person without your knowledge or permission, and then submits the work as their own. Collusion is most likely to occur in assessments involving group work. It is important that you provide your students with clear and straightforward instructions about how to avoid collusion when collaborating on group work assessment tasks.

Intentional Cheating

There are many reasons why students cheat. You can help prevent students from falling into cheating by creating a culture of integrity, belonging, respect, and trust in your classroom.
‘Contract cheating’ is an increasingly prevalent form of cheating where students enlist the help of someone to prepare work for them. This can include friends or family but concerningly, it is often illegal services where students order and pay for completed assignments. When discussing contract cheating with students, make them aware that they could also be targeted by a service and the consequences are serious if they engage. These illegal services can embroil students in blackmail scenarios that can be seriously detrimental to their wellbeing and academic success. Recognising when and how a student may have been involved in contract cheating can be difficult, so understanding why students might resort to these actions is vital.

Contributing Factors: why students cheat (adapted from Bretag et al. 2018) 

  • Limited understanding of the seriousness of the act  
  • Perception that it is normal behaviour 
  • Poor time management and procrastination  
  • Easy access to essay mills and code sharing websites  
  • Lack of institutional support for academic integrity  
  • Perception of staff apathy, knowledge, and dedication  
  • No fear of detection or consequences, due to seeing ‘cheaters’ get better marks and not caught  
  • Dissatisfaction with the learning environment 
  • Pressures and life complexity, fear of failure, pressure to get good marks  

There are also psychological states and traits associated with plagiarism and cheating (Bretag et al, 2019/2020) that students may show:  

  • Low conscientiousness  
  • Anxiety 
  • Low self-control  
  • Competitive mindset   
  • Impulsiveness 
  • Low confidence 
  • Poor resilience   
  • A lack of concern  

What Can I Do? 

Knowing the factors that influence students’ decisions about cheating can help you to prevent it in the first place and know it when you see it. A classroom culture that fosters the values of integrity and well-designed assessments can support you in this.  

Things to look for in students’ behaviour and their work:  

  • Low levels of attendance/engagement 
  • Inconsistent demonstration of learning 
  • A student’s stress and anxiety levels 
  • A sudden increase in the use of written English 
  • Creative assignments with no developmental work or documentation 

Academic Integrity in the Curriculum 

Scaffolding Academic Integrity in the Curriculum

You can work with your program colleagues to scaffold the development of academic integrity across the program and curriculum. Foundational skills need to be imparted and practised in the first year of study and continually developed into higher year levels.

You can support students’ growth in AI by using authentic assessment designs, mapping AI progression through the curriculum, supporting the development of key academic skills and setting consistent expectations for academic integrity in courses and assessment.

Authentic Assessment Design

Authentic assessment design can mitigate breaches of academic integrity by engaging students in tasks that have application to real-world contexts. When students are engaged in activities perceived to be meaningful, they are less likely to cheat. Authentic assessment also provides students with the opportunity to apply so-called ‘soft skills’ such as communication, listening, empathy, time management, leadership etc, and to utilise reflective thinking and judgement—processes that encourage the development of values and ethical behaviour.  

What Can I Do? 

  • Design assessments to reflect real-world and industry-based knowledge, practices, and skills. 
  • Avoid traditional forms of assessment such as exams or multiple-choice quizzes. 
  • Include the development of ‘soft skills’ in your classroom activities and assessments. 
  • Discuss the application of ethics and values in life and the workplace.  

 The DSC L&T team can help you to develop authentic assessment tasks and content in your courses. Contact the team on for assistance.  


More information

Visit our page on Authentic Assessment for more information, resources and tips.

Mapping AI across the program

You can work with your program colleagues to create holistic views of how academic integrity is scaffolded for development and how students are supported throughout the program. Mapping will help you target courses to design in points for introducing skills and their practice in the first year of study and continuing development through higher year levels of the program. There will be times when you will need to consider support and scaffolding for new students entering the program as pathway or mid-year intake cohorts. 

The DSC LT team can assist you with identifying opportunities to enhance AI and map development across program and/or courses. The team can be contacted at  

Academic writing and referencing skills

Students need to learn the practices of academic writing and referencing. These skills are integral to, and form part of the larger picture of academic integrity. It is important to support students in developing these skills from their very first assessment task. 


What Can I Do? 

  • Refer students to the RMIT Library resources on academic writing and referencing 
  • Support students to understand the difference between paraphrasing, summarising, quoting, and referencing 
  • Explain to students whyreferencing is important 
  • Set a good example by using correct referencing techniques in your course materials  
  • Use plagiarism software (Turnitin) for all written assessments and familiarise students with how it works 

Setting expectations for academic integrity in your course and assessments

It is important that you set clear expectations about academic integrity from the outset of your course and reinforce these expectations in class discussions and assessment tasks.   

The table below is a suggested schedule (modified from Academic Integrity Module Support Guide) for nurturing an academic integrity mindset and behaviour in students in courses. Go to the Guide for more detail. 

Academic Week

What Can I Do?


Week 1:
Intro to AI

  • Introduce the concept of academic integrity
  • Refer to resources and support available from the Library and the Study & Learning Centre  
  • Set the standard: acknowledge all sources of information in your course materials and presentations  
  • Make time for students to complete the AI micro-credential and/or link it to an assessment task.

Week 2:

Intro to Assessment Task 1

  • Show how to acknowledge sources and to reference.
  • Discuss plagiarism discipline-specific information, such as computer code, images or data, or music
  • Reassure students they can contact you if they have questions
  • Describe the difference between working together and collusion.
  • Discuss examples and ethical issues associated with cheating and plagiarism.  
  • Check they understand what is expected of them and that they are aware of the consequences of breaking the rules.  
  • Remind them their work will be checked for plagiarism
  • Show them how to submit their work
  • Remind them that all assessments must include a declaration of authorship.

For ideas, visit:   

Help your students with  referencing : 

Week 4
Just prior to due date

  • Provide reminders of AI during class, followed up with Announcements in Canvas.
  • Inform students they can get study help through various University study support services
  • Show how to use Turnitin’s similarity reports on their assignments
  • Explain they can ask for help and/or ask for an extension if necessary.

Remind students to:

  • Protect their written work by not making it available to others (intentionally or unintentionally)  
  • Log off from shared computers, remove USBs or other file storage devices, and collect printouts  
  • Check their references and make sure they have correctly distinguished between their original ideas and those of others. 

Assignment Support:


Week 6

After marking

Use this opportunity to reinforce academic integrity values to the whole class and to individual students.  

Suggested strategies  

Useful Resources

For use with and for students

    Academic Writing and Referencing:

    Preventing Plagiarism: