Academic Integrity,  Assessment and Evaluation

Serious (about) Academic Misconduct? A lesson plan

Students encounter mixed messages when it comes to the seriousness of different forms of academic misconduct.  As instructors, we may be assuming that our colleagues teach about and respond to academic misconduct issues in a similar way to ourselves, when very often, they do not.

This post provides a lesson plan (using the “BOPPPS” model) for helping students see what the most serious mistakes would be in your course and why.

Lesson Plan for Clarifying Expecations

B is for “Bridge-in”

What the instructor does What the students do Notes, Materials, Tips

Introduce topic

(2 – 5 min)


Listen, reflect

Ideas:   tell a story of confusion over expectations you have seen in the past; connect misconduct to events in the profession/field

Tip:  Create an emotional connection as this gets students engaged – especially if you make your own emotional connection apparent and good will toward students

O is for “Objective/Outcome”

What the instructor does What the students do Notes, Materials, Tips

Share the learning objective

 (< 1 min)


Listen to and/or read what the purpose is of the activity


LO:  Students will identify the forms of academic misconduct their instructor is most concerned about in the context of this course

P is for “Pre-assessment”

What the instructor does What the students do Notes, Materials, Tips

Activate and assess students’ prior knowledge or experience


Reflect on their own past confusion or uncertainty, become ready to resolve it

Some will share

Question:  “What are some examples of different interpretations of the same rule that you have heard or noticed? I’d like to quickly hear two or three right now.”


–       Do not respond or comment on the examples, except to thank students for sharing.   You may want to pick up on examples in the summary.

–       Call on students for examples if volunteers do not come forward.  Give students some notice you will do this as it can help bring volunteers forward.

P is for “Participation”

What the instructor does What the students do Notes, Materials, Tips

Explain and set up sort activity

(5  – 10 min)

In-person, this is a  table top activity where students move examples between two end points:  “most serious, least serious”

On-line, adapt this for breakout room discussion and/or using Google doc/slides or Mural to move examples



In groups, discuss provided examples and place on a continuum of most to least serious.





Pick five (5) examples that are most relevant include two or three that you think will be harder to place to create “it depends” responses.

Materials:  link to examples to select from, “most serious” to “least serious.”  Or create your own.


–       Definitely let students know that some examples are intentionally more difficult to place and that you hope there will be some differences of opinion

–       “Circulating” is possible in-person and in break out rooms, let students know you may join them briefly to see how the activity is going.

–       Different groups can use the same or different examples, if you want to generate or select more.

—   Near activity wrap up, have students identify 1 question for the instructor that has resulted from the activity

P is for “Post assessment”

What the instructor does What the students do Notes, Materials, Tips

Facilitate debrief to check how close students are to how you would sort the examples

 (5 – 10+ min)


Share their thinking in groups or as a class


Ask questions of the intructors

Prompt:  ‘Let’s go around and hear one example from each group that you found needed more discussion or where you didn’t agree’


—  You can collect the questions, saving them for your summary, or answer them in debrief.  Consider timing requirements of both.

—  In-person where space allows, students could travel from table to table.

—   On-line, a shared tool can allow students to see what other groups did or thought

S is for “Summarize”

What the instructor does What the students do Notes, Materials, Tips

Summarize the point of the lesson, provide information on what will be considered most serious in this course*


(3 – 5 min)


Reassess seriousness, reflect on expectations, plan

Present what forms of academic misconduct you are most concerned about and, importantly, why you are concerned about them.  Compare this to what students identified, focusing on discrepancies.


–       Post the learning objective again as a reminder about what the take-aways are meant to be from this activity

–       When explaining ‘why’ something is serious present multiple reasons like fairness at the course level but also skills sets and ethics you want them to have going forward

–       Before discussing potential penalties, first point students to resources or programming that can help them avoid the forms of academic misconduct you have identified

–       Important:  Indicate that you would rather help them resolve any issues upfront than deal with academic misconduct errors


* Don’t miss the opportunity for active learning

Just in case you are tempted to skip straight to the last point of the lesson, explaining the academic misconduct you find most serious—here is why the full lesson is far more likely to clarify expectations.

The sort activity is a form of active learning and is likely to do the following:

  • For instructor:  clarify what your own greatest concerns are in a list of several and identify a few examples where students may be less clear on expectations or seriousness in your context
  • For students: discuss openly the situational factors associated with some academic misconduct noting differences, similarities, and questions that result; helps students see why academic integrity matters among their peers

The debrief can also be active and is likely to do the following:

  • For instructor:  see where students find expectations ambiguous, focus instruction and referral to resources on these areas of greatest concern
  • For students: pose questions for the instructor as coming from within group setting rather than individually (something they may be reluctant or afraid to do on their own)

Please contact who has designed and conducted this activity with a range of groups, including faculty in departments, for questions about the approach and help fine tuning the lesson plan for your context.