Academic Integrity,  Assessment and Evaluation,  Generative AI

How to Talk with Students About Suspected Academic Misconduct

Faculty and instructors follow up with suspected academic misconduct and when we do, we show we care about

      • students and their learning
      • the validity of the assessment
      • the fairness of grades for all students in the course.

When we don’t follow up, there are risks for students.

  • If students are not made aware of their errors that constitute academic misconduct, they may make the same errors again.
  • If students are aware of their academic misconduct, but there are no consequences, they may risk it again.
  • If other students see that academic misconduct goes unaddressed, they can lose confidence in the fairness of the assessments.


Talking to an individual student

Sometimes we ask a student to meet with us because we are quite sure we have detected academic misconduct. Sometimes we are less sure and want to understand the student’s process and approach.  What a student says in a meeting can help us decide what to do next. We or the student may want to have another person sit in.

The following are suggestions for having a real-time meeting with a student, either in-person or on-line.

  • Understand the academic misconduct regulations
  • Check in with your Associate Dean or their designate who helps manage academic misconduct processes in the College
Set a Meeting
  • Request that the student meet to discuss the concerns in-person or on-line
  • The meeting should occur in a timely manner while also allowing the student to have fair notice about the concerns you want to discuss
In the Meeting
  • Take notes during the meeting
  • Present a clear description of your concern and reasons for it
  • Pose questions that explore the issue (e.g., what was your process for completing this assignment, completing this lab, studying for this exam; what kinds of assistance did you get?)
  • Consider what kinds of responses you could receive and what you might do in each circumstance (e.g., student admits, student denies, student admits some parts and denies other parts, student says they didn’t know, student implicates others, student says nothing)
  • Be ready to pause the meeting or schedule a follow up if emotions (theirs or yours) are running too high (allows you and them to reset)
  • Acknowledge that it is distressing to discuss academic misconduct, have information about wellness supports for students on hand
  • Conclude the meeting with clear next steps — You don’t need to arrive at a decision by the end of the meeting
Follow up
  • Do what you said you would do; meet the timelines you identified — If these need to change, advise the student
  • Send student a summary of key points; ask them to add to or correct any errors or omissions; remind them about wellness supports
  • If you need support or advice, reach out to the lead in your College or the Academic Integrity Strategist


Talking to the whole class

Sometimes we suspect academic misconduct may have occurred with many students in the course but we are not in a position to pursue an allegation. We can still communicate about our concern with the students. What is vital is that we identify the issue and we welcome their questions.  It is a big problem and counter productive if our message makes students afraid to approach us about how to meet the expectations and avoid the academic misconduct. Our message needs to convey and motivate a commitment to learning.

The following could help you be clear about your concern and expectations:

Message What you might say
My concern “I am suspecting X and am concerned about this because….”
What I want for you “I want you

  • to learn
  • to have assessments you produce and the feedback you get to mean something
  • to know you and your peers are receiving the grades that reflect your authentic achievement
  • to avoid the distress of academic misconduct accusations and the penalties that can follow”
What I will reinforce or teach you about today “I am going to review the expectations and show you in more detail the kind of problem I am concerned about

  • The expectation is Y…and this is in place because it helps you learn to…
  • This means that when X happens, you are engaging in academic misconduct for this assessment
  • Instead of X, do Y, and the best ways to do Y are….
  • I want you to ask me questions so that together we can avoid the academic misconduct process — I find academic misconduct accusations and decision processes distressing, too.”


Each College has an identified administrator(s) who can assist and advise.

Dr. Susan Bens, Academic Integrity Strategist, is available to discuss approaches, as well.