Teaching Integrity to Middle School Students

Creating a Culture of Integrity in the Classroom

As we work to provide young people with the skills they need to be successful in the workplace, Warren Buffett reminds us of the characteristics that distinguish excellent employees:

When hiring new employees, seek three attributes in particular: integrity, intelligence, and enthusiasm. And if they don’t have the first one, the other two will take care of the rest of the business.
We live in a time where the phrase “the end justifies the means” has become a mantra for far too many adults who serve as role models for children and adolescents. Nowhere have the circumstances and aftermath from the recent Atlanta school cheating incident been more dismal than in this instance. The underlying factors that contribute to dishonesty are, without a doubt, complex and varied. People justify their conduct by citing a variety of seemingly acceptable explanations. A lack of integrity, on the other hand, comes at a tremendous cost, as Buffett points out.

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Children learn to be honest, respect society’s standards, and act in ways that are consistent with the values, beliefs, and moral principles that they profess to hold by what they say they believe. Teachers face a difficult challenge in instilling and reinforcing a code of ethics in their classrooms, especially in light of evidence that high-stakes testing encourages a culture of dishonesty. These are difficult questions to answer.

The Basis of Social Harmony and Action

Children are not born with integrity or the behaviors we associate with it, such as honesty, honor, respect, authenticity, social responsibility, or the courage to stand up for what they believe is right. Children are not born with integrity or the behaviors we associate with it, such as honesty, honor, respect, authenticity, social responsibility, or the courage to stand up for what they believe is right. Cultural socialization, which includes influences from all areas of a child’s existence, is the process through which it is derived. Students learn these values and actions in their educational surroundings from adults who serve as role models and from their classmates, and in particular, via a knowledge of the fundamental principles of academic integrity. When students learn about integrity in the classroom, they are better able to apply the same concepts to other aspects of their lives after graduation.

Educators in grades K-12 are well aware that the pupils they teach today will go on to become the leaders of tomorrow. Academic curricula are continually being revised to keep up with the changing needs of a knowledge-based society. We, on the other hand, give significantly less attention to the behaviors that help people become ethical leaders — habits that are formed during childhood and adolescence. According to a recent survey, 40 percent of faculty members in the United States have ignored incidences of cheating in their courses, a sign that teachers don’t want to upset the apple cart or deal with irate students’ parents. There are worrisome difficulties associated with the development of K-12 student integrity, according to research published by the Educational Testing Service. These issues include:

  • In previous decades, it was the student who was having difficulties that were more inclined to cheat. In today’s society, more above-average kids are cheating as the pressure to be admitted into prestigious universities grows stronger.
  • Students that cheat believe that their actions are justifiable, and they believe that they are unfairly disadvantaged if they approach their studies with honesty.
  • Beginning in elementary school, children learn to bend the rules to win competitive games against their peers by bending the rules. When it comes to young children, cheating is considered wrong, although it may be permissible in specific circumstances.
  • Grades have become more important at this level, therefore middle school pupils are under more pressure to be dishonest.
  • Cheating reaches its zenith in high school when 75% of students admit to engaging in some form of academic misconduct.
  • In the Compass Advantage (a model aimed to engage families, schools, and communities in the concepts of good youth development), integrity is emphasized as a fundamental value since it serves as the foundation for social peace and activity. Children deserve to grow up in a world where truth, honesty, and justice are valued, despite the pressures of society to the contrary. Integrity is one of the eight roads to every student’s success, according to the study. It has been linked to self-awareness, sociability, and the five other abilities on the compass.

Integrity, resourcefulness, creativity, empathy, curiosity, sociability, resilience, and self-awareness are some of the characteristics of the Compass Advantage.
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D., is the photographer for this image.

5 Ways to Increase Student Integrity

1. Infuse integrity into the classroom culture.

Teachers establish integrity as the standard in their classrooms in a variety of significant ways. They express clearly what is expected of students in terms of academic integrity and the ramifications of cheating. However, they go beyond the issue of cheating to foster a culture that recognizes and rewards achievement in areas other than grades. In situations where students are only evaluated based on their grades, cheating is often a justifiable technique to defeat the system. The process of learning comes first, and kids will see and comprehend this if they are also recognized for their courage, diligence, perseverance, and respect for their classmates, among other things. Integrity is fostered by this type of culture.

2. Create a moral lexicon of your own.

The International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI) defines academic integrity as a set of five core values that include the following:

Respect \sFairness
Develop a program that includes the teaching of these five ideals while also assisting students in using the terminology to discuss a variety of historical and contemporary events. While dishonesty and disrespect are prevalent in civil society, instruct students to look for instances of people who stood up for their views and principles in ways that made a difference for themselves or the greater good of the community.

3. React correctly when cheating is detected or suspected.

While teachers are unable to regulate student conduct, they can respond consistently when enforcing school and classroom standards in the classroom. Dishonest behavior is an instructive moment in a school atmosphere that prioritizes learning over anything else. Students should be encouraged to think about and derive meaning from their actions to aid in the internalization of learning. Listen carefully and respectfully to what they have to say, and then reiterate your expectations that dishonesty will never be tolerated in your classroom.

4. Make use of quotations to spark interesting discussions.

Students can be encouraged to reflect on subjects such as integrity, moral development, and other attitudes that can assist them in developing great work habits and respectful relationships by using well-known quotes as conversation starters. In his third and fourth grade classes, elementary school teacher Steve Reifman employs a “quote of the day” as a pleasant morning activity to start the day off right. Teacher prompts and facilitation ideas are provided by Reifman in his book Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time, which helps teachers engage kids in thoughtful conversations.

The use of quotations can be effective with pupils of nearly any age. Older pupils are frequently utilized as starting points for journaling or essay-writing assignments. See a fantastic collection of quotes connected to the five values of academic integrity (PDF), which were written by students at American University in Dubai and are available online. View a collection of famous quotes on the same five values, provided by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

5. Encourage kids to have confidence in themselves.

A high degree of self-efficacy is demonstrated by students who speak up for ideals in which they believe. During my research on students who developed integrity and a desire to become involved in their communities, young people stated that their professors helped them believe in themselves by doing the following things:

Teaching with a passion and a desire to give back to the next generation
Modeling a clear set of beliefs and acting in ways that supported those values are two important aspects of leadership.
Commitment to donating their time and abilities without hesitation
Ability to overcome hurdles and demonstrate to kids that success is attainable through selflessness and acceptance of others who are different from themselves
In the case of young individuals who grow to believe in themselves, lying, cheating, and disrespect become less acceptable. Integrity becomes a way of life for those who practice it.