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Talking to a Student Suspected of Cheating

Prepare for a conversation with a student suspected of academic misconduct.

Despite extensive communication with students and policy statements in your class syllabus, you may still encounter situations of apparent academic misconduct.

Don't hesitate

Act on these situations despite any reservations; academic integrity will only be achieved if students see follow-through on our rhetoric.

According to Academic Senate policy, you can directly report the suspected misconduct to the Academic Integrity Office, or you can first meet with the student about the incident.

Prepare for the conversation

If you choose to meet with the student, it may be helpful to think of three C's in addressing academic misconduct with a suspected offender: clarity, compassion, and candor:

  • Be clear about the behavior you find questionable.
  • Be compassionate to the student who may experience significant distress but also great learning from this incident.
  • Be candid about your interpretations of the behavior and your feelings about the incident.

What to say

If you're unsure about how to have a clear, compassionate, and candid conversation with a student:

  1. Begin your intervention with a statement. Example:

    • "I have some concerns about your recent [paper or exam], and would like to engage in a dialogue with you about it. When can you come in to see me?"
  2. Start the conversation by asking the student a question. This way, the student can tell his or her story rather than hearing your interpretation first. Examples:

    • "Why don't we start by you telling me how you're feeling about the class/ this assignment?"
    • "What was your process for studying/ completing the assignment?"
    • "Are you satisfied with your learning/ progress in the course?"
  3. After listening to the student's story, express your concerns about the assignment or work in question. Example:

    • "I'm concerned because the information I have suggests that you may have _________________. Is that an accurate assessment? Why not?"
  4. Tell the student what you're planning to do next. This could include:

    • Considering his or her answers and thinking further about your next step
    • Reporting the incident to the Academic Integrity Office

Remain confident

Student reactions may vary. Your student may cry, get angry, accuse or offend you, calmly admit to the misconduct, or deny the misconduct outright. In any event, proceed using your best judgment, knowing that the University will back you up as long as you follow policy (PDF).