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Towards Consistency and Transparency in Academic Integrity

Edited By Salim Razı, Irene Glendinning and Tomáš Foltýnek

This book is an outcome of the 4th International Conference «Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond» organized by Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Mendel University in Brno, and the European Network for Academic Integrity. The conference is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships Programme of the European Union. It aims to be a forum for sharing best practices and experiences by addressing issues of academic integrity from a wide-scope global perspective. With regards to the crucial role of ethics and honesty in academic work, universities are in need of more effective policies against infringements of academic standards. The papers in this book therefore aim to contribute to the standardization of consistent and transparent approaches to issues of academic integrity from several perspectives.

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Integrity Management in High Schools: Paving a Way to Misconduct? (Loreta Tauginienė / Inga Gaižauskaitė)

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Loreta Tauginienė1 & Inga Gaižauskaitė2

Vilnius University, Lithuania & Lithuanian Social Research Centre, Lithuania

Integrity Management in High Schools: Paving a Way to Misconduct?

Abstract: Studies show that bad practices developed at high school partially cause misconduct at university and can extend into the workplace. Evidently, universities experience the consequences of previously embedded behaviour such as using cribbing notes, irresponsible use of sources of information, or even contract cheating. The misconduct of a student, living within such an environment for more than ten years, can hardly be considered the responsibility of the university in addressing the misconduct of a university student. Hence, universities are not fully able to handle misconduct and implement prevention-related activities due to the maturity of personality, i.e. entrenched individual values, beliefs and habits. Although this is explicit, integrity-related issues are rarely examined from a high school management perspective. In this regard, this paper aims to explore integrity management practices in high schools. We carried out a study, using qualitative content analysis, in high schools located in the capital city of Lithuania. Our sample consisted of all 32 public high schools (gymnasiums) on whose websites we identified over 130 publicly-available policy documents in relation to the management of students’ behaviour. Research findings show that there is no systematic approach to how gymnasiums prevent and deal with misconduct that supposedly results in students continuing bad practices in higher education.

Keywords: high school, integrity, integrity management, misbehaviour


Dishonest behaviour can penetrate any educational setting; high schools are no exception. There bad practices have become critical, as they have prevailed for decades and transformed into a quite acceptable norm (Clariana, Gotzens, del Mar Badia, & Cladellas, 2012; Evans & Craig, 1990; Galloway, 2012; Murdock, Miller, & Kohlhardt, 2004; Sisti, 2007). The literature evidences the existence of many forms of students’ bad practices, such as using unauthorised cribbing notes ← 105 | 106 → during examinations, plagiarism (particularly internet plagiarism), contract cheating, procrastination, submission of the same paper for credit in more than one class, allowing other students to copy from one’s own test or homework, and so on (e.g. Clariana et al., 2012; Conradson & Hernández-Ramos, 2004; Evans & Craig, 1990; Högberg, 2011; Lai & Weeks, 2009; Murdock et al., 2004; Sisti, 2007; Sureda-Negre, Comas-Forgas, & Trobat, 2015; Vinski & Tryon, 2009). Evidently, such a variety of bad practices in high school demonstrate a wide range of dishonest behaviour. Interestingly, those students who cheat in high school are eventually prone to continue in the same vein in a university (e.g. Clariana et al., 2012; McCabe, Trevino, & Butterfield, 2001; Sisti, 2007; Sureda-Negre et al., 2015) and even in the workplace (e.g. Markus, 2008). Therefore, the high school setting is worth investigating as that is where dishonest behaviour seems to manifest itself for the first time. Yet, the vast scope of scientific literature focuses on the university level while analysis of bad practices at high school level remains scarcely developed (Lai & Weeks, 2009; Nora & Zhang, 2010; Sisti, 2007; Sureda-Negre et al., 2015).

As Galloway (2012) pointed out, multiple studies have focused rather on learning goals, specifically with an orientation towards students’ behaviour. Research generally looks at individual factors like self-efficacy (Nora & Zhang, 2009), procrastination (Sureda-Negre et al., 2015), gender or school year effects (Clariana et al., 2012; Sureda-Negre et al., 2015), peer influence (Nora & Zhang, 2009) and others. However, the role of school in integrity management is less substantiated. A few studies show school as the worst educational setting in promoting integrity (e.g. Schab, 1991). Some arguments relate to the behaviour of teaching staff, such as poor pedagogy (Evans & Craig, 1990; Murdock et al., 2004), inconsistent instructions (Sisti, 2007), disregard of students’ cheating (Vinski & Tryon, 2009), drawbacks in enforcing the honour code (Vinski & Tryon, 2009), and incompetence (Clariana et al., 2012). It is apparent that learning about bad practices and their effects is not merely the responsibility of students, but also of teaching staff (Murdock et al., 2004). Furthermore, it remains unclear how school managerial staff overcome students’ bad practices. Taking into consideration the gap in understanding of integrity management in high school, this paper aims to analyse how high schools frame and deal with student integrity issues.

The organisation of this paper begins with the literature review on the role of teaching staff and managerial staff as internal stakeholders in integrity management at high schools, and continues with research findings based on high school policy documents. Finally, the paper ends with a discussion and conclusions. ← 106 | 107 →

Teaching Staff

Although teachers show a more advanced understanding of dishonest behaviour and its types, they potentially underestimate the scale of integrity issues in high school (Evans & Craig, 1990). The evidence of this is the study by Crawshaw (2015) who examined the literature on high school teachers’ perceptions on student misbehaviour from 1983 to 2013. He found out that teachers listed cheating as the most serious misbehaviour; however, this was mentioned in only two out of ten papers and appeared towards the end of the list. Therefore, their underestimation may result in a deficiency of ethics infrastructure in high school, of which they are an integral part. As Lai and Weeks’s (2009) study shows, although the majority of students had a good understanding of plagiarism and reported that schools had policies on plagiarism, and that teachers discussed plagiarism issues with them, there were still about one-third of respondents who could improve their behaviour if they had a better understanding of plagiarism. Furthermore, the pedagogical competence of teachers is linked to acceptability of cheating (Murdock et al., 2004), i.e. deficiencies in their pedagogy allow students to normalise their dishonest behaviour. Moreover, teachers’ tolerance of cheating can be identified, particularly when students join together to bully another student who has reported an instance of cheating (Högberg, 2011). In addition, teachers’ understanding of and competence in the latest technologies may succeed in promoting acceptable practices among students and addressing emerging issues (Sisti, 2007).

Managerial Staff

While a variety of prevention programmes are carried out during the first years of university, they do not extend downwards to the last years of high school (Clariana et al., 2012). Evans and Craig (1990) found that schools do not have effective integrity management. The main reason for this is a patchy ethics infrastructure where diverse means exist, but they are disconnected and inconsistent. Obviously, some flaws occur, such as the scepticism of teachers, student hesitation in reporting to teachers, fear of reprisal, and so on (Evans & Craig, 1990). In addition to this, dishonest school administration practices emerge and they recalibrate the understanding of the school’s internal stakeholders – students and teachers – about role models and a teacher’s professional prestige (Schab, 1991). Paradoxically, school administration is seen as one of the key stakeholders in integrity management (Dickerson, 2007), while its own behaviour is sometimes questionable.

A need for clarity on school policy regarding bad practices while targeting the whole school community is also noticeable (Lai & Weeks, 2009; Sisti, 2007; Williamson & McGregor, 2011). A study of the websites of 348 schools in New Zealand ← 107 | 108 → revealed that only 29 of them have some information on plagiarism, but this is of limited scope, i.e. plagiarism refers to copyright issues rather than academic dishonesty (Lai & Weeks, 2009). Williamson and McGregor (2011) stress that “the problem of plagiarism would persist, despite the efforts of individual staff, unless a whole-school policy were adopted across all years and implemented and reinforced by all staff” (p. 17). Likewise, McCabe et al. (2001) conclude that cheating in educational institutions must be addressed primarily at institutional level.

Methodological Approach

Data Collection

Our target group consisted of 50 high schools (gymnasiums) located in the city of Vilnius, Lithuania. Gymnasiums are attended by senior students whose age ranges from 16 to 18. The list of gymnasiums was downloaded from AIKOS, an official national database of open vocational information, counselling, and guidance systems. For this study we focused on public gymnasiums, 32 in all. Some of them are involved in the network of Schools of Integrity, an initiative of Transparency International Lithuania. This initiative reports that in Vilnius 8 out of 32 public gymnasiums joined this network, while no private gymnasium was identified.

We screened the websites of the gymnasiums and collected publicly-available policy documents related to school life. In total, we identified 136 documents that could potentially be linked to integrity management. We carried out the data collection in January and February 2018.

We found a myriad of policy documents where the (un)desirable behaviour of students was covered to some extent. Nevertheless, most documents under investigation relate to general management of school life. Schools do not consider “integrity” or “ethics” as part of overall performance management. Among the documents identified were such as gymnasium statutes, attendance regulations, regulations on evaluation of progress and achievements, rules of students’ conduct, regulations on bullying prevention and intervention, rules for papers and other projects, and library rules (including rules on the use of computers and the internet). These policy documents are just one component of gymnasium ethics infrastructure.

Codes of ethics are not a common occurrence in gymnasiums. However, we identified two codes of ethics, applied only to employees, and two codes of ethics applied to students. Three gymnasiums did not publish any document on their websites related to integrity management. ← 108 | 109 →

Data Analysis

We thoroughly analysed each document by looking for links to integrity management. For this purpose, we used qualitative content analysis, namely, a manifest approach where codes were considered as visible and obvious content of the text (Bengtsson, 2016; Cho & Lee, 2014). The excerpt-based data were processed in tabular form with sections such as: title of gymnasium; title of document; form of misbehaviour; definition of misbehaviour, and procedures related to prevention and intervention. However, we refined the list of policy documents by opting for the most appropriate documents on integrity management: rules for students’ conduct; regulations on evaluation of progress and achievements; rules for papers and other projects; and library rules. Initially, we also considered gymnasium statutes as credible and core documents for gymnasium functioning; however, not all of them clearly address integrity or ethics in their mission, values or other provisions in relation to students’ behaviour. Furthermore, most schools have separate emphasis (and documents) on (non)attendance policies (praising high attendance and preventing or penalising low attendance); bullying prevention; and the use of alcohol and other substances. The latter documents were omitted from the data analysis as being irrelevant.


Two limitations are worth noting. First, no periphery-located gymnasiums were examined when, presumably, they could show more diverse practices on integrity management. Second, documents only publicly available on gymnasium websites were included in the data analysis; therefore, if we could have had access to complete collections of policy documents, it could potentially unfold a full-scale understanding and practice. Nevertheless, quantitatively and qualitatively, we assumed that the public nature of policy documents mirrors the stance of gymnasiums towards stakeholders (e.g. parents, entrants).

Research Findings

Here we present the research findings, ranging from general students’ duties and restraints to other more detailed rules and regulations on specific matters.

Rules of Student Conduct

Rights, duties and restraints of students are mostly described in the rules of student conduct and, in a few cases, reiterated or mentioned in the rules for internal ← 109 | 110 → order of the school and its code of ethics. We analysed foremost the first rules, as they provide more comprehensive information.

The main students’ duties related to their integrity are associated with behaving fairly and ethically, or learning and completing assignments honestly and on time as well as disapproving of others’ immoral behaviour. Some gymnasiums consider the correct behaviour of students as a contribution to the prestige of Lithuanian education. Meanwhile, gymnasiums link unethical behaviour to the use of bad language, gambling, public exposure of close relationships, gum chewing, fighting and so on. In the case of fights, penalties for students are expected to be in accordance with the national law.

Students are forbidden the unauthorised use of mobile phones (including the calculator function), earphones, players and other technologies during classes. Usually this restraint is outlined without any specification. Hence, as we can only assume that it potentially relates to prevention of dishonest behaviour, such restraint might be two-faceted. First, it is apparent that students should listen to what a teacher says during classes, so it encourages their learning ability through hearing. Also, it precludes disturbing other students from potential noises (e.g. yawning, unmuted ringing tones) when a student loses concentration. Second, it deters cheating (e.g. using audio-notes), particularly during tests.

If students use an unauthorised device, gymnasiums tackle this issue in several ways. In some gymnasiums a teacher confiscates the device, returning it after classes; and the student’s parents are informed. In other gymnasiums, a teacher confiscates the device and informs the student’s parents; but the device is handed to a director or social worker and only then is returned to parents. If such behaviour is repeated, the student is forbidden to have a mobile phone, earphones, or a player inside school. It could happen that a student may refuse to hand over the device: in such a case, parents are informed and the student is given an official warning. In addition, we found one case related to restraint in the use of illegal software.

Students are not allowed to spread information about a person via mass media or online social networks without that person’s authorisation. Furthermore, students are not allowed to conclude asset-based deals among themselves (e.g. to request money, other things or services from classmates) or to use the passcode of another user to login into e-records on grades, falsify official documents, or change records. It is very rare that gymnasiums explicitly state restraint not to plagiarise, crib or cheat (3 out of 19 rules of student conduct).

As mentioned previously, we found two codes of ethics that apply to students. By their structure they encompass general rules, rules regarding attendance, ← 110 | 111 → behaviour during breaks and in corridors, canteens, reading rooms and cloakrooms. Essentially, such rules reiterate students’ duties and restraints, and they do not resemble codes of ethics in nature.

Regulations on Evaluation of Progress and Achievements

We identified 7 types of misconduct that have consequences for the evaluation of students’ progress and achievements (see Table 1).

Table 1: Types of Misconduct in Gymnasiums (N = 11)

MisconductNumber of gymnasiums
Overdue repeated assignment (e.g. test)7
Absence on day of test without reason4
Use of unacceptable help or means during tests3
Overdue submission of a paper1
Plagiarised paper1
Dishonestly completed assignment1

It is forbidden to use unacceptable help or means during exams, to delay submission of a paper, crib, or miss a test without a justified reason. Gymnasiums pay most attention to failure without reason to produce assignments (including delay). The requirement regarding unreasoned absence for exams has a potential role in preventing misbehaviour, i.e. gaining an advantage of pre-learning test questions from those who had faced them on the appointed day. In all such cases, a student is frequently penalised by 1 or 2 points out of 10. However, there are several gymnasiums that use a different strategy in managing such misbehaviour. Instead of negatively scoring the students, they are required to retake the test at an agreed time or to take a different test within the remaining time of the test on which they were cheating. Nevertheless, it is important to note that rules and sanctions related to cheating are outlined in a vague way, without any specification.

Some gymnasiums (1 out of 11) have a very specific instruction on students’ actions that can affect the evaluation score; that they be marked such as “incorrect” or “non-assessed”. For example, one is not allowed to write in other than a blue pen; handwriting must be clear; answers must be written in the required space; and offensive words, drawings or signs on an assignment sheet are penalised. ← 111 | 112 →

Rules for Papers and Other Projects

Several (10 out of 32) gymnasiums approved rules for papers and other projects that students are asked to deliver. These rules differ extensively, though they lack coherence. Some rules require providing a list of sources, but citation is not considered; other rules require making proper and well-grounded sampling (as a part of research conduct), citing, paraphrasing, listing used sources and following citation requirements. Some rules mention “originality” of the work without any explanation of what it means or relates to.

In some cases, it is specified that the in-text citation of pictures is compulsory whereas the same is not required for general in-text citation; and vice versa, when general in-text citation is required, no rule about in-text citing for pictures exists. Furthermore, there are single cases where general citation is briefly described or mentioned next to a requirement to provide the list of sources (e.g. “cited sources must be listed”); though no rules of citation are provided. Interestingly, in one gymnasium, students are reminded to follow the principle of integrity in a way that a project should not be suspect in terms of its authorship, and they are alerted about potential violation of the Copyright Law if they intend to do so. It is a very positive thing that such requirements do not remain formal and are implemented through evaluation, i.e. one evaluation criterion is about proper use of sources.

One gymnasium provides a rather extensive description of rules on academic writing (e.g. citation, paraphrasing, etc.) that are not consistent with evaluation criteria (e.g. no effect on scoring; no other sanctioning for breach of the rules).

Library Rules

Libraries provide consultation regarding finding the literature needed by students but pay less attention on how to use the sources properly in terms of intellectual property rights.

Library rules mostly refer instead to potential losses caused by students’ use of printed materials (e.g. books lost, damaged, or returned late) or devices (such as scanners or copy machines). Also, rules encompass the use of IT: it is forbidden to install any software, use computers for gaming, watch movies, navigate on sites that induce negative effects, distribute viruses, hack, stimulate violence, etc. In addition to this is a warning to follow copyright law. Should a student twice infringe library rules as regards the computerised reading room, this student is barred from access to the room’s services for a month or some other period of time. In contrast, gymnasiums encourage students to be conscientious regarding the timely return of borrowed books. ← 112 | 113 →


The structure of gymnasium websites is quite clear; however, no gymnasium has a separate section on integrity, and only single clauses mention how gymnasiums cope with integrity issues. Additionally, we detected so-called clone documents (such as rules on student conduct, rules for papers and other projects) that were almost identical in different gymnasiums. This allows us to make the assumption that although gymnasiums make efforts towards the institutionalisation of integrity, the general attitude towards integrity is vague.

School rules and regulations appear to be asymmetric. To illustrate this, we provide a few examples related to the content of rules. School rules and regulations explicitly refer to legal liability regarding fighting, use of drugs or other psychotropic substances, but they do not refer to criminal liability imposed for misappropriation of authorship, or administrative liability imposed for contract cheating. Another example relates to asset-based deals in gymnasiums that refer to material assets while intellectual assets are not clearly considered, so contract cheating is probably allowed. Furthermore, we expected to find requirements for citations, listing of cited sources, and evaluation criteria in rules for papers and other projects as this is normal practice in an academic setting; unfortunately, these rules were mostly inconsistent.

Integrity management in high schools was considered ineffective some twenty years ago (Evans and Craig, 1990). Though our study did not seek to measure integrity management effectiveness in school policies, allusions to the stance of integrity management in Vilnius public gymnasiums are evident. Our study shows that the lack of (effective) integrity management inclines to dishonest behaviour in gymnasiums. As a rule, plagiarism and cribbing are matters between the teacher and student without the involvement of managerial staff. Moreover, negative scoring is the most frequent solution when ethical infringements occur, whereas universities impose the most severe penalty: expulsion. Although sanctions in both organisational settings differ and are imbalanced, endeavours to take an educational approach are highly limited. Yet, we stress that an educational approach ought to be continuous from high school to university, and the potential of librarians in assisting students concerning intellectual property rights could be better exploited.


A position on integrity management is under development in Vilnius city gymnasiums despite the fact that they demonstrate high achievement in educating students in comparison with periphery-located gymnasiums. Our study reveals ← 113 | 114 → that the lack of consistency in integrity management paves the way to misconduct in gymnasiums that consequently transcends to the university setting. Therefore, it is problematic to make prevention and intervention in university settings in the absence of a clear understanding about the roots of the misconduct.


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1 Researcher, Institute of Economics, Finance and Management,

2 Junior Researcher, Institute of Sociology,