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Generative AI and Academic Integrity

Equipping Teachers to Manage Academic Honesty in the Classroom

Academic integrity forms the foundation of education, and it always has and always will. Consequently, educators have always found academic dishonesty, such as student “cheating,” to be a source of frustration.

Although some may view cheating as a byproduct of today’s Information Age due to the prevalence of enabling technologies accessible to K-12 students, it is important to acknowledge that cheating has persisted for generations.

Dr. Donald McCabe, one of the founders of the International Center for Academic Inquiry (ICAI), conducted surveys over time, encompassing 70,000 students at 24 high schools. His findings revealed that:

  • 58 percent of students admitted to plagiarism.
  • 64 percent of students admitted to cheating on a test.
  • 95 percent of students admitted to participating in some form of cheating.

Regarding plagiarism, Dr. McCabe wrote in his book, “Cheating in College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can Do about It,” that more than 60 percent of surveyed students who had cheated considered digital plagiarism to be “trivial,” effectively believing it was not cheating.

With these statistics in mind, we must consider what it means to teach and learn today, as students can now utilize generative artificial intelligence (AI) co-authoring tools to produce complete assignments without generating a single original thought or composing a single complete sentence.

In a recent survey we conducted, it was found that the vast majority of school districts, specifically 90%, respond to the promise, potential, and threats of AI by simply filtering AI sites and limiting their availability. This approach is not intended as a long-term solution. Rather, districts are initially striving to better comprehend how AI applications can optimally benefit students and educators.

The AI adoption curve will not pause for us to get ready; we are approaching the one-year mark since ChatGPT’s “coming out party” in November 2022. Over the past 11 months, we have learned one essential truth: AI is here to stay.

In general, school districts must consider AI in three distinct ways:

  • Teaching and Learning
  • Learner Engagement
  • Administrative Efficiencies

Within these categories, please find below the best practices for embracing AI in K-12 education and equipping teachers with the skills and tools to effectively manage AI technology in the classroom while upholding necessary integrity standards.

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Develop and Communicate Clear Guidelines for AI Use

Developing clear guidelines and policies is essential to ensure that students, teachers, and other staff fully comprehend the proper and responsible use of generative AI. Like other guidelines, we should not create AI policies in a vacuum. Specifically, we should include teachers and curriculum designers in proposing usage conventions for AI.

Instructional faculty should offer contextual guidance on how generative AI applications fit into the holistic learning environment, both as opportunities and limitations. Teachers and other stakeholders should also have substantial input into ethical considerations such as student data privacy, potential bias, and misinformation associated with AI tools. Facilitating a dialogue ensures that all stakeholders collectively understand positive AI use and what applications should be considered a violation of academic integrity policy.

Ensure Student Data Privacy and Digital Equity

Let’s expand the dialogue regarding AI applications beyond what occurs in the classroom. Two vitally important considerations involve student data privacy and digital equity. First, the district should use its web content filter to actively block all applications that could compromise student safety by violating their data rights. Secondly, the district should employ edtech solutions like Lightspeed Digital Insight™ to monitor changes in data privacy terms and conditions.

A final consideration lies in the impact of AI on the ‘digital divide’ and digital equity. For instance, generative AI applications that exist behind a paywall only exacerbate disparities in digital access. Furthermore, access to the internet off-campus is far from equitable. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported that nearly 17 million schoolchildren lack internet access at home. This digital divide, also known as “the homework gap,” disproportionately affects underserved segments of school district communities. In simple terms, the digital divide, a form of digital inequity, places too many students at a distinct disadvantage. To level the playing field for students and close the digital divide, provide the hardware and software infrastructure necessary to ensure equitable access for all students.

Update Your Academic Integrity Policy

Undoubtedly, technology applications will influence your academic policies. As AI applications become increasingly mainstream, you should pay attention to your district’s academic integrity policy. Make sure that your policy clearly defines the use of AI applications and their resulting outcomes. Most policies include examples of misconduct; ensure that they are updated with specific AI-related instances.

Once you have an updated policy, make sure to consistently and credibly communicate it throughout the district. Periodic reminders will be more effective than a single “spray and pray” approach at the beginning of a semester or year.

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Train District Staff on AI Tools

Ensure that staff, especially instructional faculty, become familiar with the capabilities and potential applications of the most popular generative AI apps. Understanding what generative AI tools can accomplish—along with recognizing their limitations and what they cannot do—will establish consistent expectations and address concerns across the entire district. This understanding will also enable informed decisions regarding the integration of AI tools into the curriculum.

However, do not restrict teacher training solely to the use of generative AI applications as learning aids for students. Give equal importance to training teachers in utilizing AI tools to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness in their roles. This includes tasks such as creating customized learning assessments and lesson plans for students and managing communication with parents.

Since the field of generative AI tools is rapidly and dynamically evolving, ensure that training materials and courses are regularly updated and made accessible to district staff throughout the year.

Revise Curriculum to Integrate AI Technologies Appropriately

Design your courses while considering learning styles and the available digital learning technologies, including, of course, generative AI tools. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT can act as fantastic catalysts, serving as a starting point for encouraging student-led creativity.

Engage teaching faculty in identifying specific use cases where generative AI apps contribute value to the teacher-learner interaction and enhance student learning outcomes. Ideally, students should leverage generative AI to support and expedite their learning processes. However, it’s essential to adjust your curriculum to ensure that students do not become overly dependent on generative AI and other technologies.

Increasingly, coursework, especially in online courses, includes a substantial requirement for discussion-based assignments (DBAs), where students must apply their abilities to engage others in meaningful discussions about course topics and concepts. While ChatGPT and other tools may offer some initial assistance with preliminary assignments, DBAs demand independent demonstration of knowledge and subject matter expertise.

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Coach Students on Proper AI Use

Regularly coach teachers on the latest generative AI tools and how to incorporate them into teaching. Also, ensure that students receive training on how to use these tools ethically in their learning processes. Link the training to the academic integrity policy and offer examples of both good and poor AI usage.

Commit to Learning and Continuous Improvement

As mentioned earlier, the rapid pace of technological advancements necessitates ongoing professional development and support for district staff. Conduct regular, topic-specific faculty workshops to enhance the overall understanding of how to effectively utilize AI tools in both curriculum design and day-to-day teaching practices. Additionally, ensure that you regularly collect feedback from students, parents, and teachers regarding the impact of generative AI on the learning environment.

In classrooms, teachers should actively monitor student engagement with generative AI apps. Utilize tools like Lightspeed Classroom Management™ to facilitate this process. Provide counseling and guidance to students, assisting them in better interpreting AI-generated output and applying it in ways that align with the district’s academic integrity policy.


Generative AI is currently the most talked-about topic in the K-12 space, but it will likely pass, as other trends have done. Experienced educators can recall the mass introduction of the four-function electronic calculator in the 1970s, quickly followed by advanced scientific function calculators a few years later. They can also remember the introduction of notebook computers to students less than a generation ago.

Educators had to learn and adapt to these technologies during their introduction. The rapid growth of generative AI in less than a year has heightened anxiety among educators. However, by following the best practices outlined above, school districts can overcome the generative AI challenge and return to their primary focus of improving student learning outcomes.