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How do you know if your Honor Code is working, if it’s making a difference? After establishing our Honor Code five years ago, we had these very questions. Anecdotally, it seemed like the Honor Code was doing a good job. But then, it is unlikely that teachers and administrators would hear much of the bad stuff, isn’t it?


We asked CSEE for help, and were directed to some different surveys, primarily done by colleges. That was helpful. Based on those, we put together our own Honor Code survey, which we have administered to the entire school the last three years. More important than even seeing how the Honor Code is working, the annual surveys give us a chance to compare our impact year-to-year. The anonymity and structure of the survey (described below) set good conditions for an honest census of our students. Plus, the annual nature of the survey tends to diminish the impact of untruthful answers to the questions and gives us a real sense of progress or retreat.


Important features of the survey worth highlighting:

  1. It is anonymous. We do not want to trace the responses and we are very clear letting the students know this.
  2. We do NOT ask the student whether she violated any provision of the Honor Code, but do ask how often she has seen an Honor Code violation.
  3. Paired with each question on whether a student has seen a particular Honor Code violation is a separate question asking the student to select a level of seriousness for that particular violation.
  4. The results are shared with the student body over the course of the academic year and serve as a focus of conversation and education about integrity.
  5. Repeating the test each year monitors the efficacy of the community education. 



We have also used the surveys to address specific issues. For example, when we saw that 61% of our students felt that, “Staying home to postpone taking a test or handing in an assignment” was not cheating, or, at worst, trivial cheating, we decided to run a short campaign on the issue. We made a video that ran on our Friday Morning Live school-wide show, and gave material to teachers to address the issue in their classrooms. The next year’s survey showed a reduction to 51%, still too high, but progress none the less.


Another example is seeing the survey results on “Working on an assignment with other students when the teacher asked for individual work.” We felt it was not being taken seriously enough. After vigorous discussion in our Honor Code Committee, we decided this was in part due to poor communication of expectations by the teacher. The students came up with a list of Levels of Collaboration and Resources for all teachers to use on out-of-class assignments. This is currently being processed through the administration and faculty and will result in a clear, common language for this issue throughout the school.


Surveys helped to focus where attention is most needed. Subsequent surveys demonstrated that using the results as a part of community education and attention yield a reduction in observation of honor code violations. For example, from 2014-2015, students saw a 20% reduction in incidents of students copying from others during a test or quiz, and the next year saw a continued trend in reduction. Turning in work copied from another student reduced by 15%, and using unpermitted notes on a test or quiz reduced by 16%. These are just some examples of the student-observed improvements happening across the community.


If you would like to use this survey and/ or have CSEE administer your survey, contact


CSEE | 910 M Street NW #722, Washington, DC 20001 | (800) 298-4599



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