The pandemic of 2020 challenged the world to rethink set approaches to public health and safety around the world. The ensuing chaos from CoVID-19 required rapid, appropriate responses from a number of different sectors. In Canada, higher education responded with an abrupt pivot to the delivery of online teaching and learning. Ensuring continued quality education and research experiences, combined with the pressing need to ensure the health and safety of all community members was a daunting task. One aspect of higher education that was particularly affected was student experiences based on work-integrated learning (WIL). In this chapter, WIL is discussed along with the various roles and opportunities we have to promote academic integrity within WIL settings. The relevance for promoting academic integrity within these settings is grounded in the need to support the development of ethical graduates who will be expected to practice in professional and service industries with integrity, and the opportunities we have as educators and leaders in post-secondary organizations to positively influence the ethical development of our graduates. In fact, all those in post-secondary organizations can and should play a central role in shaping students’ sound ethical judgment and decision making skills when faced with real-world challenges (Christensen Hughes & Bertram Gallant, 2016).

Canadian Post-secondary

Currently, colleges and universities are two primary locations for post-secondary education in Canada. Universities have long histories associated with higher education and research. Younger college organizations offer a variety of educational experiences including certificate and diploma programs with the focus on vocational and trades programs. Some community colleges have continued to evolve into institutes of advanced technology and learning and polytechnic schools. These polytechnic schools are now able to provide additional programming at degree levels. While differences between universities and colleges remain in terms of mission, function, and foci, developing cultures of academic integrity and providing quality educational offerings are aspirations to both. Additionally, whether at university or college, learning can occur within multiple settings. Such settings include bricks-and-mortar classrooms, online, labs, libraries, study groups, tutorials, simulated sessions, apprenticeships, and work-integrated locations in external organizations. Many educational programs of study have required WIL experiences that support experiential learning within the professions such as like medicine, nursing, engineering, education, pharmacy, journalism, computer sciences, and various trades. Work-integrated settings provide invaluable opportunities for students to learn essential skills, develop professional identities, and acculturate to professional ethical values. The experiential learning that happens in these settings helps influence the acculturation of students to safe, ethical practice that benefits those receiving care/service, future employers, and society. It also situates our learners to be successful contributing members of their professional and vocational ethical communities.

Work-Integrated Learning (WIL)

As discussed, WIL in professional and service settings, vis a vis internships, field-placements, precepted partnerships, or other work-study placements, provide opportunities for experiential learning and the chance for learners to translate their theoretical knowledge to the work setting and develop transferable skills. Such knowledge translation happens through experience and reflections on past learning: “the field placement or work/study program is an empowering experience that allows them to capitalize on their practical strengths while testing the application of ideas discussed in the classroom” (Kolb, 2015, p. 5). These types of learning experiences are considered essential across many professional and service programs and are scaffolded as the student progresses in their learning and development.

WIL bridges theory to practical experience blending necessary knowledge with opportunities for specialized learning. Praxis, or the practical application of knowledge in practice and service settings, provide learners the opportunity to gain practice and work experience as they transition into the workforce (Valencia-Forrester, 2020). WIL is an appealing component of the educational journey for industry partners who welcome opportunities to build strong, stable, effective human capital (Smith et al., 2019). Of course, one of the main end goals for such learning includes assimilation of students to the ethical practice, and the assurance of safe care for clients. Such an approach to client care has benefits to future employers and is good for society at large. The importance of these learning experiences is irrefutable when you consider how our graduates go on to “undertake important roles in society: engineers, health professionals, lawyers etc. …higher education providers determine whether their students have achieved the learning required for those roles” (Newton, 2018, p. 1).

Academic Integrity in Work Integrated Learning Settings

Existing research suggests that academic dishonesty is indeed a problem within Canadian higher education (Christensen Hughes & McCabe, 2006; Eaton & Edino, 2018; Jurdi et al., 2011, 2012; Montuno et al., 2012). However research that examines academic integrity specifically within WIL settings is limited. Addressing this gap is of particular importance as dishonest behaviours and conduct within WIL settings can manifest in professional dishonesty and misconduct (Fida et al., 2018; Furutan, 2017; Guerrero-Dib et al., 2020; Johnstone, 2016; LaDuke, 2013; McClung & Schneider, 2018, Miron, 2016; Vandegrift et al., 2017). Much of the early literature that investigated this link, heralded from the business, engineering, and nursing professions. These three professions have contributed to our foundational understanding of issues related to academic integrity and WIL and serve as the basis for the literature review that follows. It is, however, important to note that other professional programs have also been studied in this regard. The following discussion highlights persisting concerns that have been identified with breaches to academic integrity in WIL settings, and the costs for future graduates in terms of lost learning and learned unethical behaviour. This in turn can contribute to unqualified or underqualified graduates; unqualified or underqualified members in the workforce; and the delivery of unsafe or suboptimal care and service. The end result is our graduates potentially are citizens that do not contribute to their professions and society to their fullest abilities. The early literature in business, engineering, and nursing is reviewed and contrasted to the more current literature in these programs of study. The intent of these comparisons is to illustrate the persisting worries about dishonesty in WIL settings.

Business—Academic Integrity and Student Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Experiences

Nonis and Owens Swift (2001) reported that over 10% of the undergraduate and graduate business students they surveyed (N = 1051) across six different campuses minimized the seriousness of academic and workplace cheating behaviours. The researchers measured self-reports of students’ perceptions of specific behaviours in both academic and workplace settings. Students were asked to rate if the behaviours were definitely cheating (1) or definitely not cheating (4) across a four point Likert scale. The students were then asked to self-report their participation in each of the behaviours in the academic setting using a 5 point Likert scale that ranged from never (1) to very often (5). Students who reported that they currently worked or had worked part-time or full-time in the past 5 years, were asked to report their participation in the same behaviours in their current or former workplace setting using the same 5 point Likert scale that ranged from never (1) to very often (5). The researchers noted that students who believed dishonest acts were acceptable were more likely to engage in acts of academic dishonesty (p < 0.05). The frequencies of academic dishonesty were also reported as positively correlated to work dishonesty (p < 0.005), although it is not clear of the sub-sample size for those students who reported working. Their findings suggested students who believed dishonest acts were acceptable were more likely to engage in academic dishonesty, normalizing dishonest behaviour and its acceptability. The researchers findings also suggest that those who cheat in school are more likely to cheat in their professional jobs.

This trend continues to persist in the field of business as reported through a more recent business study conducted across two separate schools in the United States (n = 312) and Slovakia (n = 208) (Furutan, 2017). Furutan (2017, p. 120) explored business students’ levels of tolerance toward academic dishonesty and the correlation to their tolerance of workplace dishonesty using an adapted survey of 18 items that measured academic dishonesty and 19 items that measured workplace dishonesty. For both student groups the results revealed that students’ ratings for academic dishonesty were positively correlated to their tolerance levels for dishonest workplace practices. Additionally, Furutan reported that students who were tolerant of academic dishonesty were 12 times more likely to tolerate dishonest workplace practices, compared to the Slovak students who were 20 times more likely to report the same pattern of tolerance. Furutan did not measure students’ participation in academic or workplace dishonesty and focused solely on their perceptions related to the seriousness of different acts itemized in the administered survey. Like the earlier work of Nonis and Owens Swift who suggested carry-over features to dishonesty from academics to professional work, Furutan reported findings suggest that students’ perspectives and tolerance for dishonesty would carry through from their academic experiences to their professional careers.

Engineering—Academic Integrity and Student Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Experiences

Those researching relationships between academic and work dishonesty in the field of engineering have reported similar findings. Researchers in one exploratory mixed-method study, completed with engineering students (N = 130) across two private American universities, hypothesized that similarities existed in students’ decision-making processes about whether or not to cheat in high school and, whether or not to cheat in college, and violate workplace policies (Harding et al., 2004, p. 313). They also hypothesized that self-reports of academic dishonesty in school would be an indicator for future dishonest behaviour in college and the workplace. The researchers explored students’ temptations and pressures to engage in dishonest behaviour in high school and asked students to share factors that influenced their hesitation to act on these temptations. Finally, students were asked to report their actual engagement in acts of dishonesty in high school. Almost 64% reported cheating a few times in high school, and were most likely to cheat on homework, lab reports, and tests/quizzes. In the qualitative portion of the study, students reported lack of time as the biggest pressure to cheating (23%), followed by feeling underprepared for the assessment (14%). Hesitation to act on academic, dishonest behaviours (17%) was influenced by students feeling “shame, conscience, guilt, or loss of personal respect” (Harding et al., 2004, p. 315). The researchers also noted that almost 50% of the students reported feeling tempted to take company supplies, ignore workplace quality issues (22.4%), and falsify records (31.5%). Students felt pressured to act dishonestly in the workplace if they wanted or needed something (21.8%) or if the dishonest act seemed harmless (10.3%). Almost 14% of the respondents hesitated if they feared they would be fired or get caught. Of the respondents who felt tempted to violate conduct in the workplace, 30% reported they had indeed violated workplace policies in the past. The researchers could not establish statistical significance due to the small sample size, but trends in the data revealed respondents who admitted frequent cheating in high school were more likely to report they would cheat in college (61.5%). Additionally, 63.6% of students who reported cheating in high school, reported that they had violated workplace policies. The researchers concluded that cheating in high school was in fact a strong indicator of future college and workplace dishonesty. Their study would have been strengthened had they measured the incidence of student academic dishonesty within the college setting and had a larger sample size.

Equally distressing and similar findings were reported in another study of engineering students ten years later. Sixty-one students who had been charged with academic dishonesty, participated in a study that examined if students “could relate their academic behaviors to learning and working within the engineering field” (Bertram Gallant et al., 2014, p. 278). Students completed a required reaction paper that was then analyzed by four independent reviewers for common themes. Bertram Gallant and colleagues (2014, p. 288) found that 50% of the students had a “tempered acceptance” to their dishonesty and recognized their behaviour as a mistake. An additional 16% denied their culpability with their dishonesty. The researchers suggested that students were able to normalize their dishonest behaviour and blame external forces for their conduct. Bertram Gallant et al. (2014) concluded that conduct and behaviour becomes habit and is therefore a concern as students graduate and transition to professional practice with already set behaviours. Both these studies suggest that student behaviours in the academic setting may become learned behaviours that translate to professional settings with potential catastrophic complications to the care/service of clients and serious threats to the reputation of organizations that would employ our graduates.

Readers are encouraged to read deMontigny’s (2022) chapter in this book that speaks to recent accreditation changes in Canada that now require engineering programs to report on academic integrity policies and procedures. deMontigny also shares his national survey findings about the state of engineering schools and their relation to academic integrity. These two current pieces speak to the relevance of promoting academic integrity in WIL since most engineering schools include WIL as part of their educational offerings.

Nursing—Academic Integrity and Student Work-Integrated Learning Experiences

Hilbert (1985) explored dishonest nursing student behaviours between the classroom and student clinical setting (n = 101; 1987; n = 210; 1988: n = 63). She reported significant positive relationships between self-reported classroom dishonesty and self-reported clinical setting dishonesty in all three of her studies (p < 0.01:1985; p ≤ 0.002:1985; p = ≤ 0.01:1988). Nursing students who self-reported classroom cheating behaviours were significantly more likely to report work-integrated clinical placement cheating behaviours. Dishonest behaviours in the work-integrated learning setting were manifested with students reporting they had engaged in breaching client confidentiality (73%), and falsely reporting the administration of required medications and treatments (26%). Nursing students rationalized their behaviours as socially acceptable (Hilbert, 1987). The detrimental effects of these actions for clients are especially concerning as they could affect client morbidity and mortality.

Hilbert (1988) also explored the relationship between moral development and departures of academic honesty in both the classroom and student clinical setting. She found a statistically significant inverse relationship between Kohlberg’s higher moral development stages and the number of self-reported incidents of unethical clinical behaviour (p = 0.027). This was different for the relationship between moral development stage and the number of self-reported acts of classroom dishonesty (p = 0.45; Hilbert, 1988). Hilbert concluded that there was a disconnection for students between how they interpreted dishonesty in the two different learning settings. Twenty-five years later Miller Smith’s (2010) doctoral study of 167 RNs completing an online course, showed that a positive relationship existed between departures from academic integrity and professional dishonesty (r = 0.438, p =  < 0.001). Miller Smith used a survey to measure self-reported incidences of academic (16 items) or professional dishonest (21 items). She found that the nurses’ attitudes, sense of what was considered normal for the environment (subjective norm), and their perceived behavioural control (what they could and couldn’t do) were statistically significant and influenced whether they would or would not behave dishonestly. So, if nurses had a positive attitude, subjective norm (being honest was a good thing), perceived behavioural control (they could act honestly), then they reported having engaged in fewer incidents of dishonest acts in both academic and professional settings. Perhaps one of the largest studies heralds from the United States (n = 973) and sought to understand nursing students’ perceptions, relationships, and neutralizing behaviours with academic dishonesty (McClung & Schneider, 2018). The researchers reported that some acts of dishonesty were reported as more egregious by students in both classroom and clinical settings, suggesting that students normalized certain cheating behaviours. Sixty percent of students in the study reported engaging in five or more dishonest behaviours in the classroom (e.g., sabotage—negatively affecting another student’s work, accessing test banks for answers to questions) and clinical settings (e.g., failing to follow rules, clinical guidelines, stealing, creating false client information) although they reported cheating more in the classroom than clinical setting. Dishonesty in the clinical setting is of great concern when you consider that nurses are often part of an interprofessional care team. For example, other team members rely on the accuracy of nursing assessment and charting to plan additional care. False client information or failure to follow clinical guidelines could result in disaster for the client’s health and welfare.

Strategies to Promote Integrity in Work-Related Learning Settings

One purpose of higher education is the continued development of students as global citizens with moral, personal, and societal responsibilities (Chickering, 2010; Liddell & Cooper, 2012; Pasquerella, 2019). In addition to the translation of theoretical knowledge to practice, we should be presumably leveraging WIL opportunities to acculturate students to the values consistent with academic integrity and ethical, professional work. WIL experiences can offer some invaluable opportunities for students in developing their knowledge, skills, judgement, and ethical comportment (Benner et al., 2008). The costs to doing nothing in leveraging such opportunities can quite literally mean life or death for those who will ultimately receive care and service from our graduates.

Acculturating students to values consistent with academic integrity (honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, courage) (International Center for Academic Integrity [ICAI], 2021) is foundational to ethical learning in the post-secondary setting and has been described as a twenty-first century teaching and learning imperative (Bertram Gallant, 2008). Efforts to incorporate and strengthen academic integrity within WIL requires a consistent and multi-layered approach. All members of post-secondary learning communities (students, faculty/staff, organizational leaders, external stakeholders) must be fully engaged and committed to WIL settings grounded in integrity.

Smith et al. (2019) note that WIL remains a focus for universities around the world. While WIL can offer invaluable learning experiences, it is also resource intensive, multidimensional and “requires teaching, facilitation, organizational, and interpersonal expertise for successful execution” (Smith et al., 2019, p. 1). Therefore creating and providing quality WIL placements that promote and exemplify integrity can present unique and complex challenges.

A review of the existing literature did not reveal content that speaks to practical approaches in addressing the need of promoting academic integrity within WIL settings. The following ideas for actions are original and based on past teaching experience, and my doctoral studies (Miron, 2016). Additionally, Bertram Gallant and Drinan (2008) proposed an evidence and research informed four stage model of institutionalization that could offer guidance to practical efforts. While their model was first used to describe a model of change for educational organizations related to creating cultures of academic integrity, the first three components of the model are transferable to addressing the gaps in WIL. They describe a four-stage model that includes: recognition and commitment; response generation; response implementation; and institutionalization (Bertram Gallant & Drinan, 2008). They liken the model to a pendulum in that the model offers fluidity and movement within the stages (Bertram Gallant & Drinan, 2008, p. 29). The first three components of the model are used to frame original ideas that are herein presented.

An important first step is to recognize and commit to the pressing issue of institutionalizing academic integrity across WIL settings. Describing a clear sense of urgency is part of this first stage which can prove challenging since WIL opportunities will include a number of people, from a number of organizations. For example, in working on securing clinical placements for WIL with nursing students, it is necessary to negotiate with various health care agencies and organizations. The challenge lies in engaging champions across different organizations to support the effort. One initial step would be to clearly articulate the need for such an effort in preparing career ready, competent, and ethically intact graduates who will contribute to the mission and vision of hiring organizations, and opportunities to build their human capital. Describing the educational organization’s vision for WIL environments anchored in integrity is a start. The vision should be established and described by members of the educational organization and include participation and feedback from students, faculty, and industry advisors. Collaboration with industry partners will help bridge the goals and outcome of WIL endeavours so that the WIL experience becomes an “intentional pedagogy that blends theoretical content with workplace practises…whereby industry and universities nurture robust partnerships which inform curriculum and ensure an authentic student experience” (Jackson et al., 2017, p. 45). Bertram Gallant and Drinan (2008, p. 31) warn that while students can play an important role in this first stage, it is perhaps more important to include faculty champions, and those in power and authority to make change happen (Bertram Gallant and Drinan, 2008, p. 31). The vision should then be clearly communicated as a core component for the educational organization to all potential external partners important to WIL placements. Communication of the established vision must be clear, consistent, readily available, and obvious. Articulating and communicating what is meant by honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage in words and actions is an important start and should be evident through the vision statement (Miron, 2016).

The second and third stages of the model are described as a response generation and the implementation phase (Bertram Gallant, 2008). In response generation educational organizations would identify and generate a response to the work of describing requirements to successfully promote WIL experiences that embody academic integrity. It would be important to include members of the learning community and industry to ensure that balanced and obtainable strategies are set to secure WIL settings that emulate ethics and the values consistent with academic integrity. Such placements will provide students the opportunity to interact and immerse with ethics in the workplace while gaining valuable workplace skills and knowledge. The implementation of such work would include describing a clear direction for the educational organization with action steps to achieve concrete results. Placement officers within post-secondary organizations, or staff who hold positions focused on securing placements, should be clear about what constitutes a desirable WIL location for students so that they source and secure appropriate placements. Organizational and professional program leaders, in collaboration with faculty/staff, must identify and articulate a gold standard for work-related student locations. The gold standard should be communicated clearly to those charged with finding WIL locations, and explicit to the processes they use to secure appropriate settings. Benchmarks like specific agency accreditation standards, professional codes of ethics, missions, visions, and values of targeted work-related locations can help inform the gold standard (Miron, 2016, 2019).

There is, however, a looming reality that despite best efforts, ethical issues will continue to arise in WIL situations and challenge students in their efforts to maintain practices consistent with academic integrity. This reality is unavoidable in considering that “organizational tensions and societal forces complicate the work of students and faculty” (Bertram Gallant, 2008, p.5). Faculty-supported experiences for learners, can mitigate or support learners to navigate such challenges. For example, that learner who is encouraged to be dishonest by their staff preceptor so that they both avoid potential disciplinary action can be both frightening and confusing for a learner. Having 24 h/7 day a week access to a faculty member that has the skills to navigate such a complex ethical situation and problem solve such a situation with the student is indispensable to the learner and can transform the learning opportunity into a positive experience that will allow the learner to learn and grow in building their ethical decision making and practice confidence.

It is important for organizational leaders to recruit and retain faculty and practice advisors who ascribe to the values that align with integrity. Miron (2016, 2019) reported that students relied on faculty to support their academic integrity efforts in the workplace. Those in academic roles play an important and influential role in setting the stage, modeling the desired behaviour, and addressing practice situations that deviate from integrity. Quite simply, students learn from what they see and experience. Ongoing development with faculty related to teaching and advising students in WIL settings is important and should be intentional and responsive to practice and industry changes so that faculty are able to provide the leadership students require and desire when learning in practice locations. The skill and expertise of faculty/practice advisors will support student integrity and motivation and support deeper learning (Bertram Gallant, 2017, p. 90).

Adopting strategies and learning resources that can prepare students for their WIL experiences are important. Active learning pedagogies are reported to positively influence the acculturation of students to integrity (Bertram Gallant, 2017, p. 89). For example, using case-based simulated scenarios that allow students to navigate real life situations they may experience provides safe and skilfully guided opportunities to problem solve those situations where integrity is challenged (Gropelli, 2010; Hagerdorn Wonder, 2017; Opsahl et al., 2020; Shoeb et al., 2014). Such controlled educational offerings provide safe opportunities for students to make the necessary and meaningful connections between behaviours consistent with academic and professional integrity. In turn, these connections can help to shape students’ attitudes and behaviours related to conduct consistent with integrity, as well as prepare them for those situations in practice that may challenge their integrity (Miron, 2016).

Cultivating partnerships with organizations that host our students through their work-related experiences is an opportunity educational leaders must seize. Reciprocal educational and development for host organizations in specific fields of expertise or with current professional issues can create nurturing partnerships that benefit students, educational and host organizations (Miron, 2016). Cross-appointments, guest lecturers, shared research projects, and other tangible endeavours not only recognizes the expertise within host organizations but communicates respect and a collaborative spirit that will enhance student learning experiences (Miron, 2016). As well, these cultivated relationships may provide a competitive edge to organizations that are competing for quality WIL settings.

Preparing students through workshops or seminars focused on actions for success within WIL settings, and supporting their membership as students in professional bodies, are other invaluable undertakings. Practical educative sessions that include professional communication strategies, conflict resolution skills, ethical practice, leadership skills, emotional intelligence, assertiveness, and self-advocacy skills, are content topics that could be started through a workshop or seminar and be threaded through the WIL experience in meaningful ways. Engaging and strengthening these skills with students through regular student group discussions, personal reflections, or seminars will enable students to build ethical resilience and hardiness. Encouraging students to talk about breaches they have witnessed or experienced allows deeper more thoughtful reflection and deeper more thoughtful learning (Miron, 2016). Student memberships in professional organizations can expose students to their future professional communities and opportunities to build a deeper understanding of ethical practice. Often these organizations have a strong student to student opportunities that offer meaningful connections for students to explore and compare experiences with their ethics in practice.

Finally, educational organizations need to take a strong lead in formally preparing students through curriculum that teaches ethics, specifically how to “effectively deal with ethical dilemmas and misconduct” (Christensen Hughes & Bertram Gallant, 2016, p. 1057). In fact, this ethical content should be extended to and specialized for WIL experiences where learners are going to engage in practice that may very well challenge them ethically. Exposing students to professional ethical codes of conduct in combination with ethical philosophical frameworks may support their development as robust ethical practitioners (Bertram Gallant, 2011; Christensen Hughes & Bertram Gallant, 2016). In their chapter of the Handbook of Academic Integrity Christensen Hughes and Bertram Gallant make a strong case on the need for ethical education and while the chapter does not focus specifically on WIL it is an easy transition to make considering the nature, location, and intent of WIL experiences.

Final Thoughts

Many of the professional courses of study across the Canadian post-secondary setting incorporate WIL. While these opportunities are invaluable for students in translating their theoretical learning to practical application, there continues to be a need to highlight the importance of acculturating students to the values of academic integrity in their practice. There is a general agreement that all approaches to the promotion of learning cultures that herald integrity must be a holistic undertaking (Bretag et al., 2014). Promoting integrity “in every aspect of the academic enterprise” (Bretag et al., 2014, p. 1153) should include WIL for those programs that include WIL as part of the educational experience. Careful articulation of what such practice would look like along with thoughtful approaches to secure hallmark WIL opportunities for students are just two aspects worthy of consideration. Properly preparing students for this type of learning, offering ongoing education and development to students throughout the WIL experience as they build and strengthen their skills, are also important. Creating and cultivating respectful, meaningful, reciprocal relationships between academics sending students, and professional workers hosting students cannot be underestimated. Offering curriculum that includes specific ethics education should be incorporated into the WIL experience. There is also a great need for continued research in the area of WIL to continue to inform our understanding approaches to these settings in an evidence based manner so that positive, ethically grounded experiences are possible. While this chapter has largely approached WIL with a Canadian lens, the strategies offered are not limited to the Canadian experience and can be adopted to the subtleties of other countries and their learning settings.

Key Chapter Points

  • Academic integrity is an underexplored and discussed topic for work-integrated learning (WIL) settings.

  • Business, engineering, and nursing are key professional courses of study who have contributed to what we know about student behaviours in WIL settings and later professional practice.

  • Attention to promoting integrity in WIL settings influences future behaviours and the care and service they will provide members of the public.

  • It is important to describe hallmark features of WIL settings, secure these placement opportunities for students, recruit, retain, and professionally develop faculty/practice advisors in integrity and practice excellence.

  • Students look to academics to mentor and model integrity.

  • WIL prepares students for challenges they may see to ethical practice through the teaching of ethics.

  • Cultivate reciprocal relationships with leaders and practitioners in organizations that host WIL.