My “Closet” Confessions

I have a confession. I must purchase a hoodie sweatshirt for every school where I speak, teach or study. When asked about my eclectic collection of higher education swag (Georgian College, University of Fredericton, University of Windsor, York University and Lakehead University to name a few), I explain that I equate it to draft day in the NHL. When the player’s name is called, they immediately put on a team jersey. This helps build the relationship between the team and the player while establishing a sense of belongingness for the new organization member.  As human beings, we have an innate desire to belong to a community or group. This need for belonging is crucial not only in our personal lives but also in our academic and professional lives. In a school setting, the sense of belonging can significantly impact students’ behaviour, including reducing academic dishonesty.

Belongingness and Enhancing #academicintegrity

Academic dishonesty refers to any “willful or deliberate” breach of the integrity policies of the institution (Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, et al., 2019). This can include plagiarism, cheating on exams or assignments, and fabrication or falsification of research. Any breach of the academic integrity policies can lead to severe consequences such as suspension, expulsion, or even legal repercussions. Therefore, it is crucial to prevent academic misconduct in schools.

Building a Sense of Belonging

One way to prevent academic dishonesty is by promoting a sense of belonging in the school community. When students feel a sense of belongingness, they are more likely to engage in behaviours that align with the values of the community. They are more likely to be invested in their education and motivated to succeed academically. As a result, they are less likely to engage in academic misconduct.

Further, since international students are “over-represented in academic misconduct violations” (Clayton Smith, Ed.D., et al., 2016), helping to bridge the chasm between the international student’s home system definition of academic integrity to the westernized interpretation through engagement and developing a sense of belonging will provide an opportunity for more open communication with domestic students who are more acclimatized to the expectations of academic integrity in the westernized classroom (Arumuhathas, 2022; Maher Ghalayini, Ed.D., 2014), Glass & Westmont, 2014; Clayton Smith, Ed.D., et al., 2016; Tinto, 1975).

DE&I in The Classroom

A sense of belonging in a school community can be achieved through various means. One effective approach is establishing a supportive and inclusive school environment that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. This can be facilitated by fostering open communication and collaboration between students, teachers, and staff. By doing so, everyone feels and is perceived as valued and respected, which cultivates a sense of community.

Another way to promote a sense of belonging is by providing opportunities for students to participate in school activities such as sports teams, clubs, volunteer opportunities, or leadership positions. Students who engage in such activities feel a sense of ownership and pride in their school. They are likelier to exhibit positive behaviours that align with the school community’s values.

Look For Development Opportunities Rather Than Punitive Measures

Additionally, schools can implement policies that promote academic integrity rather than police misconduct. This can include educating students about the importance of academic honesty and providing them with resources to cite sources and avoid plagiarism properly. In the event of academic misconduct, the faculty can adopt a developmental approach by using the situation as a learning opportunity rather than a punitive result. By doing so, schools can foster a culture of academic honesty, where students are encouraged to uphold the school community’s values.

In Conclusion

So, the next time you see me wandering around the school bookstore looking for the school swag, think about how important putting the sweatshirt on is in helping create a sense of belonging to the school community, the program, and the institution. After all, it has helped me make persistence decisions on more than one occasion in my career (Connell, 2023).


Arumuhathas, S. S. (2022). The dislocated ‘outsiders’ within international Canadian higher education. Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education, 13(1), 7.

Connell, K. (2023). The impact of international students transitioning from home to host academic culture on their persistence/withdrawal decision. Presented at Graduate Education Research Conference, University of Windsor (peer-reviewed).

Eaton, S. E., Crossman, K., & Edino, R. (2019). Academic Integrity in Canada: An Annotated Bibliography. University of Calgary.

Ghalayini, M. (2014). Academic and social integration: A narrative study of Indian international students’ experience and persistence in post-graduate studies in Ontario. [Dissertation, Northeastern University].

Glass, C. R., & Westmont, C. M. (2014). Comparative effects of belongingness on the academic success and cross-cultural interactions of domestic and international students. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 38, 106–119.

Smith, C. (2016). Promoting international student success. In D. Williams, M. Baxton, & R. Watkins (Eds.), The AACRAO International Guide: A Resource for International Education Professionals (pp. 103–115). AACRAO.

Tinto, V. (1975). Dropout from higher education: A theoretical synthesis of recent research. Review of Educational Research, 45(1), 38.