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How to uphold assessment with integrity and ensure accurate measurement of student learning

The key to assessment with integrity is understanding that it's not just about mitigating academic misconduct, but also about nurturing students on their learning journey.

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager

Assessment with integrity mitigates short cut solutions and instead makes students feel seen and supported throughout their learning journey. When students’ answers are their own, teachers then understand how and when to support students in a timely and appropriate manner. Assessment with integrity is, in sum, critical to accurate measurement of student learning and subsequently, student learning outcomes.

The responsibility for accurate assessment is in the hands of both students and educators:

  • Students who avoid short-cut solutions on assignments and exams prioritize their learning.
  • Educators who design and deliver inclusive assessments prioritize student learning.

So how can educators uphold assessment with integrity?

Of course, there are similarity checking tools that detect plagiarism and proctoring software to mitigate cheating and bolster accurate assessment. But it’s key to understand that assessment with integrity is not just about mitigating academic misconduct, but also about nurturing students through inclusive course design, exam design, and subsequent data analysis.

Course design

  • Set learning objectives early. Communicating what students are to learn sets expectations and makes clear the goals of the learning journey.
  • To that end, align course content to assessment; test what is taught, teach what is tested. Doing so models fairness and prepares students for assessment. And prepared students have less incentive to cheat.
  • Build a relationship with students and provide a sense of belonging. Students who feel seen and have ample opportunities for formative feedback are more supported and less vulnerable to misconduct.
  • Finally, raise awareness of forms of academic misconduct. While it may seem antithetical to show students the various forms of misconduct, whether via plagiarism or other shortcuts, doing so is a form of mitigation. Students, educators, and administrators who see and understand these emerging threats can take informed, preemptive steps.

Exam design

  • Provide frequent, low-stakes assessments to support students on the learning journey. Low-stakes assignments help students “fail safely,” and offer transparency into student learning and opportunities for teacher intervention.
  • Multiple exam formats foster inclusion of different learning styles and measurement of different learning components. Multiple-choice exams can allow assessment of a broad set of knowledge in a shorter time frame while short-answer questions can often measure higher-order thinking. For students, different exam formats allow them to express different components of their understanding.
  • Balance formative and summative assessments to support end-to-end assessment. Formative assessments such as quizzes and midterms allow students to receive feedback and progress in their learning. Summative assessments, as a result, are then supported by prior feedback and less prone to short-cut solutions. For example, when it comes to essays, submitting papers in stages provides transparency and opportunity to support student learning while ensuring accurate assessment.

Data analysis and intervention

  • Analyze student responses to inform curriculum planning as well as future exam design. By analyzing student responses to exam questions via item analysis, educators can understand which questions were most effective at measuring knowledge and make appropriate adjustments. Such data analysis also fosters supportive teaching interventions.

While proctoring solutions and similarity check tools are useful ways to detect and mitigate academic misconduct, supporting the student learning journey best enacts assessment with integrity. One of the core components of doing so is through course and assessment design. At the International Center for Academic Integrity Conference in 2021, a number of panels addressed academic misconduct; they concluded that the best way to mitigate misconduct was through assessment design. Research has shown that assessment design can mitigate misconduct like contract cheating (Sotiriadou, Logan, Daily, & Guest 2019). Supported students who feel seen and prepared via assessment design prioritize learning and are less inclined to engage in academic dishonesty.