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What do grading and marking assessments have to do with academic integrity?

Integrity features within Gradescope

Grading, often an exhausting and time-consuming effort, is a critical component of academic integrity. Gradescope has become a large component of our assessment and grading tools available to students and teachers, rounding out our academic integrity offerings. Which leads to the question, “What does grading have to do with academic integrity?”

Christine Lee
Christine Lee
Content Manager

At Turnitin, our mission has evolved over the years to span the entire assessment and learning journey. We began as peer review software in 1998, which then pivoted to anti-plagiarism due to urgent and increasing need. Our similarity checker has since become what business people call a “flagship product,” with a focus on academic integrity. In keeping up with best pedagogical practices, we’ve expanded Feedback Studio with more formative feedback features like Draft Coach. And emerging trends in academic integrity influenced the introduction of Originality, which serves as an investigative endpoint tool for contract cheating.

Enabling formative feedback helped us to better support students and “decriminalize” academic misconduct by helping students and teachers identify and correct missteps early on in the learning process. The essence of academic integrity, as we believe it, is to avoid plagiarism and cheating altogether by helping students feel seen and supported throughout the educational journey.

To that end, we’ve grown our own product line to include many components of assessment integrity, from original idea inception to drafting work to similarity checking to exam design, delivery, and grading. In essence, we’ve come full circle to the peer review software origin of Turnitin.

Gradescope has become a large component of our assessment and grading tools available to students and teachers, rounding out our academic integrity offerings. Which leads to the question, “What does grading have to do with academic integrity?”

Grading, assessment design, and assessment delivery have a lot to do with academic integrity. For example, offering fair and inclusive assessments and grading consistency without bias helps students find value in assignments; when students know that assessments are meant to support their learning, they find that work more meaningful. And when students find work meaningful, they’ re less apt to take shortcut solutions. Assessment integrity is about an accurate measurement of learning. It’s as much the responsibility of the student as it is of educators, because integrity goes both ways. Assessments have to be aligned with what is taught, they need to be presented in a variety of formats, and incorporate feedback, just for starters.

Here we present assessment integrity and the ways in which Gradescope supports these best practices:

Assessment design with integrity

Assessment design is the way in which teachers model integrity to students. When an exam is fair and inclusive, students find them valuable and equitable and are less apt to cheat.

  • Teach what will be tested. Test what was taught. Aligning course content to exams and assignments fortifies student learning and helps them find value in assessments. In turn, students who find value in assignments are less apt to take shortcut solutions. Such design is fair and models integrity to students. Moreover, exams with questions that are unique to a particular course can mitigate misconduct.
  • It’s important to offer a variety of assessment formats and Gradescope supports a number of assessment formats. From open-ended question types to bubble sheet (or “Scantron”) exams, ensuring that students have multiple ways to demonstrate knowledge is important. A variety of assessment formats helps students share different components of learning; multiple-choice exams, for instance, are an efficient way to demonstrate breadth of knowledge while short and long-answer questions can encourage students to show higher-order thinking and depth of understanding. Providing different assessment formats also acknowledges students’ different learning styles.
  • Provide a space for students to “fail safely” with frequent, low-stakes assessments. Gradescope helps instructors save time on grading, which in turn enables instructors to offer more assessments. While no one questions the best practice of frequent assessments, it can be seen as unrealistic because grading by hand takes so much instructor time and coordination.
Assessment delivery with integrity

Assessment delivery is the step that most people associate with academic integrity. This is the point at which exams and assignments are directly vulnerable to shortcut solutions. Exam design, as well as the following methodologies, can mitigate misconduct.

  • Timed assessments can mitigate abuse of electronic devices. Gradescope has a time limit function that can help.
  • Versioning, or multiple versions of the same test like question randomization, can mitigate the temptation to share answers with each other. Shuffling the order of questions or answers helps prevent this form of cheating.
  • Maintaining a repository of electronic, scanned copies of every student’s exam or assignment can keep students honest. If a student asks for a regrade, instructors are assured that the returned work hasn’t been edited or changed.
  • When it comes to programming assignments and assessments, programming plagiarism similarity checkers like MOSS, embedded within Gradescope, helps prevent programming plagiarism.
  • Additionally, keeping seating charts can triangulate data of students with similar responses.
Grading and item analysis

Grading isn’t usually associated with academic integrity, because it is the domain of the instructor. Grading is an opportunity to provide feedback and support students on their learning journey; supported students are less vulnerable to academic misconduct.

  • Reduce unintentional instructor bias and promote consistency. Grading can be drudgery and last into the wee hours of nighttime; a tired instructor can become a biased grader. Gradescope enables anonymous grading, which can reduce unintentional bias by changing students’ names, email addresses, and other identifying information. Additionally, since Gradescope defaults to grading-by-question rather than grading-by-user, Gradescope promotes consistency in grading.
  • Feedback loops strengthen instructor-student relationships and bolster academic integrity. With Gradescope, students can receive guidance on what mistakes they have made and why.
  • Feedback loops also provide instructors with student learning insights via item analysis. In Gradescope, instructors can analyze assessment data and student responses to understand where students may need supplemental instruction. By reviewing data and statistics around questions, instructors can scan for the most difficult questions and any grading inconsistencies. Item analysis can also highlight answer patterns, which makes identical answers more obvious. Scott Smith of Johns Hopkins University states, “After using Gradescope for a year, I realized that it could be used to detect cheating. Gradescope allows you to see submissions to specific questions in sequence, making it easy to spot submissions that are identical, a red-flag for copied answers. While not a feature, it is an undocumented bonus” (Smith, 2018).
  • Rubrics provide clear guidelines for student assignments so that students understand what it is they need to communicate, and graders can better execute consistent grading. Moreover, rubrics act as a checkpoint for aligning instruction to assessment and enable quality assessments; when students find value in exams they are less likely to take shortcut solutions.

Grading, often an exhausting and time-consuming effort, is a critical component of academic integrity. At Turnitin, we acknowledge all the work that instructors do to promote academic integrity within classrooms and with Gradescope, we hope that work is more efficient and effective.