Designing Assessments for Academic Integrity

Designing Assessments for Academic Integrity

This page offers four main strategies to designing assessments for greater academic integrity, as well as focused, actionable tips for creating and placing settings on exams to support academic integrity.

If you are revisiting your assessment approaches in light of GenAI use, in addition to the guidance here, you may wish to read our Teaching and Generative AI page and the University of Michigan's Course and Assignment (Re)Design resource.

4 Assessment Strategies to Strengthen Academic Integrity

Faculty have used four main assessment strategies to strengthen academic integrity, regardless of teaching modality: 

  1. Scaffolding assignments is a key way to both enhance learning and deter academic misconduct. Because scaffolding provides a number of touchpoints before submitting for summative assessment, it provides opportunities to see students’ work in development—which makes academic misconduct less likely.  
  2. Using alternative and “authentic”  assessments also correlates with academic integrity (Morris, 2016). You can find examples of alternative assessments UO faculty have used in their classes here
  3. Revisiting how exams are used in courses allows for several strategies for decreasing academic misconduct; one strategy UO faculty have turned to with success is turning high-stakes exams into more frequent exams or quizzes with lower point values.  
  4. Modifying questions and the structure of the exams themselves in Canvas has been very effective for a number of faculty. For example, the Canvas Quiz tool can be set up to randomize questions and to develop question banks, all of which can help the instructor in their creating unique quizzes for individual students.  

Designing Exams for Academic Integrity

Some of the most useful approaches when exams are a necessary component of our courses include: 

Modifying how we use exams in a course 

  • Turn high-stakes exams into multiple, lower-stakes exams (or alternate assessments), with a broader point distribution. More frequent quizzes or exams also supports better long-term memory consolidation. 
  • Remove grading curves, if you have them. 
  • Make the exam “open book” where possible. 
  • Allow for a partial re-take of the assessment (or portions of it) for a fraction of the initial credit. 
  • If you must assess with a high-stakes exam, ensure that students have experience with the genre (multiple choice exam, short answers, etc.) and technologies (Canvas quizzes, other platforms) of the assessment.
  • If there is something about your exam that is new (such as the technology or format), allow students to practice prior to the exam itself. This increases the likelihood that the assessment will measure student learning as opposed to technological issues or anxiety with a new medium. 

Modifying exam questions 

  • Use varied question types like multiple choice, multiple select, and conceptual short answer questions (such as “explain why this step is necessary?”). 
  • Design for a mix of objective and subjective questions/answers, or a mix of questions that ask students to identify, apply, and analyze information. For example, an exam on law and society might ask a multiple choice question about the scope of a particular law, but other questions might ask students to apply that law to a specific scenario and predict the outcome, or to analyze what social changes might have occurred had the law applied in a different region or time period. 
  • Ask questions that require deep thinking and application of information to select the answer, as opposed to memorization (e.g.: clinical case studies, imaginary world scenarios).  
  • Have students identify an error in an already worked problem in a class that uses quantitative analysis, such as a math, statistics, or physics course.    
  • Have students show their work when producing an answer to a computational question (they can upload a photo, pdf, or video; check in about their access to this technology).  
  • Have students explain their answer to a traditional multiple choice question via a Zoom or phone call, or a video upload. This allows you to use the multiple choice questions you have prepared in the past, but to use fewer questions and achieve a deeper dive into student understanding.  
  • Build buy-in by having students propose exam questions and using them in the exam. Offer them guidance to help them revise them and/or extra credit for writing a question that gets used. 
  • Pose formula questions with a single variable that changes for each student. (Here’s how.
  • Avoid using questions that come verbatim from a textbook. 
  • Insert a “challenge question.” Where instructors have a concern about ensuring that the person taking the test is the student, the CAS Dean’s office describes this as “asking a surprise question only the student knows the answer to—and that you can easily verify” such as their favorite reading or activity from the course. 

Modifying the structure of exams in Canvas 

  • Ask students to attest to the integrity of their work at the start of the exam. You can find an example of how one instructor does this here. 
  • Create a large bank of questions (potentially in collaboration with others teaching the same course and/or with student-proposed questions) and expand your bank each term so you can: 
    • Set Canvas to randomly select questions for each student. See Canvas’ guidance around creating a bank as well as using the bank in a quiz/exam 
    • Encourage long-term memory consolidation through the process of ‘interleaving’. For example, in addition to blocking content (AAABBBCCC) in assignments and assessments, we can integrate content and questions from multiple parts of a scaffolded sequence (ABACBBACCA).  
  • Prevent students from seeing the correct answers until after everyone has taken the exam. 
  • Shuffle answers. 
  • Set a time window for exam access. We encourage faculty to set a window that will provide enough time for all students to complete their exam without rushing (if possible, 24 hours), as timed exams have drawbacks for students who have test-taking anxiety.