The assessment dilemma; fitting a square peg into a round hole

Life as we know it, for a period, has definitely changed. This semester there won’t be in-class tests and invigilated exams so we need to urgently re-think what we are doing. That square peg will never fit into a round hole, so let’s not try and force it. If you don’t want to offer assignments and still want to run tests here are a few ideas on how to set an open-book, take-home test. The ideas are expected to reduce plagiarism and provide an accurate account of student remote learning:

Case study / previous assignment Ask questions in the test that relate back to a previous assignment that students completed, this way they can’t share answers, given each person will have a different problem or case to refer back to.
Reflective piece Include a reflective piece in the test, ask students to think about what they have learned and relate key knowledge back to their own learning journey (difficult to plagiarise) but ensure you do prepare them by providing some resources on reflective writing. Ask them to answer ‘what, so what, now what’ in their answers.
Higher order thinking and skills development Ask questions that require critical thinking and analytical skills i.e. higher order thinking where you ask students to analyse impacts, evaluate ideas, justify their opinions etc. Ensure you provide adequate time to respond to these and also practice time in weekly exercises so they build the appropriate problem-solving skills before the test.
Viva voce / interviews Tell students you will spot check some with follow up online interviews using Collaborate Ultra, Teams Meetings or Skype, explain they will need to answer questions like those on the test on the spot ‘viva voce’. They won’t know who you are going to call so will need to ensure they know key knowledge.
Discussion forums Provide them with the case or problem the week before the test is due; ask them to discuss possible questions and answers on the discussion board, ensure you engage in the discussion and throw in some thought provoking questions to get them thinking. They will feel so well prepared, they won’t need to cheat.
Screencasts Have students make a screencast with webcam in Studios to answer a problem with their face on the camera while they use the screen to talk through answers. 500 words spoken equals approximately 3 minutes, set the correct number of questions for an appropriate marking time.
Weekly hints / tips Provide weekly hints on what you want to see in the test responses, if they aren’t evident in responses then you may want to spot check relevant students.

There are many different ways of testing knowledge. Now is the time to innovate and move to a more engaging way of assessing students, one that will hopefully help our students to develop deep learning rather than surface preparation for tests and exams. In my experience I have found that we rarely remember anything we wrote in an exam, whereas, more authentic assessments really stand out in our memory.

A few things to remember:

You don’t need to test everything, just the Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs), decide what are the ‘must knows’ for your CLOs and test them. Any new practice needs scaffolding, provide students with the skills they will need to succeed in their assessment. Students will always cheat if they think they need to, good preparation and time to do the work will help stop that practice.

Useful resources:

For more ideas on writing Authentic Test refer to this handout.

To read more about plagiarism, refer to this OLT study: cheating students reported higher incidence of cheating in tests and exams than in assignments.

Ensuring academic integrity and assessment security with redesigned online delivery: a useful guide produced by CRADLE Deakin University.

Teacher’s Handbook on e-Assessment, Geoffrey Crisp, Transforming Assessment

Transforming Assessment
This site explores assessment in higher education with a particular focus on use of information and communications technology to enhance the assessment of student learning (e-assessment).  The work on Transforming Assessment was supported by the Office for Learning and Teaching (Australian Government) through an Extension Grant 2013-2014. This work continues thanks to University of New South Wales, University of Canberra and the University of Queensland.

A guide on open book exams produced by the Centre for Teaching & Learning at the University of Newcastle.

Guide to converting an in class test to online – SISTER

Faculty Focus – Good questions for better essay prompts (and papers)

Transparent Assignment Checklist