It’s common for examinees to view exam integrity processes as rigid and unforgiving--here's how to navigate those feelings

How to challenge misperceptions around exam integrity


It’s common for examinees to view exam integrity processes as rigid and unforgiving--here's how to navigate those feelings

Integrity is the concept of being honorable, reliable, trustworthy. Anyone displaying integrity is a person you can trust without question. Why then, when we apply integrity to examination, don’t examinees have the same automatic positive feeling?

It’s common for examinees to view exam integrity processes as rigid and unforgiving. Instead of evoking positive feelings, these processes often conjure a sense of dread for examinees. I myself received a letter from a former student stating that they thought of me as the “bearer of bad news,” as I was responsible for all things assessment, including maintaining exam integrity. I am not alone; I know many exam administrators have felt that students view them as the necessary antagonist, at best, versus a helpful ally.

Why is it that exam integrity signals a divide between those giving the exam and those taking the exam? Educators find it necessary to promote proctoring and oversight because they fear otherwise examinees would always cheat. Research from the International Center for Assessment Integrity (ICAI) supports this notion, with over 60 percent of students surveyed admitting to cheating in some form. Even with that alarming stat, educators cannot take for granted that some examinees may feel demeaned because the message they receive is that they cannot be trusted, and proctoring measures are simply a means of showing power and authority.

The focus on the negative connotations of exam integrity have robbed us of the principle that both sides want the same thing — a fair and reliable exam experience. The view we must change is the misperception surrounding exam integrity, replacing a mentality of policing with one of promotion. That is, the promotion of equal opportunity and trustworthy assessment of knowledge.

Why is Exam Integrity Important?

Exam integrity is crucial to having results that you can trust to truly reflect student knowledge and curricular outcomes. If you have this accurate reflection, any data and analytics derived from exams in the form of categorical or item analysis can assist with student remediation — giving a pinpointed and detailed overview of strengths and areas needing improvement. Any exam that doesn’t have integrity doesn’t have the downstream advantage of knowing exactly where students stand academically, and it can’t provide the meaningful statistics that show your curriculum is teaching adequately. For many universities, this means proving compliance to their accreditors. If you have data with integrity, it is accepted as a valid indicator of your institution’s academic reputation.

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