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Academic Integrity in Testing Situations
General Tips for Faculty
- Familiarizing Students: Provide students with testing details in advance. Let them know what types of questions will be provided: multiple choice, short answer, long answer, case studies, calculations, etc. Tell them how long the test will be in terms of pages and time. Tell them the type of visuals and graphs they can expect to see or create. Let them know if they can have access to study notes, calculators, software, etc. In class time or online, provide practice questions that are at least the same level of difficulty as those on the test.
- Cheat-Proofing Your Questions: If students know that they need to apply information and concepts to novel cases, then the usefulness of planning cheating in advance is diminished. Writing test questions that require higher order thinking skills can have positive washback into the way students approach learning the material.
- Securing the Environment: There are two main types of cheating with regards to unauthorized materials: 1) planned cheating wherein a student attempts to bring notes or test answers into the test setting via paper, a smartphone or a smartwatch and b) on-the-spot cheating in which a student tries to access answers from the web or another student (verbally or visually).
Specific Strategies to Enhance Testing Practices
- Make studying more appealing than cheating. Don’t wait till the day of the test to tell student how you try to cheat-proof your tests. Post your practices on eConestoga from the start of the course.
- Refresh your tests regularly. Students can quickly snap photos of pages during or after a test and then share/sell them on online or privately. It would be better for you to share copies of previous tests and exams for practice and ensure that you use new prompts each time that requires novel application of the course’s learning.
- Keep desktops clear. Do not allow any watches, phones, digital devices, programmable calculators, coats, bags or pencil cases to be within arm’s reach. All of these items can contain digital or print copies of course materials. Such items need to be left in lockers, placed in baggies, set along the front wall or placed out of reach under the table. Be aware that faculty in Ontario have caught students with extra cell phones on their persons, so circulating around the room remains important. At Conestoga, we’ve had multiple cases of students taking pictures of test pages and sharing with the next section. Teachers find out as angry students send the faculty screenshots.
- Require Student I.D. Ask students to bring their Conestoga ONECard as identification. Students may attempt to write each other’s test in large cohorts.
- Do not let students choose their own seats. Consider numbering the seats 1-X and as students enter, assign them a random place. Alternately, you can number the test papers and place them around the room and as students come in send them to the next number. You can also create a seating plan in advance and project it on the screen so students sit where assigned. Once everyone is seated, create a seating plan if you didn’t use one. Let the class know you will be doing so as evidence in the event that students submit similar answers.
- Create variations. Have 2-3 versions of each test but don’t spend your time making completely different questions. Simply alter the order of either the questions or the answers so students cannot find an answer by glancing at a neighbor’s test. Alternately, have a few unique data sets or a few unique cases so that answers differ across three versions of the test.
- Colour-code your tests. Switch the colour of your exam and have another colour for rough work paper each time. Students who brought a smaller, white-coloured sheet to slip under their exam will be foiled. Make sure you use only pale colours that have a good contrast so students can read easily.
- Check in. Tell students that you may randomly ask rows to stand and raise their arms during the exam time to check that no small slips of paper have been pulled out of pockets. Tell them this will also give them a stretch break.
- Label containers. Tell students that they need to take a sticker and write their name on it and affix it to any disposable water bottles or coffee cups they have with them during the exam. Tell them these items must be left behind on the table when they exit and will be inspected. Do not allow any food items or gum in the exam as wrapper notes are a popular cheating tool.
- Be an active observer. Do not sit at the front or move about predictably. Circulate to the four corners of the room during the test. If students can’t anticipate your next move, they will hesitate to access unauthorized materials. Place a chair at the back so you can be comfortable sitting there on occasion. Most faculty stay near the front which is not where a student wanting to cheat is likely to sit. Stay alert. Avoid squeaky shoes. Do not stay at the computer. If you use the computer during the test, be sure not to make noises on the keyboard.
- Seek support. If possible, partner with another faculty member so both of you are in the room together for each other’s exams. This way you can escort to the washroom if needed. There is no way to check what happens in a stall, but the idea of being escorted may cause second thoughts about planting a cheat sheet in the washroom.
- Have a full class washroom break. For example, you can divide your test into two parts and collect Part A after 50 minutes, provide everyone with a 15 minute break and then handout Part B on their return. This way you can allow a timed washroom break. Students can chat and refresh their minds half way through.
- Use markers for marking. If you are worried that students will modify returned tests and then request a re-write, use a fine-tipped permanent marker during marking. Cross out empty answer spaces.
- Manage sightlines. Discourage on-the-spot cheating by asking all students to protect their test paper. You can provide an extra sheet of coloured paper that students should use to cover answered questions.
- Discourage talking. Tell students that any speaking out loud, in any language, will be considered cheating.