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Principles for reliable and valid exams

An essential part of the quality assurance of SDU’s education programmes is about ensuring that the exams always give an academically adequate and, in the broadest sense, credible picture of the student's abilities. Safeguarding credibility is about ensuring the quality of the evaluation of the exams, but also about ensuring that the students’ academic achievements are premised on honesty and academic integrity.

The principles describe the university's work to ensure the reliability and validity: Exams, and the student’s final diploma, must be an indisputable evidence of the student's qualifications acquired at SDU.

Purpose
The digitisations of exams create new challenges for the way in which SDU thinks and works with exams.

Academic and pedagogical objectives must be developed on an ongoing basis in order to follow the development of the technological opportunities. Through the quality assurance of exams, it must be ensured that the use of new technological opportunities are harmonised with and adapted to the development of exam forms in an academic and pedagogical perspective.

Due to the new challenges, among these especially the new possibilities for cheating in exams/academic dishonesty, SDU has chosen to focus on an all-encompassing strategy in order to assure the quality of exams at the university.

SDU deals with 4 focus areas follow up by an action plan:

1. The educational an pedagogical area

The best way the campaign on reliable exams can be implemented is by developing exam forms which in themselves prevent and make exam cheating impossible. In cases where cheating is possible, the work in regard to the detection of cheating must be carefully balanced with pedagogic considerations of validity and reliability of exams.

 The pedagogical work is based on a constructive alignment mindset. The aim is always to ensure that there is consistency in relation to the learning activity, the description of objective as well as testing of the student’s knowledge, skills and qualifications with reference to the qualifications framework.

 An exam must, as a basis, be a natural extension of the lesson plan the students have followed. An exam will always, to some extent, be an artificial and unnatural situation, but in relation to the principle of reliable exams, exams should be as natural for the learning process as possible. A campaign against cheating in the exam must not disturb the focus from these objectives

 

Initiative:

1.1. Pedagogical/exam technical initiatives
The university is actively working with education pedagogic activities to develop test forms which ensure both alignment in relation to the teaching and prevent exam cheating and promote respect for the academic honesty.

1.2. Mandatory course/course element in good academic practice and integrity:
The University is introducing a mandatory course/course element in academic honesty for all new students on all study-start programmes.

 

2. Communication initiatives

It is essential that all students and teachers at SDU are familiar with the rules and standards of good academic practice and the general exam rules. The university cannot assume that students have acquired this knowledge on their own, or that all teachers, including international staff have sufficient knowledge of the rules and practices at SDU. A reliable and valid exam should therefore be based on a clear prior matching of expectations between the students, the teachers and the university.

Initiative:
2.1. Communication activities aimed at students
The focus areas of the principles will be announced, and a new version of the university's information material on good academic practice and rules for exams will be drawn up.

2.2. Communication activities aimed at employees
 The University  composes
an overall information material for teachers, heads of studies and administrative staff on the principles’ initiatives, including information concerning the criteria for when and where suspicion of exam cheating must be reported, as well as publishing of anonymised typical cases in connection with the annual compilation from Student Services regarding exam cheating.

2.3. Communication activities aimed at the outside world
The University will provide overall information material on the principles for SDU.dk, which will be targeted at prospective students and the surrounding community.

3. Technical-practical initiatives

With the full digitisation of written tests and increased digitisation in general, the possibilities for students being able to bring along/find large amounts of information increases, especially with the written campus based written exams. This gives the university a number of challenges to ensure that tests are done within the guidelines of proper academic behaviour*.

Initiative:
3.1. Automatic detection of plagiarism
The university must ensure that there is an effective and user-friendly anti-plagiarism system available, so it is possible to systematically check all submitted exam papers, dissertations, etc. The university must ensure that all teachers are familiar with how the plagiarism checks work and are run.

3.2. Electronic monitoring of written campus based exams
The university must ensure available software that can monitor the students own computers during exams, so that during and after exams, the university can follow the students activities.

3.3. Continuing education of exam invigilators
The University must ensure regular continuing education of the corps of exam invigilators, so that they are familiar with the initiatives that will ensure credible exams. Exam invigilators must continuously be introduced to new potential digital solutions that can be misused in exam cheating.


*SDU’s code of practice for campus based written  exams set the guidelines  for general and specific conditions for the holding of written campus based exams which must support and ensure that the examination occurs in an honest way.

4. Legal/disciplinary initiatives

The university must ensure that teachers, heads of studies, as well as administrative staff knows their responsibility and duty to act in relation to ensuring the reliability of exams.
In order to create a motivational environment, there should be a mutual contract between students, teacher and university. Ruling on exam cheating must have clear consequences for the students who cheat, so that teachers and students always take cheating in exams seriously.

Initiatives:
4.1. Improved handling of cases and preventive action
The university must ensure that administrative procedures for the reporting of exam cheating are smooth and transparent. The university must establish and communicate legal practices, rights and duty to act in cases of suspicion of irregularities with exams to teachers and administrative staff. Furthermore, students, who move in a grey area, should be invited to a dialogue about good academic practice.

4.2. Stricter consequences in the event of exam cheating
At tightening of  sanctions for exam cheating will create a motivational environment where students and teachers will take the problem of academic dishonesty seriously. Exam cheating has clear consequences already the first time the rules are violated.

4.4. Falgrant cheating in campus based written exams in aggravated circumstances
Campus bases written exams is a monitored exam where the students are tested in a subject, and which purpose is to test the student knowledge of the subject without the aid of other individuals. Therefore, flagrant cheating at campus based written exams is a particularly aggravated circumstance, which must result in temporary expulsion without prior warning.

Action plan

1.1. Pedagogic/exam technical initiatives
SDU Centre for Teaching and Learning (SDUUP) will make a summary of exam forms  (addressed to heads of studies, study board and others), including exam forms’ alignment in regard to teaching, which ensures 'learning' credibility in exams and which counteracts exam cheating.
Additionally, SDU Centre for Teaching and Learning (SDUUP) will continue the implementation of the tool for the development of exam forms in courses, workshops and consulting work for teachers and heads of education on all levels and intensify the work with methods to clarify and explicate criteria for the marking of exams (rubrics, standard setting and similar).

1.2. Mandatory course/course element in good academic practice and integrity
This initiative is decided in the Council for Education and implemented at the individual faculties.
- Vice deans are responsible for the implementation.
Deadline: autumn 2016.

2.1. Communication activities aimed at students

In cooperation with Student Services, SDU Communication communicates broadly to students on the approved principles for reliable and valid exams, the contents and what it means for the students.
- Student Services delivers the content of the communication.
Deadline: before winter exam 2016/2017.

2.2. Communication activities aimed at employees
Instructions about guidance meetings and case handling can be found on SDUnet http://www.sdunet.dk/Undervisning/Eksamen/Eksamenssnyd.aspx. The material is communicated to all relevant employees.

2.3. Communication activities aimed at the outside world
SDU Communication organises the external communication on principles for reliable and valid exams and on the work to ensure credible exams.
Deadline is assessed by SDU Communication.

3.1. Automatic detection of plagiarism
IT Service has established a plagiarism protection system which ensures that all submissions made electronically are automatically checked for plagiarism in connection with submission. All submissions which the students have uploaded since the January 2016 exam have been automatically checked for plagiarism and the result is available to the teacher on a user-friendly page.

3.2. Electronic monitoring of campus based written exams
Exam Monitor was implemented in January 2015 at all faculties for all relevant exams. Note that Exam Monitor does not work on all equipment, including iPads and tablets, which is why the use of these devises are not allowed unless otherwise specified; see SDU’s set of rules for campus based written exams.
For both the plagiarism check and Exam Monitor, it still applies that it is the specialists who must, and can, assess whether the technical indications of suspicious behaviour are also cheating.

3.3. Continuing education of invigilators
Already implemented by Technical Service.

4.1. Improved handling of cases and preventive actions
Student Services has prepared presentations on more flexible case handling and preventative action with meetings about good academic practice, which was approved by the Council for Education in June 2014.

4.2. and 4.3. Stricter consequences in the event of exam cheating
The Vice Chancellor has revised the set of rules: Rules on disciplinary measures in regard to students at SDU applicable from 1 September 2015. The set of rules will be tightened given that flagrant violations such as cheating at campus based written exams can lead to expulsion already the first time the rules are violated.

 

 

 

Within the four focus areas, the principles aim at developing and initiating a coordinated effort which, on the whole, will assure the quality of exams. It must be ensured that the tests are adapted to the learning process in the best possible way, and that plagiarism and other forms of exam cheating is prevented, detected and sanctioned.


* SDU's values

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