Testing, Academic Integrity and the Missing Link
I recently had the good fortune of giving a keynote at the 20th anniversary conference of the National College Testing Association (NCTA). The conference is attended by people who work in educational test centers on school, college or university campuses or in independent testing centers, as well as those who work in the broader testing industry.
I was there, of course, to talk academic integrity. And I was surprised at how resonate the message was with the attendees.To be sure, testing centers were created to protect the integrity of exams and therefore the integrity of our degree and diploma certification process. Yet,
I got the feeling that those who work in testing centers on our campuses often feel underappreciated, perhaps even excluded, as valuable contributors to the academic integrity conversations.
So, the question for those of us who run academic integrity systems on our campuses is this – how do we harness that passion for academic integrity and the energy of folks who desire to be part of the solution?
It’s clear – we include them. We ask them about their experiences with cheating and their solutions for enhancing academic integrity. We include testing professionals in our conversations about how we can create cultures of integrity on our campuses. We publicly acknowledge and appreciate the work that they do to protect the integrity of the certification process. And we invite them to work with us to make cheating the exception and integrity the norm.
To those testing center professionals out there reading this post – what can you do to create cultures of integrity on your campuses?
First, testing centers must communicate integrity. The meaning of integrity is not commonly understood. So, you must help the students who use your services understand what academic integrity and cheating means in your particular context. You can do this by:
- Posting a clear academic integrity statement or policy for your center
- Having students sign an integrity commitment when they first use the center, and then reaffirm that on every test thereafter
- Post academic integrity values (honest, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness and courage) throughout your center
- Provide students with a clear orientation to what integrity versus dishonesty looks like in the testing center context
- Send annual reminders to the campus about the value the testing center places on integrity
- Mention integrity in your social media postings and on your website.
Second, testing centers can create space for integrity by:
- role modeling integrity (e.g., does your testing center have a code of ethics for their staff members and does the staff model integrity when they are proctoring?)
- reducing cheating temptations and opportunities (by proctoring, by checking IDs)
- creating an integrity infrastructure (i.e., do your students and staff understand how integrity violations will be responded to and according to what process?)
Third, testing centers can reach out to campus partners to work together on academic integrity. For example:
- Volunteer to serve on an academic integrity campus communities
- Create an integrity advisory council for the testing center and invite faculty, staff and students to join in the dialogue with you
- sponsor a campus integrity contest
- Extend your proctoring services into the classrooms to supplement classroom proctors
- create “testing with integrity tips” for students (e.g., “how to maintain integrity during stressful testing situations”) and faculty (e.g., “how to proctor for integrity” or “how to ensure integrity in large class testing situations”)
Collaborating with your campus partners in this way builds bridges but also helps to remind people what testing centers are really in the business of – protecting the integrity of our certification process.
Finally, testing center staff must report integrity violations when they occur. Ignoring violations simply encourages a cheating culture, along with undermining the integrity of your center and the possible future of the student. When you respond to cheating, you create a teachable moment for the student and your protect the value of the test and the integrity of the center. When cheating is not responded to, honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, trustworthiness and courage are undermined.
Testing professionals are key partners in the global academic integrity movement and we should not forget about them – especially the colleagues on our own campuses. So, I challenge every reader of this post to think about what they can do create campus pathways for greater collaborations between testing professionals, academic integrity practitioners, faculty and students in quest of our shared goal of enhancing integrity cultures.