Ways To Limit Concerns About Non-permitted Collaboration

Are you worried about non-permitted collaboration?

It’s true, students can seek each other out for help, examples, interpretations, translations, feedback, and peer teaching when unsupervised. In fact, we often encourage students to do so as part of the learning process.  Blatant “copying” is a real problem because then the submitted work does not represent what that individual student knows or can do “without the support of resources or colleagues.”  Most students want assessment to be fair and are likely to appreciate your effort to have everyone play by the same rules.

Below are two options you may want to consider for addressing concerns about students collaborating.

Option 1:   Limit collusion by design.

  • Make collusion more difficult.  Develop more than one version of the exam recognizing you will need to deal with some administrative implications.  The variation of exams will make it more cumbersome for students to work together.
  • Make collusion less applicable.  Design the questions on the exam to require unique answers relevant to the student.  Ask questions that cannot be answered the same way by several students.
  • Articulate a process to verify students’ answers. For an example approach see, Learn how to use an oral exam (5-10 minutes per student).
  • Request students submit a signed document attesting to their honesty.  A recent post includes a sample (at bottom of post) that may cause students to think more carefully about their actions.
  • For more information on design, Download an explanation of how to transform your current exam questions into open-book questions

Option 2:  Permit collaboration and build it into your assessments.

  • Have students describe their process for consulting resources or people.
  • Provide a rubric that shows the criteria for levels of use of resources and feedback.
  • See this example of a worksheet (bottom of the post) or student pairs who provided each other with feedback as part of an individual paper assignment, this could be adapted for finalizing an open book exam.