Course Materials, Exams, and Other Assessments

How do I create course materials, exams, and other assessments that support integrity?

Focus on the value of learning

  • Develop assignments that clearly align to course objectives.
  • Develop assignments that provide a unique learning experience for each course objective.
  • Include opportunities for students to reflect on how concepts apply to their own experiences or how they build competency for their professional identity.
  • Use narrative or case study type questions rather than single answer questions to increase use of higher order thinking.
  • Vary types of questions and assessments to align to and assess multiple levels and different types of cognitive growth – not just knowledge but also application, analysis and synthesis.
  • Avoid assignments that overlap with material easily accessed via the internet. 
  • Integrate current events into assignments to prevent recycling of papers or other materials.
  • Use labs or similar assignments for students to apply concepts related to their future career.
  • Use a TILT (Transparency in Teaching and Learning) model for assignment transparency that takes the mystery out of what is expected and why. TILT has 3 main components.
    • Communicate purpose (knowledge to gain; skills to practice) and relationship to learning objective and real lives.
    • Describe task, steps to complete task, and errors to avoid.
    • Detail criteria/expectations for success (rubric or checklist allows students to self-evaluate what they should be able to do); include real world example/desired characteristic in practice.
  • Use Universal Design in Learning (UDL) principles (more below) as a framework to provide assessments that allow students to show their mastery of the materials through a modality and medium (UDL: Action and Expression) of their own choosing.  
  • Design assignments and assessments that minimize construct-irrelevant variance.

TILT resource:; view also Dr. Mary Ann Winkelmes’s research on outcomes using TILT

UDL and Assessment resource:

Create opportunities that double-check students’ thinking on exams

  • Ask students to explain or annotate their answers to double check their understanding.
  • Ask students to explain why incorrect answers are wrong for multiple choice exam questions.
  • Let students know they will be accountable for demonstrating what they know in another context.  For example, require an oral presentation after a written quiz on applicable concepts.
  • Use peer grading and small group/peer feedback to check/discuss responses on assessments.
  • Divide exams into two parts – individual and group – so that groups can discuss concepts.

 Lower the stakes of any single student assessment

  • Require several lower-stakes assignments (i.e., with fewer points) so students have more and varied options to demonstrate what they know.
  • Break a large exam into smaller quizzes to reduce pressure on the student.  
  • Break major projects into a set of smaller graded assignments with deadlines across the semester that model how an “expert” might manage a similar project. This simultaneously provides students with structure and scaffolding to complete the project successfully while having opportunities for feedback and revision before the final product is submitted.
    • Assign project components that progressively build over time.
    • Give feedback after each section of a project.

 Use formative assessments to enhance Learning

  • Create assignments and labs that provide multiple opportunities for learning so that students can learn from mistakes prior to formal evaluation.
    • Provide debriefing and discuss the continuum from novice to expert and why certain skills and concepts take time to transfer to personal practice.
    • Model the expert thought process as a part of the feedback and wrap-up.
  • Use progressively more complex professional scenarios over time or add critical material that students need to use or analyze to complete a project.
  • Give students the chance to retake quizzes or exams to demonstrate mastery of content.
  • Provide rubrics and examples to facilitate self-assessment.