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By Terri J. Matiella, Ph.D.
UTSA 2020-21 Next-Gen Faculty Fellow
Co-Director, Core Curriculum and Assessment for Environmental Science
Senior Lecturer, Department of Environmental Science and Ecology

Adjusting assessment design in our courses can help deepen student learning as well as promote academic integrity. If a class only has a midterm and a final exam that makes up most of the course grade, students feel more pressure to do well since there is a large impact on the overall grade, which can lead to cramming right before the exam, or even scholastic dishonesty. Restructuring course grading so the majority of the course grade isn’t dependent on the exam category can help students focus more on the learning and less on the grade!

Use low stakes frequent assessments, such as giving more frequent quizzes while reducing the number of exam questions over the material. Frequent low stakes assessments let students work with the material more often, which can lead to better learning. 

Break a midterm or final up into a series of quizzes or mini-exams in Blackboard. Allow students to use notes – have them upload a photo of their notes – on exams or give them a group exam in Padlet or Blackboard. Introduce other forms of assessments, like weekly reflection questions over material, or allow repeated attempts for exams based on mastery of content. Weekly reflections can be given as a journal entry, in a discussion board, or a Padlet post. Giving students more time with frequent, structured assessments like regular quizzes or mini-exams can help deepen learning and reduce student stress.