Redefining Assessment To Empower Student Learning

Valerie Schreiner

By Valerie Schreiner, chief product and marketing officer, Turnitin.

Educators faced profound disruptions over the past year, pushing them to rethink and reshape assessments—how to design them, deliver them, ensure their integrity, measure their effectiveness, and ultimately leverage them to increase learning outcomes. Turnitin has spent several years considering how to support the evolution of assessment and we’re hearing loud and clear from the schools and universities we serve that now is the time for lasting change.

Dylan Wiliam describes assessment as “the bridge between teaching and learning,” a data-rich intersection where educators understand what students have learned and gain insights into teaching efficacy. We envision assessment not as an isolated measurement of student outcomes but rather as a key component of a continuous improvement cycle, providing valuable information to educators as they refine their teaching and to students as they improve their learning.

At its core, learning is an interpersonal process involving active feedback loops between students and teachers. When a connection between an educator and learner is strong and based on mutual trust, information moves more freely and with more integrity. Assessments are an essential way to establish these connections and feedback loops, especially when learning is online rather than face-to-face.

We want to partner with institutions to reimagine assessments across all subject areas and assignment types, low-stakes and high-stakes. We’ll be there every step along the way to support  assessments that are fair, consistent, accurate, and impact learning outcomes in a meaningful way.

Integrity is at the heart of Turnitin

Turnitin was founded over 20 years ago as a text similarity checking tool that helped ensure the originality of a piece of writing. We have since become a leader in academic integrity solutions and found that the majority of academic integrity issues are related to emerging skills rather than intentional acts.

Today, we work with schools and industry experts to build innovative solutions that help students learn the value of original work even as new challenges to academic integrity—such as contract cheating or text spinners—emerge. Because integrity solutions will always be at the heart of Turnitin, we acquired Unicheck and in March, announced our intent to acquire Ouriginal to expand our geographic reach and allow us to help more students find their original voices.

Along these same lines, Draft Coach, the most recent evolution of our integrity product suite puts the power of our similarity checking technology directly into the hands of students. Now, students can use our applications to assess, revise, and improve their own writing prior to submission.

Providing students with the ability to review and refine their own work becomes a moment for self-learning—opportunities for self-directed reflection are an essential part of developing original thinking skills. By building tools that empower students to do their best original work, we uphold academic integrity while guiding students down their own personal learning path.

Assessment in support of educator innovation

While ensuring the integrity of written assignments has always been and will remain central to Turnitin, reimagining assessment to empower student learning requires more than similarity checking tools. Turnitin’s offerings have evolved to meet these needs. During the last decade, we have steadily introduced assessment functionality to support learning for all students, regardless of subject matter or learning style.

Our flagship product, Feedback Studio, invites teachers to give meaningful feedback to students in their writing. We designed Feedback Studio to save time on grading, mitigate potential plagiarism, and facilitate formative learning opportunities. Feedback Studio records student progress so that educators can use that data to inform their teaching and gain insights into student learning.

In 2018, Turnitin acquired the assessment platform Gradescope to expand our assessment capabilities, particularly for STEM courses, with an eye towards transforming the evaluation process into a learning process. Gradescope supports teachers in designing and grading a variety of assessment modalities including those that are paper-based or digital, as well as those evaluating programming and computer code. Gradescope also can be applied to different exam formats like problem sets, projects, worksheets, quizzes, or mid- and end-of-course exams. Gradescope facilitates item analysis, helping educators to evaluate the quality of their exams and inform instruction so that students receive the support they need.

These tools create efficient feedback loops between educators and students. In this way, assessments help shape future lessons. They expose gaps in knowledge and give educators and students new insights into how to move their teaching and learning forward.

A vision for end-to-end assessment with integrity

Feedback Studio and Gradescope are powerful tools, but we recognize that to truly reimagine assessment and transform learning outcomes, we must enable assessments for all students across all subject areas ensuring integrity at every step. To realize this vision for end-to-end assessment with integrity, we’ve broadened our product portfolio by improving our flagship solutions and by joining with other mission-aligned companies.

Turnitin acquired the assessment platform ExamSoft to become a single destination for upholding integrity at every stage in a student’s journey, from research papers and problem sets to high-stakes exams and professional licensure. As one company, our expanded offerings allow customers to choose the combination of tools and services that best suit their unique assessment needs.

Proctoring is also a service that institutions may select when ensuring the integrity of their assessments. ProctorExam, another new member of the Turnitin family, provides flexible proctoring options to secure remote exams. By removing the need for brick-and-mortar testing facilities, ProctorExam gives students greater access to education and gives organizations increased flexibility in delivering assessments with integrity.

The combination of Turnitin’s flagship products and the new services in our portfolio ensure that assessments are seamlessly integrated into the learning process. With an end-to-end assessment approach, assessment becomes the mechanism to bring better instruction to students, helping them reach their full potential while providing teachers with valuable insights into learning strengths, gaps, and opportunities for growth. At Turnitin we are privileged to take part in a future that supports fair assessment, original work, and improved learning outcomes for all.

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