Ethical assessment considerations


Ethical assessment raises two major questions when designing assessments.

  1. Are our assessments fair?

As we construct assessments it is important to make sure that they are based on relevant material that students have had the opportunity to learn during the course.   Assignments also should be free of any bias that would give some students a more difficult time than others in successfully completing the assignment.

  1. Are our grading systems fair and consistently applied to all students?

An instructor has an ethical responsibility to ensure that the grades assigned are the best estimate of the students’ performance.  The grading system developed or selected will generally reflect your philosophy of teaching, learning, and assessing. Apply your system consistently to support equity.

Two types of grading systems are most often used:

Norm-Referenced Systems

Students are evaluated based on certain norms established in your discipline or course.  This type of grading is based on the normal distribution and is called norm-referenced testing, Norm-referenced tests (or NRTs) compare an examinee’s performance to that of other examinees.

Criterion-Referenced Systems

Criterion-referenced tests (or CRTs) differ in that each examinee’s performance is compared to a pre-defined set of criteria or a standard.  The goal with these tests is to determine whether or not the student has the demonstrated mastery of a certain concepts or skills/set of skills.

What are the Ethics of Records Confidentiality and Data Security?

These two areas reflect how the instructor secures student educational records.  It is important to keep student assessment data secure after collecting it and confidential when reporting it.


All student educational records must be kept confidential for each student. Be sure to practice data security when gathering, and confidentiality when reporting, assessment data.

Data Security

Once collected, protect and secure data containing student information in a locked file or room. Secure electronic data by keeping it password protected and limiting access.  Continue maintaining data security even after the course is over.


Brookhart, S.M.  (2004).  Assessment theory for college classrooms. In New Directions in Teaching and Learning, eds. M.V. Achacoso & M.D. Svinicki, New York: Wiley, 5-14.

Frey, B.B. &Vicki L. Schmitt, V.L. (2012). Defining authentic classroom assessment. Practical assessment, research and evaluation, 17 (2).

Goldstein, G.S. (2007).  Using classroom assessment techniques in an introductory statistics class.  College Teaching, 55 (2), 77-82.

Reproduced under terms of the Creative Commons license, from here.


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