Blog post – Using scaffolded authentic assessment for strengthening academic integrity

Authentic assessment is a great way to engage students in ‘real-word’ tasks, encouraging higher-order thinking.

Although authentic assessment itself does not assure academic integrity, students find authentic assessment to be more engaging, so they are less likely (or find it hard) to outsource the work to a third-party (Ellis et al. 2020). This reflective blog post seeks to share a successful assessment redesign with authentic assessment and team project in a large course (over 500 enrolments) with ~90% English as Additional Language (EAL) and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) students. 

Use an authentic scaffolding assessment – and it works.

In my postgraduate finance course, students were given a scaffolding assessment starting with an individual assignment on evaluating a real-world company. Then, as a team of five, they needed to pull together the data about the company they had evaluated into a portfolio to produce a portfolio analysis report, followed by a Q&A presentation. The assessments were designed to align with the course content to make it easy for students to follow and keep them on track. The expectation was that once students learned about the company they had evaluated, they could pitch that company and the portfolio they had created to their clients and their peers. They were also able to defend and further elaborate on their portfolio choice in the team presentation. 

Authentic assessment requires students to go beyond the textbook context to combine disciplinary knowledge with industrial practice. Authentic assessment can be challenging to many students because it involves higher-order thinking. Therefore, I scheduled a couple of information sessions with the following agenda:

  1. Teach students how to use databases to obtain the data
  2. Provide guidance on challenging tasks to stimulate students to do their own research
  3. Communicate my expectations to students (e.g. what they should deliver in the report)
  4. Offer live consultations to answer assessment questions (recorded). Of course, students could also post their questions on the Ed Discussion board where they could initiate a discussion with instructors or their peers.

It all comes down to providing support to ensure your students are not overwhelmed with challenging tasks (Sotiriadou et al. 2020).

A couple of highlights of this design are:

  • In the assignment, students are asked to utilise their analytical skills to justify their evaluation procedure and investment choices with different companies, which reduces the motivation for contract cheating because the project is unique and specific. 
  • It improves the practicality of the learning outcome. Students can practice with real-world company data and get a taste of working as a financial analyst or portfolio manager. 
  • Outstanding submissions are showcased on the learning management system to encourage peer learning.

Also, the presentation works very well as:

  • It promotes academic integrity. Given that the presentation is a student identity verified assessment (IVAH), it allows the assessor to reconcile the authenticity of the student-submitted work by asking higher-order thinking assessment-related questions. 
  • It allows students to showcase their work, especially if they have done something creative.
  • Students get to practice their presentation skills, which is a professional skill in many industries.

Why use teamwork?

Teamwork helps to reduce the likelihood of students outsourcing their work as it is peer-monitored (Ellis et al. 2020). Each team member’s work is/should be cross-checked to ensure that the work is genuine with acceptable quality. Regular team meetings make it harder for students to pay someone to do the job or engage in contract cheating, especially if you ask students to keep a personal contribution journal.

Nowadays, no one can work in isolation without crossing the path of other people. While developing students’ disciplinary skills, I also help them develop soft skills through presentation and interpersonal skills. With people now collaborating globally, teaming up with peers from different cultures in different time zones gives students experience in global, digital collaboration.

Further questions to consider

  1. Is your course/s non-invigilated assessment design effectively mitigating academic misconduct while encouraging higher-order thinking?
  2. Is the assessment stimulating enough so students would want to take ownership of their work?
  3. Do you provide sufficient guidance to assist students in completing challenging tasks?
  4. Do students benefit from working as a team in your course?

If you need further assistance, visit the authentic assessmentdesigning assessment and assessing teams and groups resources on this website.


Ellis, Cath, Karen van Haeringen, Rowena Harper, Tracey Bretag, Ian Zucker, Scott McBride, Pearl Rozenberg, Phil Newton, and Sonia Saddiqui. 2020. “Does Authentic Assessment Assure Academic Integrity? Evidence from Contract Cheating Data.” Higher Education Research & Development 39 (3): 454–469. doi:10.1080/07294360.2019.1680956.

Sotiriadou, Popi, Danielle Logan, Amanda Daly, and Ross Guest. 2020. “The Role of Authentic Assessment to Preserve Academic Integrity and Promote Skill Development and Employability.” Studies in Higher Education 45 (11): 2132–2148. doi:10.1080/03075079.2019.1582015.

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Last updated:
25 January 2022