Except for papers and handwritten exams

Anonymous examination becomes the norm in digital tests

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With this decision, the university's administration is fulfilling a wish already expressed by council members three years ago. At the time, they were in favour of making anonymous testing standard UU policy for all digital exams.

Anonymous testing basically means that students do not reveal their names when taking exams to prevent unconscious bias on the part of the teacher from playing a part in their grading. The council members suggested making an experiment.

For UU's Rector, Henk Kummeling, this was step a step too far, especially given the additional work that organising such a pilot would entail for UU's administration. In addition, he wondered how the university would be able to measure whether the pilot had been successful or not.

UU's administration did express its willingness to make the possibility of anonymous examinations more widely known and to ask lecturers and faculties about their experiences with it. They've now done the latter.

Very often anonymous
A survey of people from all seven faculties shows that almost all multiple-choice tests at UU already involve anonymous assessment. The same goes for exams with open questions, UU's Executive Board writes in the memo.

Many lecturers appreciate the possibility to tick the option for anonymous assessment in the digital assessment system, Remindo. iThe Faculty of Social Sciences now uses this option by default, which resulted in positive reactions. More than 80 per cent of all exams at UU are taken digitally.

As for essays, anonymous examinations are frequently used because it is important to provide feedback. Students sometimes still take handwritten exams, especially at the Faculty of Science — for example, when they have to work with formulas or drawings. In that case, it is really hard to guarantee complete anonymity, if only because handwriting is often recognisable.

Standard for digital exams
When evaluating the topic ahead of its decision, UU also considered experiences from other Dutch universities. A brief study was conducted on the advantages and disadvantages of anonymous examinations often mentioned in other institutions.

For example, those who are opposed to anonymous examinations argue that it does not work for students with disabilities who need additional facilities. Another common argument is that most students and lecturers don't consider the possibility of unconscious bias as a big issue.

But, based on all the information collected, the Executive Board now advises all faculties to follow Social Sciences' example and adopt anonymous examinations as the standard for digital exams. Programmes can deviate from this recommendations whenever there is a reason to do so.

The Executive Board does not want to comment on essays and handwritten exams at the Faculty of Science. Programmes can apply their own policy.

The new working method will be evaluated in two years' time. This evaluation may include the results of a pilot conducted by the Faculty of Humanities, in which all exams in the English-taught History programme, digitally or otherwise, will be anonymous. This project does not make anonymous assessment compulsory for essays and assignments either.