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Creating inclusive assessments

Providing a flexible approach to assessment formats can enable disabled students to best use their skills and abilities in test situations
MIKE WALD: As well as some of the obvious things, such as making sure your documents are in accessible formats, one of the things I try and do is give a variety of assignments and assessments to allow for the different abilities and the different preferences, the different disabilities that the class will have. So, trying to do things where people can present, trying to do things where people are tested on their knowledge, encouraging people to work in groups. So, trying to give a range of assignments. And also, trying to give some sort of feedback early on in the course. So, to have smaller assignments where they don’t find out right at the end that they’ve struggled– that they’ve got some idea.
Formative assessments, as it’s called. But you can actually give a mark for this. Because I have found if you don’t give marks for things, some students won’t do it. But you can give small amounts of marks for things. So if they don’t do very well, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to fail. But they can get some feedback fairly early on.
Assignments, course work and examinations can all cause barriers for some students and Mike tells us in this video how he varies the type of materials and assessments he offers on his courses.
He highlights the importance of being aware of students’ preferences, offering a flexible approach.
Learning outcomes can be assessed in many ways. It is advisable to check what really needs to be evaluated to ensure the assessment captures knowledge to show particular competency levels not skills that bare no relation to the subject, for example speed of writing or coping with complex academic language. It is also important to know when ‘reasonable adjustments’ may be necessary.
Try asking three questions:
  • whether the assessment or examination is core to the course
  • what adjustments are permissible within the assessment or examination without compromise to academic, or other prescribed, standards, such as competences required by professional bodies
  • whether the successful achievement of the highest grades and awards, based on performance in examinations and other assessments, is equally attainable by disabled students. Adapted from (Teachability 2008)
There are also several ways to help all students when an inclusive approach to assessment is achieved as can be seen in the diagram below.
Inclusive assessments cycle Inclusive assessments cycle
The three overlapping circles setting out the components of assessment, namely presentation, content and output overlap at inclusion. As has been mentioned clarity of outcomes is necessary with a flexible approach to allow for different ways of presenting knowledge. Thinking digital, as well as paper, can allow for multiple format options.
However, where professional bodies are concerned, such as Medical Councils, there may be further requirements that need to be addressed. Science degrees and those that involve practical or off site assessments may also need additional reasonable adjustments, planning and organisation.
You may also be interested in other related resources which can be accessed from the ‘See also’ section at the bottom of this page.
Have you experienced an assessment that offered an inclusive approach that suited your personal preferences?

© This work is created by the University of Southampton and licensed under CC-BY 4.0 International Licence. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.
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Inclusive Learning and Teaching Environments

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