Why is inclusive assessment important?
Inclusivity is a very important factor in assessment design as fair assessment must reflect the needs of a diverse student body. The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) UK's quality code for higher education has a series of indicators that reflect sound practice. Indicator ten states:
Through inclusive design wherever possible, and through individual reasonable adjustments wherever required, assessment tasks provide every student with an equal opportunity to demonstrate their achievement.
In order to provide all students with an equal opportunity to demonstrate their learning, you need to consider the different means of demonstrating a particular learning outcome. Ensuring that students have variety in assessment and some individual choice, eg, in the topic or in the method/format of the assessment, can lead to overall enhancement of the assessment process to benefit all students.
Assessment procedures and methods must be flexible enough to allow adjustments to overcome any substantial disadvantage that individual students could experience.
Inclusive practice means:
- Ensuring that an assessment strategy includes a range of assessment formats
- Ensuring assessment methods are culturally inclusive
- Considering religious observances when setting deadlines
- Considering school holidays and the impact on students with childcare responsibilities when setting deadlines
- Considering students' previous educational background and providing support for unfamiliar activities eg, for students unused to group work
- Considering the needs of students with disabilities - our guide on making assessments accessible can help with this
What are the common problems?
Course teams that fail to consider inclusivity at the design stage can find themselves making a range of one off assessment adjustments throughout the course to meet the needs of particular students. Often such modifications come at a cost and run the risk of introducing an element of bias into the process.
Setting up alternative arrangements for students with particular needs can create a sense of a two tier system that singles out students with special needs. Try to make sure that a single process can accommodate students with additional needs.
Most people are well aware of the need to consider students with disabilities but may give less consideration to cultural, religious and domestic factors. As an example a case study for a management course set in a brewery may not be the most appropriate choice if an alternative scenario would achieve the learning outcomes equally well.
How might we use technology and what are the benefits?
Technology can support choice and flexibility in assessment by allowing students to produce assignments in a range of different media.
It's also particularly important in helping to meet the needs of learners with disabilities - find out more on assistive technologies in our guide on making assessments accessible
How does inclusive access relate to the life cycle?
What resources can help?
- Our guide can help with making assessments accessible
- Manchester Metropolitan University's Equality and Diversity in Learning and Teaching (Vol 9 Issue 1, Autumn 2012) features the themes 'equal, diverse, accessible'
- Roehampton University's project explored the development of equivalent assessment for students with disabilities
- Manchester Metropolitan University's DEMOS project outlined how to assess disabled students without breaking the law
- Our case study from Angus College shows how broadcasting technology supported tutor observation of distance learners
- Read Birmingham City University's guide to Moodle accessibility for students with specific learning difficulties
- This case study on inclusive practice at Sheffield Hallam University shows how a few simple changes can make a big difference
- The University of Bristol has a useful discussion paper on Ethical issues in technology enhanced assessment