Inclusive design of assessment
Difficulties with traditional approaches
For many years disability organisations have campaigned for the inclusion [?] of disabled people into education. In order to ensure inclusion of disabled students it is important that the learning environment is designed so that no barriers to learning exist. These can be environmental ones, such as ramps into buildings, but also educational, such as not providing handouts in accessible formats. This idea also extends to the assessment methods that are used.
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Although the traditional methods of assessment of disabled students can be extremely successful they often cause problems :
- for disabled students because the onus is on the individual student to make arrangments;
- for academic staff who have to follow complex administrative procedures;
- for central university staff (such as Disability Officers) because they have to make recommendations regarding academic assessment methodology;
- for administrators, who are often given the task of coordinating support without any additional resources.
The biggest problem is with attitude. You don't need people giving you a hard time and top of what you have to cope with. You're not doing this for fun. When you've got people having a go at you because you haven't handed an essay in on time.
Helen, 2nd year, Drama
Academic staff should be involved in the process of course design for all their students and many of the principles that have been investigated for improvements in assessment design also apply to disabled students.
Wherever possible course designers should use a proactive approach to assessment for disabled students. This approach requires academic staff to consider the needs of disabled students from the design stage of the course. Just as architectural changes to buildings (such as ramps) can be extremely expensive and awkward to implement if not incorporated at the design stage so too can changes to the curriculum or assessment methods of a course (Orwiss 1999). Often when course designers take into account disabled students from the initial stages many other students benefit. This wider consideration of access for all groups of users is beginning to be recognised by educationalists and is an extension of the idea of universal design first considered by architects when designing the built environment.
A range of assessments should be considered
If a range of assessments are used disabled students will be given more of an opportunity to show their competence wherever it lies (as long as it matches the learning outcomes of the course). This will also give flexibility in how you assess disabled students because if they can't complete one type of assessment you may be able to offer different ways if there is already a culture and room in the course schedule to do this.
It was decided that I don't do exams because there could be so many times when I am ill and it would affect my performance on the day. So I do essays instead. So if a course requires two assignments and an exam, I have to do three assignments.
Helen, 2nd year, Drama
Innovative solutions should be considered
At times it can be difficult to imagine how a disabled student could meet the aims and objectives of a course of study. However, course designers should consider innovative solutions to these difficulties before deciding that the barriers are impossible to overcome.
The following link discusses some of the issues in assessment of blind or visually impaired students undergoing courses which involve fieldwork:
The paper found at this link discusses general issues of implementing innovative assessment: