Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Key questions

Some useful questions in relation to making assessment more inclusive.

What are we assessing?

Traditionally assessment has put strong emphasis on memory recall and stamina using time-controlled examination to assess students’ ability, often forcing them to take multiple exams in quick succession.

This type of assessment is inaccessible for most students, but particularly for disabled students who may have reduced stamina, more difficulty concentrating for long periods of time, and more difficulty memorising large pieces of information. These assessments place undue demand on stamina and memory.

We must ask ourselves:

  • What are we assessing?
  • Why we are assessing it?
  • Why are we assessing it in this way?

It seems unlikely that most subjects will actively need to test students’ memories or stamina and therefore it calls into question the need for the rigid, sit-down, closed book, timed exam.

Example: a requirement that a person completes a test in a certi9n time period is not a competence standard unless the competence being test is the ability to do something within a limited time period.”

- Equality Act 2010 Technical Guidance on Further and Higher Education

Medicine’s Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), is an example of an assessment where being able to complete particular procedures within a given time-frame is exactly the aim of the assessment.

What can we do?

There are many different ways to test the same core competence.

The Equality Act “defines a ‘competence standard’ as an academic, medical or other standard applied for the purpose of determining whether or not a person has particular level of competence or ability”

Think about methods of assessment which will test knowledge, understanding, abilities or skills without unduly testing students’ stamina, memory or ability to stay calm under pressure. It is sometimes helpful to provide a choice of assessment method. It must be noted that the competence standard itself is not subject to ‘reasonable adjustments’: competence standards apply to all students. However, there may be possibility for students to demonstrate the same competence standard through different methods of assessment.

Case study

An example of this can be found in the Business School.

As part of a group project assessment students are given three options for submission:

  • Video recording
  • Audio recording with PowerPoint
  • Written submission

Each of the three submissions have their own separate marking criteria which are made clear to students in advance of choosing. We have found that visiting students in particular have commented on this as a desirable means of submission as it gives them the option to verbally present, which they were used to from their home institution.