Student Disability Service

Specific Learning Differences (SpLDs)

Guidance on supporting students with Specific Learning Differences, including marking guidance and Viva guidance.

Guidance for coursework assessment for students with SpLDs

None of our students with specific learning difficulties wishes to compromise the standards of the University. However, they do want to be able to demonstrate a clear understanding of their coursework. These students are eligible for Disabled Students' Allowance (DSA) to purchase equipment and software, and to employ Student Support Assistants such as proofreaders, note-takers and dyslexia tutors.

Why is additional support necessary for in course assessment?

If we are to be fair to the students there are a number of challenges that they face regarding assessments that need to be supported. These include:

  • Slow speed of processing.
  • Slow pace of reading.
  • Organisational and sequencing skills.
  • Competence in proofreading.

General guidance

The Equality Act requires that we make reasonable adjustments to support disabled students. However, accepted good practice for teaching and learning generally will usually compensate for specific differences. Examples of good practice that are essential for students with specific learning differences are:

  • Deadlines, where possible, should be known at start of course.
  • Advanced access to the following session's reading lists, with appropriate advice on priorities.
  • Provision of clear and precise instructions about the nature of the task(s) required for the assessed coursework.
  • Provision of constructive and legible feedback, supplemented and clarified orally, if possible, by a tutor.

The University's Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy ensures the mainstreaming of certain adjustments, previously recommended for disabled students.

Specific guidance

Nonetheless, even when these general guidance are followed there will be a few cases where specific arrangements will be required, especially when the learning difference is a slower speed of processing.

  • In general, the longer the lead time the less likely it is that students with dyslexia will require extra time to submit.
  • Where a short term task is involved, such as a laboratory report, it is helpful for all students, but particularly so for dyslexic students, if sufficient time for completion is given, which should, where possible, include a weekend.
  • Where a longer-term piece of coursework is set the student should be encouraged to use all of the services on offer early in the course so that advisors and tutors can help with organisational aspects before they spiral out of control.

Viva guidelines for staff examining students with a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD)

These guidelines have been drawn up to:

  • Raise awareness of the particular difficulties that students with SpLDs may face when undertaking a Viva examination.
  • Suggest reasonable adjustments that may be required.