The requirements of the DDA indicate that we should be anticipatory in our course design and this includes in the assessment requirements we set. We should therefore be ‘accessible by design’ so that we only have to make adjustments in exceptional individual cases. Therefore, when deciding on assessment strategies, we should consider :
- Is the assessment format chosen essential to the course objectives and learning outcomes?
- How else might the learning objectives be met without compromising academic standards and professional body requirements?
- Do the chosen assessment methods allow disabled students equal opportunity to achieve the highest performance levels ?
If a disability can justifiably exclude a student from a course of study this must be clearly stated in the course documentation. Such a circumstance is likely to be extremely rare in the fields covered by the Business School, but may arise on Law programmes which involve a ‘fitness to practice’ requirement.
It is advisable to offer a variety of assessment options e.g. a learning log or a video diary, so that students are able to choose the method most appropriate to their circumstances. In practice this requires a great deal of creative thinking and mapping of academic parity between assessment methods.
At present most modules offer no or only very limited choice and provide adjustment by exception – however, it is foreseeable that this will not be acceptable in future. Consideration of how assessment may be presented in different formats while preserving parity will be increasingly necessary.
There is some good guidance available on alternative assessment options (requires login) at the Open University.
It is important for students entering into a programme of study to have detailed information relating to the assessment strategies in operation throughout the different stages and levels of that programme. This means:
- clear, early provision of assessment descriptions including submission dates and the volume and type of preparation / research required. Students may use this as a key criteria in module choice, particularly if they are looking from the perspective of their particular disability.
- clearly stated assessment criteria for all assessed activities to allow:
- parity to be transparent where there are alternative assessment formats available.
- the learning outcomes to be met.
- equal opportunity for achievement.
Consideration also needs to be given the how feedback is given after an assessment has been undertaken. It should be in an accessible format and address all of the reasons why the student did not pass the assessment and what they need to work on to ensure success next time. Feedback should ideally be typed so that it is legible and given within the UWE stipulated four week turn around time. Electronic marking may provide better accessibility to feedback for some students.
Alternative conduct of assessment
The practical aspects of conduct of examinations will normally be arranged through the Exams Officer working with the Faculty Disability Contact and the Disability Service, to ensure that the examination is accessible and the answers can be appropriately recorded. Examples of reasonable adjustment might include additional time, provision of a separate room, amanuensis or the use of a computer to type answers. Tutors would not normally need to be involved in arranging this. However, in some circumstances it may be necessary for tutors to be present to read papers /record answers where the language is very specific or tables require interpretation, or where a viva is a suitable alternative assessment method. Tutors may also be asked to comment on the content of an examination paper that has been translated into ‘plain English’ e.g. for a deaf student, to ensure that the appropriate academic meaning is still apparent.
Additional time is the most common adjustment required in exams and tests. Any adjustment agreed for an exam must equally apply to in-class tests or online assessed exercises. It is important to ensure the exams officer is aware of time constrained coursework assessments so that a separate room or other provision can be made for students with this entitlement. It is also important to ensure that online test time constraints can be adjusted appropriately if the students are able to access the tests in their own time.
Additional time for non time constrained coursework is less common. The University operates a ‘no extension’ policy. Faculty policy is that all coursework information should be published at the start of the academic year, to allow students to plan their own work programmes. Where this is done, longer deadlines will not normally be necessary, unless there are intervening factors, such as unpredictable episodes of ill health or a failure in support services. Even in these circumstances the decision may be that such issues should be dealt with via personal circumstances rather than reasonable adjustment.
From September 2010 it is proposed that all adjustments will have to be approved and signed off in the Disability Services so that a central and equitable system is developed. The decisions on individual cases will be made with the input of academics where necessary. Students are not permitted to negotiate individual deadline adjustments with their tutors.
UWE regulations do not allow for disability to be routinely indicated on assessment submissions. This is often an issue for dyslexic students who may experience problems with grammar, spelling and presentation. However, the institutional expectation is that students will take up appropriate support to be able to present their work at the required standard. For example, use of a literacy tutor provided by the Disability Service and paid for by Disabled Students Allowances. Where this is not possible, then alternative assessment formats may need to be considered which allow the student the opportunity to produce work at a comparable standard to other students.
Anonymous marking may be compromised where adjustment is made on an exceptional basis e.g. where a typed exam script is received due to use of amanuensis, rather than the standard hand written script. In this case it is expedient to ensure that the paper is independently moderated.
- Appendix 1: Undergraduate Blackboard Courses - Button Names
- Appendix 2: User agreement for audio recording of lectures on personal devices
- Appendix 3: UWE library services alternative formats: information for faculty
- Appendix 4: Duty of care - guidance notes for staff
- Appendix 5: Crisis Response Plan