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FASS Disability Initiative Seminar Four: Assessment Strategies
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  1. FASS Disability InitiativeSeminar Four:Assessment Strategies Dr. Leanne Dowse School of Social Sciences and International Studies l.dowse@unsw.edu.au and Dr. Brooke Dinning Disability Studies and Research Centre b.dinning@unsw.edu.au

  2. Seminar overview • Welcome • What is ‘alternative assessment’? • Who may require alternative assessment? • Why is alternative assessment necessary? • What to consider when arranging alternative assessment • Examinations • Other forms of assessment • What if a student fails an alternative assessment? • Useful resources • Seminar evaluation

  3. What is ‘alternative assessment’? • Alternative assessment = any alteration to the standard form of assessment (examinations and / or assignments) or conditions relating to the assessment which are put in place to accommodate a student's disability. • Alternative assessment minimises the impact of a student’s disability on their performance and allows the marker to see beyond the disability to the student’s knowledge and skills. • Alternative assessment places students with disability on a more ‘equal footing’, and does not give them any kind of advantage.

  4. Who may require alternative assessment? • Some broad types of disabilities are associated with functional difficulties that make an alternative assessment strategy desirable. For example: • chronic pain • CFS – chronic fatigue syndrome • deaf or hearing impairment • learning disability • medical condition • mental illness • physical disability • vision impairment (blind and low vision)

  5. Why is alternative assessment necessary? • Associated functional difficulties for students with these disabilities may include: • impaired concentration • lower endurance for writing and / or reduced writing speed • restricted auditory input • problems accessing information that is in written / print form • inability to write using a pen • unable to manipulate immediate environnent (e.g. turn page, insert computer disks) • extreme examination-related stress • inability to communicate orally • inability to see own handwriting when answering questions

  6. What to consider when arranging alternative assessment • Adjustments should be made flexibly, as the result of negotiation between you, disability service staff and the student, and in consideration of the following: • The nature of the disability. This information will generally be included among disability-related documentation required by the university to verify a student’s disability. • The nature of the assessment task. Student need will vary according to the skill and ability required. • The nature of the course or subject. What kinds of skills and knowledge does your particular subject demand, and in what ways does the student’s disability impact on their capacity to demonstrate them? • The student’s usual work methods. What kinds of assistance does the student usually require? These should be available during assessment activities also?

  7. Examinations

  8. Hints for organising equitable examination accommodations • Check that the wording of the paper is as clear and straightforward as possible. • Provide a reader or interpreter for students who need one. • Provide the paper in large print, Braille or other formats. • Allow extra time for students who are deaf or dyslexic so that they can spend more time ensuring they understand the question, or checking their answers for spelling and grammar. • Allow time for rest breaks (for example, for students who experience fatigue or have back problems and need to stretch).

  9. Hints for organising equitable examination accommodations, cont. • Provide a scribe. Students may need some time to practice before the exam. Scribes may also need to have some familiarity with the subject matter. • Allow a student to submit scripts on computer. This will also entail making sure that the computer is “clean” and that technicians are on hand to deal with problems. • Ensure that those with extra time or other arrangements sit their exam in a separate room (with a separate invigilator) to prevent them disturbing or being disturbed by others. • Adjust the examination timetable to keep a student in ‘isolation’ and allow them to rest between exams.

  10. Is additional time for examinations equitable? • There has been significant debate and research on the issue of extended time in examinations.  However, there are a number of relatively clear findings from literature on this, including: • Students with learning disabilities perform more poorly in exams than other students. • Students with learning disabilities benefit more than students without disabilities. • Allowing extra time in examinations for students with learning disabilities is an appropriate accommodation.

  11. Is additional time for examinations equitable?, cont. • The best way to provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities without providing them undue advantage is to allow ample time for all students. • There is little evidence that extra time is an advantage to students with ADHD. • Providing section breaks (i.e. Separately timed sections within the exam) may assist students to perform better (irrespective of disability) in exams.

  12. Alternatives to examinations • Oral presentations • Additional assignments and course work • Dot point assignments marked for content, rather than for structure • Multiple-choice questions • Unsupervised exam with follow-up oral review (to establish that the result is the student's own work) • Practical demonstrations or production of models or displays • Take home exams, written over a number of days • Class presentations or role plays • A combination of any of the above

  13. Other forms of assessment

  14. Oral presentations • Students who find standard means of communication difficult, or who use sign language need to be able to make presentations in alternative ways, or be given additional time to communicate. • Sign language interpreters or other support workers need to have high levels of skills if they are not to disadvantage the student.

  15. Group work • In group work it is important that both the student with a disability and the other students in the group can contribute equally to the project and have the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities. • Do other students receive training in disability equality so that, for example, they can appropriately involve a person with disability in the group or know how to communicate with a deaf person? • Do tutors talk through with groups any practical difficulties that might arise because of an individual’s disability, and make sure any appropriate adjustments can be made? • Where groups discussions are assessed, are adjustments made to ensure full contributions from students with communication difficulties?

  16. Practicals and performances • In a practical subject it is necessary for students to demonstrate their skills. However, it may be necessary to make adjustments to allow students with a disability to demonstrate their abilities. • Some students may need assistants to act as extra ‘hands’. For example a student with manual dexterity problems might use an assistant to operate machinery. • Some students may need extra time. For example someone with a mobility difficulty may need extra time to move between patients when taking patient histories for a medical exam.

  17. Computer assisted assessment • Are workstations with enabling technologies available? Is the assessment accessible to those using such technologies (for example, screen reading software) or those who cannot use a mouse? • Is the layout and structure of the assessment suitable for students with dyslexia or with partial sight? • Do any sound clips have text alternatives or sub-titles? • Do tutors monitor automated marking to ensure, for example, it does not pick up misspellings as wrong answers? • Does the software allow students to have extra time or to take rest breaks during the assessment?

  18. Computer assisted assessment, cont. • Good practice guidelines are available from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and also from TechDis (see ‘Useful resources’ slide).

  19. Work-based assessment • Have assessors in the workplace been trained in how to assess the student? • Are assessment criteria adjusted to take into account any adaptations that have been made to the placement?

  20. What if a student fails an alternative assessment? • It is possible that despite the adjustments made a student with a disability may not pass an examination or assignment. This may mean that, like any student, they may not have mastered the course material to the necessary standard – therefore a fail grade would be appropriate.

  21. Useful resources UNSW Student Equity and Diversity Unit http://www.studentequity.unsw.edu.au Examinations and Assessment - a good practice guide http://www.adcet.edu.au/StoredFile.aspx?id=2008&fn=Examinations+Good+Practice+Guide.pdf Alternative Assessments for Students with Disabilities - Australian National University (Provides an overview of types of disability and related alternative assessment strategies) http://www.anu.edu.au/disabilities/resources_for_staff/alternative_assessment.php

  22. Useful resources, cont. Teachability: Creating an accessible curriculum for students with disabilities www.teachability.strath.ac.uk TechDiswebsite: www.techdis.ac.uk World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) http://www.w3.org/