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DEMOS Project

Online Materials for Staff Disability Awareness
[Modules] : Assessment

Current approaches to levelling the playing field

There are various terms used to describe the changes that are made to assessment practices in order to 'level the playing field' for disabled students. Some confusion arises when these terms are used interchangeably. A commonly used term in the UK is 'alternative' or sometimes 'additional arrangements' and in the US the most popular term seems to be 'accommodations'.

Want to learn more? Read this:
Assessment practice as commonly employed for disabled students.

We would like to offer our interpretations of these terms and suggest examples of arrangements that fit into each category.

1. Alternative assessments

Offering an alternative assessment to a disabled student means just that. The student would be given a 'different' assessment to other students on the same course.


N.B. : If you offer an alternative assessment you should try to ensure that you are assessing the same learning outcomes as the original method. This approach has been criticised recently for failing to take this consideration into account (Sharpe & Earle 2000).

2. Additional arrangements

In these circumstances examiners offer additional tools or resources to the assessment scenario than that offered to other students. The learning outcomes that are assessed should stay the same but the tools of assessment may be different.


N.B. : These arrangements cause administrators the most headaches since they can require substantial additional resources and organisation.

3. Adjustments/accommodations/adaptations

The assessment method is altered in its implementation. Assessors therefore must ensure that the fundamental focus of the assessment remains the same and that it measures the same learning outcomes.


N.B. : The provision of extra time for disabled students has been criticised recently by Zuriff (2000) who found that non-disabled students also benefited when such provision was made for all students.

4. Combinations

Often alterations to the assessment method result in a combination of the above three methods - for instance if a viva is offered as an alternative it also means additional arrangements need to be made i.e. an extra room is required alongside additional members of staff to carry out the interview.

Yes normally the papers are enlarged. My English I got someone to write it because my spelling isn't very good because of my sight. I dictate what I want and they write it. I think that's the way they are going to do it here as well. And I think I will get about 50% extra time.

Kashaf, 1st year, Business Information Technology

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