As far as is possible without compromising academic standards, inclusive and equitable assessment should ensure that tasks and procedures do not disadvantage any group or individual. Across a programme, students must have the opportunity to engage with multiple modes of assessment, so as to avoid inequalities between students resulting in uneven recognition of abilities.
Inclusivity is a complex and multidimensional concept that eludes easy definition and embraces a wide range of differences, including for example declared disability, specific cultural, ethic or social background, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age, full-time or part time status.
“Inclusive learning and teaching in higher education refers to the ways in which pedagogy, curricula and assessment are designed and delivered to engage students in learning that is meaningful, relevant and accessible to all. It embraces a view of the individual and individual difference as the source of diversity that can enrich the lives and learning of others” (Hockings, 2010: 1).
Inclusive assessment seeks equity in assessment for all students; it affords the opportunity to all students to engage with and demonstrate their learning. ‘All students’ refers to all students irrespective of background or any protected characteristics, studying at any level and by any mode (e.g. undergraduate and postgraduate; full-time and part-time; distance, work-based and on-campus learners; HE apprentices). It is not simply achieved through ad hoc provision of modified assessment made in response to the needs of specific individual students, i.e. ‘reasonable adjustment’. An inclusive approach to assessment ensures that assessment choices do not manifest bias, and do not advantage some students while disadvantaging others as they demonstrate achievement of intended learning outcomes. For example, is accurate spelling and grammar essential when assessing understanding, do students need to express themselves in a particular register, use an extended vocabulary, or write within a particular academic or disciplinary conventions? Or could intended learning outcomes be demonstrated via another medium – utilising oral, visual or performance skills?
In short, inclusive assessment shares many of the principles of good assessment design: it utilises diverse methods; it is well aligned with intended learning outcomes; it is transparent and clearly communicated; it develops assessment literacy; it ensures feedback is individualised and effective.