I was reminded recently by an article on the Conversation about how much assessment has changed in the modern university, and it made me think of all the authentic assessments I’ve done while at UTS and how they’ve benefitted me in ways traditional exams and essays haven’t. Not only do authentic assessments better prepare the students for the work force before they graduate, but they also provide students with valuable real life skills that you don’t always get from an essay or an exam. They’re an amazing way for students to showcase their skills while learning at the same time. But how does accessibility fit into all of this?

Thinking about accessibility requirements

While authentic assessments are absolutely a great idea for universities to practice, it’s important to keep in mind how they can be made accessible to all students. It’s possible that some authentic assessments aren’t designed to accompany every students’ skills and abilities.

For example, like myself, if a student’s accessibility requirements mean that they require a fair amount of time and information to prepare something, having a spontaneous debate each week in class as a form of an assessment could be quite distressing – it might mean some students aren’t able to perform at their full potential.

Planning authentic assessments

It’s important to keep in mind when you’re planning authentic assessments that every student is going to have different skill sets and requirements, and what works for some students, might not work for others. For example, some students may excel in assessments that are designed around public speaking, but others may be able to work better when offered the flexibility of submitting their work in written or video format.

These are all things that sometimes we might not take into consideration when planning programs and assessments, but it’s something we should all be aware of. A comprehensive list of components to accessible learning is available in the UTS Accessibility Resource Guide 2017, and Appendix B: Accessible Learning Environments is a great place to start. Some of the key things to think of when planning an assessment are:

What are the inherent requirements of the program?

Have the needs of students with disability been taken into account when designing programs of study?

Are the course delivery methods sufficiently flexible to enable all students to succeed?

And if you’re still curious as to how you can make sure your programs and assessments are accessible for all, you can read more of the Accessibility Resource Guide 2017, or alternatively speak to someone from UTS Equity and Diversity, someone from Accessibility Services or one of the Academic Liaison Officers.

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