Following their presentation at the Inclusive Teaching Forum, Associate Professor Kathleen Tait and Dr Sue Silveria explain the importance of reasonable adjustment to enable learners with disability to participate in education and training.
What is reasonable adjustment?
Reasonable adjustment is a legislative term that refers to a measure or action taken by an education provider to enable learners with disability to participate in education and training on the same basis as learners without disability.
Reasonable adjustment in teaching, learning, and assessment activity means considering the impact of the type of assessment task on the learner to lessen the impact of disability on their capacity to learn.
However, the learner still needs to do the work and demonstrate the required knowledge.
Reasonable adjustment does not give learners with disability an advantage over others. Nor does it change course standards or outcomes or guarantee success. It is also not about making unreasonable adjustment; every reasonable adjustment needs to be justifiable and must uphold the integrity of the qualification.
A reasonable adjustment can be as simple as changing classrooms to be closer to amenities or installing a particular type of software on a computer for a person with low vision.
Reasonable adjustments in assessment
Some practical applications of reasonable adjustment in assessment:
- Extending or modifying timeframes for assessment
- Presenting information in a range of media to increase accessibility
- Use of oral assessments (presentations, recorded responses, and telephone sessions) as alternatives to written tasks
- Seeking evidence from a third party to demonstrate competence (for example statutory declaration, video of the learner undertaking a task)
- Ensuring the language of assessment instruments does not create barriers (use plain English)
- Use of generic terms when constructing assessment tasks; for example, use ‘communicate’, ‘present’, ‘create’ instead of ‘speak’, ‘talk’, ‘listen’, ‘look’, ‘draw’ and ‘write’ (use inclusive language)
- Providing sufficient feedback on the progress individual learners make in relation to their learning goals
Below is a list of possible learning difficulties that a student might experience and some examples of alternative assessment methods
|If a learner has difficulty with…||you might be able to adjust your assessment through…|
|concentration||split sessions – break the assessment into appropriate component parts which can be undertaken separately; rest breaks during lengthy sessions; separate assessment venue if learner is distracted by others’ movements or noise; additional time; variety of assessment methods – for example, recording devices for oral testing, telephone assessments for off-campus testing; evidence provided by the learner of completing the task in another venue -for example, an employer could verify satisfactory demonstration of the competence.|
|expressing knowledge in writing||oral assessment; digital recorder or similar; a scribe; sign language interpreter; additional time.|
|numbers and numerical concepts||additional time; a calculator; assistive technology/equipment- for example, a talking calculator.|
|understanding spoken information and instructions||additional time; written instructions to complement the spoken information/instructions; sign language interpreter; rest breaks or split sessions; simple direct language (plain English); step-by-step instructions; repetition of information given; paraphrasing to check for understanding – ask the learner to repeat what she/he is required to do demonstration of what is required.|
|examination-related stress||additional time; rest breaks; separate examination venue; online assessment; other assessment methods – for example, assignment or third-party evidence.|
|the English language||a computer with a spelling and grammar checker; dictionary and thesaurus; additional time language interpreter.|
|maintaining writing posture for any length of time or writing quickly||digital recorder or similar; oral assessment; a personal computer (if using a keyboard is preferable or more comfortable than writing by hand); rest breaks; a scribe; other assistive technology or equipment; additional time.|
|reading standard-sized print/handwriting||assistive technology such as magnifying devices to enlarge print or screen readers; Braille examination papers (with tactile diagrams, maps); oral assessment or recorded questions; a reader; additional time; models, graphics or practical examples to illustrate questions; heavy lined paper|
|hearing verbal information||facing the learner and speaking clearly (if a learner lip-reads); producing all relevant information in writing/digital text; assistive technology/equipment; sign language interpreter; additional time.|
|physical tasks such as turning pages||a disability support worker; a personal assistant provided by the learner; alternative methods for demonstration of competence – for example, oral assessment or third-party evidence; assistive technology/equipment; additional time|
|oral communication||additional time; an interpreter; a computer with voice synthesiser; a reader of the learner’s work.|
Other considerations for the learner include aspects of the physical learning environment:
- lighting and the elimination of glare for learners with low vision or epilepsy
- suitable furniture
- adequate space for equipment and support personnel
- access to power points to plug in assistive devices or equipment.
Finally, it may be necessary to consider a separate examination venue if the learner is likely to be distracted by others or if there is a risk that the use of assistive equipment or support personnel may cause distraction to other learners.
General strategies and techniques for supporting different learning needs
Supporting students with disabilities to participate in tertiary education is complex in practice, and includes negotiating and implementing learning supports and processes, in which multiple people need to be engaged.
It is vital to appreciate that it is not possible nor appropriate to offer a one-size-fits-all strategy or single technique and think that this will be enough to support all students with disability and ensure their access and participation on the same basis as other students.
There are many types of individualized reasonable adjustments that reflect diversity in students, as well as learning tasks, assessments and learning environments for which the adjustments are intended.
To get you started, here are a few specific things you might consider in your decision-making process:
Think about the learner’s needs around: writing, reading, hearing, communicating with others or getting ideas across, moving or manipulating objects, paying attention/staying on track, sitting for long periods, moving around the learning environment, remembering/retention and dealing with frustration
Suggested examples of recognising and respecting individual difference in learning are:
- Clear statements in course guides about the types of learning activities and assessment tasks involved, so that students can make informed choices on enrolment.
- Clear unit guides (e.g., weekly, modular) so that students know what to expect and what preparation for each week/modular is involved.
- Timely provision of all written information for classes to students (e.g., online) prior to classes, so students have access to and can become familiar with content.
- Presentation of information in a range of modes where possible (e.g., making in-class materials available on lie, filming practical tasks for students to review).
- Creation of flexible options for assessment and varied assessment tasks that tap into a range of skills (e.g., oral, written, observation, practical demonstration of competency).
- Timely and constructive feedback to students on assessment tasks.
- Learning resources available in accessible formats
- Consistent use of accessible formats for online learning platforms
- Automated systems to remind students of key dates (e.g., smart phones, e-mail reminders linked to online portal calendar).
- Active co-ordination and monitoring of the timing and pacing of assessment tasks across concurrent units within a course.
- Accessible disability awareness training for academics that enhances their awareness of the impacts of disabilities on learning, classroom participation, and use of online systems.
- Support staff mingling with students in class, providing support more inclusively at times when the student with a disability is not requiring direct support.
- Peer-mentoring programs which actively engage students with disabilities as mentors and promote peer mentoring as inclusive of students with disabilities.
- Involving students with disabilities, disability services staff, curriculum support and teaching staff so that their respective expertise informs how peer networks, support services, and staff training are developed and delivered.
- Information about room location and accessibility visible to all students when self-selecting a tutorial group.