Inclusive Assessment Practices
Warwick Foundation Studies, Warwick University
Natalie Sharpling, Assistant Professor at Warwick Foundation Studies, has an interest in inclusive assessment practices, having recognised that the approaches we take to assessment can be culture specific, and therefore certain approaches and ways of thinking can be valued over others. As a starting point to inclusive assessment, Natalie values a level playing field, ensuring that international students are not disadvantaged because they don't have the experience or the access to the same cultural knowledge that is necessary to gain the highest marks available for assessment. In order to support students, sample essay questions or assignments might be analysed, discussions held around expectations and what students need to do to obtain marks, and what tutors might be looking for when asking for critical reflections and how that translates into a piece of writing. Demystifying assessment in this way makes the assessment more inclusive and more fair.
Natalie also encourages students to comment on the assessments they are set, to ensure that the assessment is clear and the question being asked can be easily understood: ‘Sometimes the problem with the answer lies somewhere in the question…I've often found that if students are struggling with an assignment, there's something in the wording of the question which is not really enabling them to do their best work somehow’. Ensuring that the phraseology is not ambiguous is vital and clarity is seen as key to inclusive practice, not just for international students, but for all students.
Natalie also encourages students to express their own learning outcomes, with the key to ensuring academic quality being ‘maintaining the autonomy of the learner while at the same time ensuring that a set of outcomes is promoted’. Using scaffolding techniques, and using learning as a social interaction, whereby meaning is constructed by everybody, students are able to pursue their own interests, which are supported within a wider framework. Giving assignment titles with a level of flexibility around how students approach the question means students have autonomy within the situation without compromising quality, balancing the institutional requirement with that of the individual student.