NCSEHE Re-imagining Exams project update
The Re-imagining Exams project team, funded as part of the 2020/21 NCSEHE Research Grants Program, have issued an update on their project for May 2021. They are aiming to re-imagine exams to result in more inclusive assessment design by exploring the broader context of, and barriers and enablers to, inclusive assessment design in exams.
They've had a busy few months filled with data collection and analysis, running a series of workshops and an advisory group meeting, plus creating a new website.
Student interviews were completed across Deakin and CQU in mid-December with a total of 40 students with disabilities from a range of backgrounds participating.
They have now completed a first pass at thematic analysis of the interview and narrative data and found some common themes present: relationships play a key role in shaping SWDs’ experiences of exams and other timed assessments; positive interactions with lecturers and disability support officers can help students feel secure and supported, while negative interactions can create anxiety and undermine students’ sense of inclusion.
Workshops and expert guidance
Their series of workshops across CQU and Deakin are nearing completion. The workshops have brought together key stakeholders – students with disabilities, unit coordinators/chairs responsible for designing and implementing assessments, and accessibility staff who support students in accessing adjustments – in a collaborative environment to share current experiences of exams and timed assessment and discuss ways of re-imagining these assessments.
Topics explored in the workshops have included: experiences of exams and tensions relating to inclusive exam design; the roles and relationships involved in successful assessment strategies; and exam and assessment design.
As the workshop series progressed, discussions shifted to consider potential changes to exams and timed assessment in the units of participating unit coordinators/chairs. Planning is now in train to implement changes including alternative assessment formats, choice in mode of response, and improved pre-assessment scaffolding.
They also held their first meeting with the advisory group who offered valuable insights into a range of practical and design considerations that were raised in the workshops. These included: the importance of universal design learning principles in assessment design; the challenge of staff workload when providing student support and integrating increased inclusivity in assessments, and how to combat it; and the potential offered by new and emerging technologies to support flexible and novel assessment formats.
The project website was launched in February and currently hosts news and information about the project, and will be expanded to include more project findings and resources later in the year.
This work is supported by a NCSEHE 2020 Research Grant. The project team is: Joanna Tai, Rola Ajjawi, Margaret Bearman, Mary Dracup and Paige Mahoney (Deakin); and Jo Dargusch and Lois Harris (CQU).