View Dyslexie font  |  View high contrast
Subscribe to the ADCET newsletter

UDL Symposium: 3B. Redefining Universality: A context-engaged approach to assessment fairness

Pre-recorded presentation with Q&A at the end of the session

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles aim to create learning outcomes, resources and assessments that are accessible and equitable for everyone. The concept of assessment fairness aligns closely with these principles, as a means of reducing bias, providing equal opportunities and fair access while responding to individual needs. All assessments occur in complex and dynamic contexts, which encompass individual factors, environmental factors and activity or task factors. When it comes to implementation, context is everything.

The aim of this presentation was to critically analyse the degree to which UDL engages reciprocally with assessment contexts. Do the detailed and tangible guidelines to support UDL implementation put the cart before the horse by encouraging a prescriptive approach? This question challenges the prevailing assumption that the guidelines are applicable and relevant across all learning environments. This presentation argues that to be truly ‘universal’, the UDL guidelines must be responsive to both the assessment needs of individual learners and their broader learning context.

This presentation proposed an approach to UDL implementation which tailors design to learning contexts, with a particular focus on promoting assessment fairness. The Person-Environment-Occupation-Participation (PEOP) model offers a compatible contextual framework, and its alignment with the UDL guidelines was discussed in detail. Specific examples from higher education for allied health professionals illustrated how the PEOP enables a mindful approach to the selection of UDL guidelines for implementation and their application to the design of fair assessments.


Dr Danielle Hitch, Deakin University, received a 2023 Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) Fellowship for a project examining assessment fairness for students from equity groups. She is also presenting on behalf of the other members of her study team - Dr. Joanna Tai, Mr. Dion Williams and Ms. Jessica Lees.

Dr Joanna Tai is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) at Deakin University. Her research in assessment focuses on inclusion and diversity, feedback literacies, developing evaluative judgement, and student experiences across the university and workplace. She is currently undertaking funded projects on feedback literacy (Australian Research Council) and inclusive assessment (Australian Collaborative Education Network; Council of Australasian University Leaders in Learning and Teaching).

Joanna is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a member of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Health Professions Education, the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia, and the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction. She has a background in medicine and health professions education.

(September 2023)