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You are reading: How are examinations inclusive for students with disabilities in higher education? A sociomaterial analysis

Joanna Tai1, Paige Mahoney1, Rola Ajjawi1, Margaret Bearman1, Joanne Dargusch2, Mary Dracup1 and Lois Harris2

Originally published in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education

28 May 2022


As a form of assessment, examinations are designed to determine whether students have met learning outcomes. However, students with disabilities report avoiding examinations, selecting units of study where the assessments align with their strengths. To ensure examinations do not contribute to the systematic exclusion of students with disabilities, it is important to explore their experiences. In this paper, we use a sociomaterial frame to analyse how examination arrangements construct inclusion in examinations. Interviews with 40 students were conducted across two universities. Inclusion or exclusion was variably constituted for students through emergent combinations of social and material arrangements. Covid-19 pandemic related social distancing related changes such as shifting examinations online, using technology, increasing time limits and moving to open-book examinations contributed to increased inclusion for most students, who were able to use familiar equipment in spaces they had adapted to their own needs. Staff acceptance and implementation of access requirements and assessment flexibility also contributed. While the attitudes and actions of staff involved in examinations can facilitate inclusion, reducing the need for adjustments through assessment design is important. This requires consideration of how time, technology, equipment and materials contribute to inclusion or exclusion, which may have benefits for many students.

Read the full article in Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 

1Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE), Deakin University
2Centre for Research in Equity and Advancement of Teaching and Education (CREATE), Central Queensland University

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