What are the big questions in inclusive assessment? A review of the CRADLE symposium 2021 panel discussion.

In this post, Karla Wells-Duerr reviews the public panel discussion from this year’s CRADLE symposium. Karla is a PhD candidate with CRADLE and the School of IT and works as an instructional designer at Deakin University. Her current research interests include belonging, agency, placemaking online and inclusive practices.

The CRADLE symposium, held remotely this year, culminated with a public panel discussion of experts in the field, Professor Phillip Dawson, Professor Sarah O’Shea, Dr Jessamy Gleeson and Dr Ben Whitburn. They explored the burning issues and big questions around inclusive assessment.

There was a rich discussion within the panel and a very active chat forum. Some key themes emerged in the discussion – including questions about why we assess and who we assess. Sarah said that 47% of students fall into equity groups, so how are we designing assessments and why? Should we be designing assessments for all students and academic staff, not just for students from diversity groups? Designing inclusively for all students, students no longer need to make a declaration for help. Jessamy also showed how Indigenous Knowledges couldn’t be siloed or inserted in the middle of a unit with a few slides – inclusivity needs integration.

The panel agreed that there is no perfect utopia, micro and macro factors influence inclusive practices, and a lot depends on macro change. An example is that there is a focus on written assessment that can exclude some students in the university structure.

The panel and attendees raised many questions and issues not easily resolved. They asked what we are trying to solve with assessment, and what the panel would change about it. The panel questioned the influence of industry and regulatory bodies on inclusive assessment, what we can do at the coal face and issues around gatekeeping, ethics, and validity. There is an element of exclusivity and inaccessibility with access to higher education. We are good at getting diverse students into higher education in Australia, but we are not as good at keeping them.

Jessamy talked about the balance between assessing large groups of students and having the assessment inclusive, such as by using a template for students to complete that allowed individual responses. Incorporating inclusive assessment may mean that you need to leave out some content of your unit to try something new. 

Looking forward to what we can do next, the panel discussed incorporating inclusive practices but being prepared to fail – take chances and experiment. Learn from your failure and keep going. If you can, redesign in collaboration with students. It is challenging to achieve inclusive assessment, and it takes time, but we are all in it together.


Category list: CRADLE Symposium, News

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