Constraints on Assessment Practices

We recognize that when we’re designing a course, tutorial, or lab, our options for evaluating student learning are often somewhat constrained by:

  • the number of students in the class;
  • the availability of assigned Teaching Assistants and their allotted hours of work;
  • the size and physical arrangement of the classroom;
  • the Registrar’s scheduling of campus-wide exams;
  • and other architectural and logistical restrictions within a large institution.

As a result of these constraints, and our own disciplinary backgrounds and pedagogical preferences, we can sometimes get trapped in default forms of assessment such as essays or multiple choice tests.

These methods can be effective and appropriate ways to evaluate knowledge, but they are not necessarily the best or only ways to do so.

Applying Accessible Education Principles to Assessment

Regardless of the class we’re teaching and its specific constraints, there are many things we can do to vary and redesign our assessment practices to enhance accessibility.

A more accessible process of evaluating student learning will involve the incorporation of our 4 FAVE methods of Accessible Education explored in the preceding modules:

  • Flexibility;
  • Alignment;
  • Variety; and
  • Explicitness.

It is also important to facilitate a thoughtful and thorough feedback process so we can respond to student-identified challenges and ideas.

As a reminder, descriptions of our FAVE keywords are included below.

HOW can we FLEX Forward to advance Accessible Education?
FLEX – “FourWords”: F – A – V – E
Flexibility, Alignment, Variety, Explicitness
F Flexibility
  • Students have some choice/control over their learning and can adapt activities/materials to meet their needs
  • Teaching and learning are open to adjustment, change, feedback, experimentation, and reflection
A Alignment
  • Learning Outcomes, Teaching and Learning Activities, and Assessments link together and cohere well
  • There is congruence between intended values and commitments and enacted practices
V Variety
  • Multiple options are offered for learning, doing, and expressing knowledge
  • There is variety in teaching and learning methods, materials, environments, and assessments
E Explicitness
  • Plans, instructions, expectations, and academic conventions are clearly communicated

For greater clarity in the context of this module, we will review the application of these four keywords and methods in the following order: Alignment, Explicitness, Variety, and Flexibility.


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