As discussed in Module 3, Accessible Education ensures that learning outcomes, teaching and learning activities, and assessment measures align well so that students clearly understand what they are expected to do and learn, are provided with resources, support, and activities to learn these outcomes, and are offered fair ways to demonstrate their learning achievements (Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation, 2015b).

Case Study with Manifying Glass

Have you heard of staged or scaffolded assignments?

Assignment scaffolding is a way of breaking down complex learning goals into progressive steps.

  • For example, instead of asking students to complete a research paper intended to measure their mastery of an array of academic skills (essay writing, academic research, synthesis, critical thinking) and course-specific content knowledge, you might have them work on and submit one component of a paper (thesis statement, literature review) for peer and/or instructor feedback, before having them progress to subsequent steps (outline, first draft), and an ultimate finished product (complete paper).
  • Scaffolding can also be used when teaching complex and layered concepts and ideas so that students can recognize and master discrete component parts, and receive feedback on these achievements, as they learn how the pieces fit together (Skene & Fedko, n.d.).

Breaking down learning goals and assessments like this contributes to Accessible Education because it allows for intentional and explicit skills instruction, rather than leaving students to learn complex and “hidden” curriculum on their own.

Scaffolding can also support clear and explicit communication of assignment instructions and expectations, provide a variety of opportunities for feedback and evaluation, and can reinforce alignment with learning outcomes.

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As you’re developing your assessments, consider:

  • Which academic skills are essential to your learning outcomes or successful completion of your course? How might you break these skills down so that you can support students in learning them in progressively complex steps?
  • Which types of assessments are most effective for determining student achievement of your learning outcomes? What are the component parts of these assessments? How might you stage or scaffold student learning of these components?
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Continue Your Learning

Read more about essential requirements (Sukhai, Mohler & Smith,2014), and listen to Dr. Sue Baptiste discuss the negotiation of accessibility and essential “professional” requirements in the School of Rehabilitation Science.


  • Listen to Dr. Robert Fleisig differentiate between teaching “content” knowledge and teaching ways of thinking and doing (process, skills, creativity). Are we evaluating what we want to evaluate?


  • Hear how Dr. Vanessa Watts facilitates flexible assignments with students while keeping learning objectives in mind.




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