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Reasonable Adjustments for Students with Disabilities

This policy should be read in conjunction with: 

  • The University's Learning and Teaching Handbook, and in particular the Principles of Assessment. 
  • Our glossary, which provides an explanation of many of the key terms below. 

Reasonable adjustments to the design of assessments 

Where a TEI judges that their standard form of assessment in some module creates an obstacle for a student with a particular disability, it is often possible to design an alternative assignment as a reasonable adjustment. This will normally mean that a considered assessment has been made of a particular student's needs and circumstances, and it has been concluded that the standard assessments would unfairly penalise him or her for factors unconnected to the abilities the assessment is intended to test. 

The alternative assignment will need to enable the student to demonstrate to markers that they have met the same learning outcomes as students taking the standard assignment, to broadly equivalent levels of depth and breadth. The TEI will therefore need to ask themselves exactly which learning outcomes for the module (as set out in the module outline) each standard assignment allows them to assess, and then consider what kind of alternative assignment will enable them to assess the same outcomes. The alternative form of assessment will therefore need to enable markers to make judgments about the degree to which the student has met those learning outcomes to broadly equivalent judgments they make in relation to the standard assessment. That is: will the alternative assessment provide markers with a similar quantity of evidence, allow a similarly fine-grained judgment, and so on? 

A reasonable adjustment might, for instance, involve replacing written elements with oral elements, or vice versa – but it can involve many other kinds of adjustment, too. Sometimes, particular adjustments might be ruled out by the module learning outcomes in question – if, for instance, a learning outcome specifies a particular mode of communication. 

Questions about whether the alternative assessment will involve the same amount of work as the standard assessment are secondary: TEIs are not measuring how much effort the student puts in, or how hard the assignment is in some abstract way, but whether the relevant learning outcomes have been met to broadly equivalent levels of breadth and depth. It is, however, obviously important that students with disabilities are not disadvantaged by being set work which would demand more of their time than is allowed in our learning hours policy. 

Where TEI staff deem that such a reasonable adjustment is necessary, they should ensure that the Chair of the TEI's Board of Examiners is in agreement, and then seek the approval of the TEI's External Examiner, in advance of offering the revised assessment to the student. The setting of any alternative assessments should be reported at the next meeting of the Board of Examiners. Where the External Examiner is not available, TEIs can seek approval from the Common Awards Team. 

See our Templates and Forms page for a template form for TEIs to use when considering alternative assessments as a reasonable adjustment.   

Reasonable adjustments to the marking of assessments 

Where a TEI has identified students as having having Specific Learning Differences that can affect their written English, reasonable adjustments for those students can include refraining from penalising them for errors in their written English, provided those errors do not compromise the students’ achievement of the module’s learning outcomes. The TEI would not be giving extra marks to the students but would be refraining from removing marks that would normally have been docked for such errors. 

The fact that the errors must not compromise the students’ achievement of the learning outcomes does impose some limits on this adjustment. Most obviously, errors that detract from the student’s demonstration of the knowledge and understanding or cogency of argument required by the module must still be taken fully into account in marking. 

Or again, where a written assignment is intended to demonstrate students’ ability to communicate with a wider audience, errors that detract from that communication should still be taken fully into account. If, for instance, students were asked to write an article for a parish magazine, the assessment task would involve learning to ensure that the article was free from serious errors of presentation, spelling, and grammar. In such a case, it would be a more appropriate adjustment to give students with relevant SpLDs access to the tools and support they need to achieve that outcome, rather than to mark their work any differently from that of other students. 

In other words: all reasonable adjustments made by the TEI need to take into account, both the students' needs, and the purpose of the assignments that the students have been set.