Volume 3, Issue 2: Evaluating Instruction

Disability Services News
Promoting Accessible Education
Assessment Strategies
Winter 2011
Volume 3, Issue 2
In this Issue
Assessment Planning and Design in Postsecondary
Assessment Design and Approaches for Higher
Elements of an Assessment using UD Principles
Assessment Design Considerations
UD Assessment Considerations and Examples
Assessment Planning and Design in Postsecondary Education
Designing assessments is never easy, and design challenges are increased when learning needs of the student
population are diverse. Assessment results can be used for making a variety of decisions, including determining whether or
not students are learning material or to determine if students have acquired content knowledge in a particular area of study.
Since the results of assessments can have far reaching consequences for students that range from recommending that a student
get additional tutoring to denying matriculation or graduation, it is important to develop high quality assessments that are
appropriate for all students. The purpose of inclusive assessment is to utilize flexible assessment methods that address
barriers to expression of knowledge. An over reliance on a single mode of assessment may not account for differences in
students’ physical, cognitive, emotional, or sensory differences. The first step in developing an inclusive assessment is to
think carefully about the skills and content knowledge that you are attempting to evaluate. Many skills such as reading speed
may be unintentionally evaluated. These skills are often referred to as access skills because they are needed to access the
intended construct. Access skills are especially prevalent in performance assessments that require students to integrate many
supplemental skills when demonstrating their knowledge.
For students with diverse characteristics, including students with disabilities and students whose first language is
other than English, access skills often limit their ability to demonstrate their content knowledge. The adoption of universal
design principles for assessment is one proactive strategy that can be used by instructors to help ensure accurate evaluation of
student knowledge.
This newsletter will provide strategies to consider when designing evaluation metrics using Universal Design Principles.
Citation for this Newsletter:
Burgstahler, S. E., & Cory, R. C. (Ed.). (2009). Universal design in higher education: From principle to practice. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard Education Press.
Project EXCEL-UO: funded by the U. S. Department of Education, OPE Grant #P333A080037
Disability Services News
Promoting Accessible Education
Winter 2011
Volume 3, Issue 2
UD Design of Assessment Approaches for Higher Education
1. Clearly articulate the decisions you want to make about
students’ skills and knowledge from the test assignment.
2. Think about how students can best demonstrate their skills and
knowledge in a way that will help you make decisions.
3. Identify the access skills needed to successfully interpret and
respond to assessment items.
4. Design a task that will allow you to make the decisions you
want to make.
5. Design the scoring guide or rubric with decisions in mind.
Tell students what you are trying to measure.
Are you looking for background knowledge or just
relevant course content?
Are you expecting writing skills?
What level of expertise are you expecting?
Demonstration of knowledge may include written
tests, papers, presentations, demonstrations, etc.
Identify the skills needed to complete the assessment
that are not related to the course content (e.g., spelling
Identify the skills you believe reflect the construct
being evaluated.
Explicitly state the expectations for students and
which skills will and will not be evaluated.
A rubric should align with the construct being
measured. Multiple constructs being evaluated
beyond course content should be clearly outlined.
Elements of an Assessment with UD Principles
Because of the potential complexities associated with designing an assessment tool aligned with UD principles, the following
seven elements should be considered:
 All student populations are considered when developing an assessment tool.
 Constructs are precisely defined (i.e., intended material or skills to be tested are transparent).
 Test items should be accessible and non-biased (e.g., test items should not be biased against a particular student
 Assessment should be amendable to accommodations (e.g., test design should allow for the use of accommodations).
 Instructions should be simple, clear, and intuitive.
 Assessment language should be comprehensible based upon course content, academic level, and student population.
 Organization and formatting (both print and graphics) should not be a barrier to comprehension.
Assessment Design Considerations
To minimize the effects of deficits in access skills and to provide instructors with a more accurate understanding of student
knowledge of material, instructors can evaluate their course assessments by using the following questions:
 Are the instructions on the assessment easy for students to understand?
 Is the layout of the assessment easy to navigate?
 Are items formatted consistently throughout the assessment?
 Is the language used in the assessment appropriate for the students enrolled in the class?
 Is the nonessential vocabulary (unrelated to course content) understandable?
 Is the print large and legible enough for all students to read? Are diagrams clear and consistent with the text?
 Can the assessment be taken in a variety of formats? (e.g., paper, computer-based)?
 Can a potential allowable accommodation for a student be used on this assessment without changing the underlying
construct(s) that is being assessed?
Disability Services News
Promoting Accessible Education
Winter 2011
Volume 3, Issue 2
UD Assessment Considerations
Set clear expectations
Allow for flexibility when providing assessments to
allow students to adequately demonstrate their knowledge
Test in the same manner in which you teach
Minimize time constraints when appropriate
Provide multiple ways to demonstrate knowledge
Consider keeping academic standards consistent for all
students, including those who require accommodations.
Provide a syllabus with clear statements of course
expectations, assignment descriptions, deadlines, and
assessment methods.
Consider providing a grading rubric.
Consider an alternative, quiet location for testing or
distraction free rooms.
For students who have reading difficulties, consider
having questions read aloud.
For students with writing difficulties, consider a proctor to
scribe the answers or use an audio recorder to capture their
Consider providing extended test-taking time.
Ideally, tests should measure what students have learned
and not their ability to adapt to a new format or style of
Consider allowing extended time on tests and projects
unless speed is an essential outcome in your assessment.
Consider using a variety of testing formats (e.g., multiple
choice, essay, short answer, long response, etc.).
To have a student demonstrate their knowledge, consider
using a variety of different assignments such as papers,
group work, demonstrations, portfolios, and presentations.
Provide students with a choice in assessment type, when
Consider allowing students to use technology to complete
For students with perceptual difficulties, where
transferring information to computer forms can be
challenging, consider allowing for answers to be circled or
have their answers dictated into an audio recorder.
Disability Services Contact
Information and Website
Important Note Regarding
Students with Disabilities
164 Oregon Hall
5278 University of Oregon
Eugene, OR. 97403-5278
The Universal Design strategies for assessment outlined in
this newsletter could benefit all students. However, there
may be students with disabilities in your class that require
specific accommodations per their notification letter.
Although the UD principles outlined here are optional,
providing students with disabilities specific accommodations
that are included in their notification letter is required.
An equal-opportunity, affirmative-action institution committed to cultural diversity and compliance with the Americans with
Disabilities Act. This publication will be made available in additional accessible formats upon request.