Assessment Design: Perspectives and Examples Informed by Universal Design for Learning

Section 1.2: Individual and Institutional Approach

Evaluation of learning and learners is bound up intricately with the teaching philosophy and practices of the instructor and the institute in which we teach.

But what happens when your teaching philosophy runs up against the constraints and expectations of the institute or the professional accreditation body? For instance, what if your school or profession adopts exam-based accreditation yet you do not believe that simply passing the exam means a student has all the competencies required for the job? What does it mean for you and for your students?

In this case, you may feel that you are restricted or unable to design different types of assessments due to accreditation, licensing, and certification requirements of a program. But even when your students are required to write a multiple-choice exam to receive their professional certificate, it doesn’t mean that you have to replicate the same test for the student by designing a similar mock exam. Instead, you can reconceptualize assessment design to better align the assessments with student learning outcomes.

UDL is critical in the reconceptualization process because assessments can create barriers that prevent some students from accurately demonstrating what they have learned. As we incorporate UDL approaches in our assessments, we are not constrained by a single assessment method. Instead, we attempt to make our courses more accessible, inclusive, and engaging for all learners. This is a step toward thinking strategically about how we want our students to learn and how we might develop different opportunities for students to engage and display competencies. While you may be limited to the requirements of the accrediting body, you can apply a wide range of assessments to measure student achievement to ensure success in passing their licensing, accreditation, or certification exam. In short, accreditation may be the destination, but you can take students on a route that has a variety of checkpoints that enriches their experiences and also ensure their success.

Here are some questions you can ask and reflect to connect personal and institutional assessment approach:

  • What is important to you about the student experience of your course?
  • What kinds of experiences and activities do you seek to construct for learners?
  • What kind of voice are students interested in having in shaping assessments?
  • How do your assessment strategies compare with institutional mandates?
  • And how can you reconceptualize existing assessments to ensure student engagement and success?


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A Comprehensive Guide to Applying Universal Design for Learning Copyright © 2022 by Dr. Seanna Takacs; Junsong Zhang; Helen Lee; Lynn Truong; and David Smulders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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