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

Section 2.3: Assessment Methods and Examples – Presentations and Simulations


Presentations are common in many classes. They have the capacity to assess the way a learner’s thoughts are organized, to examine how readily a learner can synthesize feedback, connect with audience questions, and demonstrate presentation abilities in a real-time sense. A key in designing presentations is that they are designed – you should be sure that you have a clear rationale on why a presentation is a suitable assessment. What purpose will it serve? What ends will it meet? Is presentation the best method of demonstrating knowledge of particular concepts? Can you work with students to develop different types of presentations that are meaningful in the context of the course? Importantly, are the skills the learner is relying upon for a presentation the same ones that are explicit and supported through instruction?

Here is a UDL-informed example:

Wangari teaches Interpersonal Communication and designs the course so that students can complete a presentation at the end of the course.

  • Wangari offers three choices for the presentation: present in person, by video, or lead the class through a simulation.
  • She designs the presentation assignment so that students can offer an alternative that is meaningful for them.
  • In the presentation, the students bring in their own voice to discuss how this presentation meets their goals for the course and beyond.
  • Students have the choice to work in small groups or alone.They are given guidance on how the presentation should be different in either case.
  • Wangari offers regular drop-ins for trial runs leading up to the final presentation so that students can feel that they are on the right track instead of a high-stake final assessment.
  • Wangari works with students to develop certain aspects of the marking rubric; she is explicit about her rationale for grading on some aspects of the presentation.
  • Throughout the course, Wangari has created a system of peer feedback. Presenters have the option of addressing peer feedback for bonus grades.

Simulations (Role Play)

Simulation as an assessment is recognized an immersive, experiential learning opportunity (Caniglia, 2019). In a comprehensive simulation, learners may find themselves in an environment taking on a multitude of roles in situations that are designed to challenge learners to apply their knowledge in practical and authentic ways in order to solve problems, respond to incoming information, and work with others toward common goals, among other defined learning outcomes. But simulations do not need to be complex. They can be as simple as a role play conversation between two people.

A well-designed simulation from a UDL perspective takes advantage of a complex environment to highlight the flexibility available to learners in the roles they occupy. Following UDL guidelines, a simulation design welcomes multiple means of expression, action, and engagement. The more comprehensive a simulation, the more opportunity educators have to make space for those means (Hall, Meyer, Rose, p. 11).

Here is a UDL-informed example:

Dave and Wei are instructors in the Emergency Management training program, and a substantial portion of time is dedicated to the simulation of an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). This simulation involves a coordinated community response to a given emergency such as an earthquake, flood, or fire.

  • In preparation for the simulation, Dave and Wei ask students to select the roles they would like to play in the EOC based on interests and suitability in conjunction with the needs of the team.
  • In conjunction with the operations of an EOC, Dave and Wei make space for multiple formats for communication, including writing reports, creating information displays, chairing meetings, giving press releases, and debriefing colleagues.
  • Assessment is mostly formative, with Dave and Wei circulating the EOC to offer challenges, suggest recommendations, offer mini ‘what if’ scenarios and pose questions for further consideration, all the while moving the simulation forward through a series of “injects”.
  • Dave and Wei offer feedback to individuals based on their actions and in larger group settings when they see something worthy of everyone’s attention. Throughout the simulation, Dave and Wei encourage learners to seek out feedback on their actions.
  • Dave and Wei ask learners to consider their experiences both individually through a short reflective writing exercise and collectively in teams and then together with a final group debriefing session.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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.

Share This Book