Australian Tertiary Education Network on Disability

Pathways15: From Practice to Evidence: Inclusive Assessment Design - What Can We Learn from Assessment Adjustments?

Merrin McCracken (presenter and Author), Joanna Tai (lead Author), Mary Dracup and Yasmin Mobayad (co-Authors), Deakin University

This presentation will describe the outcomes of an initial research project undertaken at Deakin University. It will also tell the story of how the practitioners and the researchers came together, and explore the value for all in this experience.

The experience:

At last - we had a full year of data on our new ServiceNow database! We could do some analysis of the adjustments that were in place for students. How many? What were the most common? Were there patterns or differences relating to faculty or course? Would anyone find this information useful?

CRADLE (the Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning) at Deakin did!

The research:

Higher education providers in Australia are morally and legally obliged to provide all students equivalent opportunities to achieve academic success. However, students with disabilities continue to report poor assessment experiences, where assessment adjustments are only partially effective. A focus on inclusive assessment is likely to benefit more than just students with disabilities. Priorities for the design of inclusive assessment are required, including understanding what types of assessments are posing the greatest barriers, and for whom. Through analysing data from a database of assessment adjustments, exams were identified as requiring the most adjustments. Alternatives to examinations must be considered: choice in assessment may help to ensure that all students’ needs are taken into account.

The value:

The initial research has provided the opportunities for presentation in the teaching and learning space at Deakin and beyond, and forms the basis for a further NCSEHE grant across two universities. We have also learnt more about what each other do, and there will be more research to come!


Merrin has worked with and learnt from people with disability for nearly 40 years. She has a strong commitment to inclusive practice and is interested in building the evidence base to support this work.

At Deakin, Merrin leads the Access and Inclusion team who provide individual service to over 3500 students, build the capacity of staff, and contribute to strategic direction for an inclusive University