Inclusive assessment in higher education: what does the literature tells us on how to define and design inclusive assessments?
Keywords:inclusive assessment, higher education, widening participation, inclusive education, attainment gap
In recent decades the diversity of university students has increased, and it has been observed that degree results vary between student groups. This degree awarding gap is particularly high between White students on the one hand and Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority students on the other. Assessments are a key aspect of closing the degree awarding gap. A systematic literature review was conducted to explore ‘What makes higher education assessments inclusive?’ and ‘How to design inclusive assessments in higher education?’. 14 articles were qualitatively analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis. Four dominant themes were found in the literature: defining ‘inclusive’, assessment, wider context, and student perspectives. In the literature a clear response to the first research question was found, defining inclusive assessment as the provision of assessments that allow all students to do well without receiving alternative or adapted assessments. The second question proved more difficult to answer. While some aspects of inclusive assessments could be identified, others are still unanswered. The results showed that assessments cannot be planned in isolation but need to be integrated within the wider course design. Only one of the articles included data on student grades and progression. The existing qualitative findings could be enhanced by parallel quantitative data to understand the impact of inclusive assessments on grades and their potential in closing the degree awarding gap. Ultimately, this paper will argue that the current literature concerning inclusive assessment is limited by the lack of data on student attainment.
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