Introduction to Inclusive Assessments using Universal Design for Learning

The key to making your assessments more inclusive using Universal Design for Learning is flexibility, transparency, and choice.  When designing assessments, consider whether any student would be, or feel, excluded either by the subject content, the assessment methodology or schedule, or whether any student would need alternative arrangements to be made.


Watch this short video by CAST which introduces assessment when viewed from a UDL lens. [3:09 minutes]


How to add choice to assessment by testing only construct relevant factors

Assessments are designed to measure knowledge, skills, and abilities. Constructs are the knowledge, skills or abilities being measured by an assessment. 

By their nature, however, most assessments include features that are not relevant to the construct being assessed. Often the methods and materials used in assessments require additional skills and understanding. These are considered to be construct irrelevant

Construct-irrelevant features of assessments may pose barriers for some students, preventing an accurate measurement of the construct. 

What are some examples of construct irrelevance, and what barriers do they pose for our students?

Example of Construct Relevance

Sean sets a timed, closed-book essay exam for his History students. This type of assessment includes the following construct-irrelevant factors:

  • motor coordination (handwriting or typing skills)
  • short-term and working memory
  • organization
  • time management
  • attention
  • the ability to work under pressure

This does not accurately measure his students' knowledge of History

Visit UDL on Campus for more information on UDL and Assessments


How do I start to make my assessments more inclusive?

UDL assessment tips
Idea Tips
Meaningful assessment
  • Stimulate interest, motivation, and persistence in assessments by making assessments relevant and meaningful.  
  • All assessments should be clearly aligned with the module learning outcomes.
  • Students should only be assessed on the knowledge and skills required by the module.  
  • Where possible, assessment should be authentic and teach students transferable skills. Find out more about authentic assessment.
Choice and flexibility
  • Find and remove barriers in your assessments which may prevent an accurate measurement of what learners are actually learning in terms of the knowledge, skills, and abilities identified in the course goals.
  • Provision of options within the design of both formative and summative assessment helps to ensure that all learners can act on new information and demonstrate what they know. Use choice and flexibility in assessments wherever possible. (e.g. does a student have to demonstrate their knowledge through a written essay? Could they create a video or oral presentation instead? Does a student have to present in person in front of class? Can they choose to pre-record their presentation instead?)
  • Use a broad range of assessment types.
  • Allow students to learn from their mistakes (eg. give students 2-3 attempts on a quiz and keep their best score, or allow students to revise and resubmit a specific assignment)
  • Can the deadline be flexible to take into account individual student’s needs eg illness, caring responsibilities, commutes.
  • The following resource offers advice on how to add choice to your assessments: A Practitioner’s Guide to Choice of Assessment Methods within a Module 
  • Watch this short video case study:  'How I've Used Multiple Means of Action and Expression' by Dr. Geraldine O'Neill (UCD) on how choice was given to students in their assessment (11 minutes, 14 seconds).
Provide scaffolding and support
  • Scaffold students by breaking large assessments into smaller chunks and offering support and feedback for each piece.
  • Provide clear support, resources and training for any new skills or technologies that will be used in assessments.
  • Provide examples of assessments of what you consider to be high-quality work 
  • Stop using large end-of-semester high-stakes assessments. Use a mix of high-stakes, and low-stakes assessments, and offer no-consequence assessments to allow students to practice their learning throughout the semester.
Transparency and expectations
  • How clear are your assessment instructions? Do you explicitly state what is expected of students, dates and deadlines, and how they can successfully complete an assignment? Is it clear what the assessment submission arrangements are? Is this information available in alternate formats? Ask someone else to read your assessment instructions for clarity.
  • Communicate clear expectations and provide rubrics. If you are not sure how to use rubrics, the LTF has provided help on using rubrics at UL.
  • Define what constitutes high and low-quality work.
  • Where possible, involve learners in their learning process. For example, could you ask the group to co-construct a rubric together? 
  • Provide examples of assessments of what you consider to be high-quality work 
Constructive and encouraging feedback:
  • Give frequent, constructive, timely feedback.
  • Encourage persistence and suggest next steps.
  • Build feedback points into your module plan.
  • Offer different types of feedback (oral/written, individual/group).
  • Give students the chance to revise and resubmit based on the feedback.  


Key questions for inclusive assessments

When implementing Universal Design for Learning into your assessments, consider the following questions:

  • Do your assessments align with the module learning outcomes?
  • How can you add student choice to your assessments? 
  • Will students have choice over how they submit, at least some, assignments? 
  • What technologies might you use for assessment? 
  • Are there ways you can work with your students to co-construct the module assessments or rubrics together? 
  • Can you break a large assignment into smaller chunks over the semester? 
  • What sorts of real-world scenarios lend themselves to your assessments? 
  • How will you support student learning? How will you give students the opportunity to practice the skills they need for each assessment? Will you offer no-consequences practice to allow your students to test their learning without grades? 
  • How will you check with your learners for their understanding?
  • How and when will you grade your students? How will they know they are succeeding in the module? 
  • How will you give formative and summative feedback? 
  • Will students be able to resubmit based on this feedback? 
  • How will you include peer assessment and peer feedback?
  • How will students be able to reflect on their learning?


Types of assessment and how to make them more inclusive

Below are a few traditional methods of assessments, and ways you could make them more inclusive.

  • Allow students to choose if they work individually or in a group. 

  • Ensure each group member has clear roles and responsibilities and an even workload. Ask groups to create guidelines for their group to adhere to. 

  • Ensure diversity in groups 

  • When grading, allow a group and individual mark 

  • Ask students to reflect on the group work, and their own roles in a learning journal.  

  • Allow students to submit drafts of essays, or an essay plan, and to revise based on your feedback 

  • Give students resources on how to write essays. Link them to the Regional Writing Centre

  • Provide sample essays   

  • Provide rubrics to allow students to understand what you are looking for 

  • Allow students to pre-record their presentations if they have anxiety about speaking in public, or allow them to present in different formats 

  • Offer support and resources on presentation skills 

  • Use for shorter formative assessments, not for summative assessments with a large grade weighting.

  • Allow extra time for students  

  • Use a variety of question types 

  • Allow students to use different types of responses to questions (multiple choice, short answers, drag and drop etc)

  • Allow students to choose questions to respond to (e.g. choose 15 of 20 questions)

  • Allow students to go back and change answers if needed before they submit 

  • Avoid negative marking 

  • Use an accessible format for text to speech software 

  • Provide past papers for students to see the exam format 

  • Let students practice exams 

  • Provide resources on how to succeed in exams 

  • Give clear expectations on what to expect, and what is expected of them 

  • Allow extra time 

  • Allow students to choose from a variety of topics to answer

  • Allow students to respond in a variety of ways (written, drawing a chart or diagram etc)

  • Reconsider the 100% end-of-semester exam and provide formative assessments also. 


Further resources on inclusive assessments


Phone: 061 234652

For Integrated Curriculum Development Framework queries, contact for further information or to request assistance.

Follow CTL on UL Connect