Learning by Doing: Experiments in Alternative Assessment at the Arts University Bournemouth.

Steve White, Academic Practice and Development Manager & Jon Croose, Senior Lecturer: Arts University Bournemouth

Presentation slides


Staff on the BA Hons Costume with Performance Design course at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) have been experimenting with alternative assessment methods aimed at students with particular learning needs in literacy, in order to offer an alternative to the standard 5000 word written extended essay in Level 6. This initiative forms part of the wider institutional goal of supporting an inclusive approach to teaching and learning, which has been shown to benefit students, institutions and wider society (Disabled Students Sector Leadership Group, 2017). The workshop outlines the pilot project and assesses its achievements and pitfalls by way of a series of participatory exercises.

AUB is a leading University offering high quality specialist education across the creative industries, awarded TEF Gold status in 2017. Its BA Hons Costume and Performance Design course received the Queen’s anniversary prize in 2018 and uses a highly practical, experiential model of learning. The course focuses on the development of traditional techniques and current developments in production, manufacture, and design. As a result, it attracts a cohort of highly motivated, mostly kinaesthetic learners who tend to focus on practical, creative skills rather than the ‘academic’ written study units that connect contextual and critical thinking with the discipline. The percentage of students at AUB who are in receipt of DSA is also consistently above the HESA performance indicator benchmark.

This workshop allows participants to investigate the learning challenges faced by creative students with dyslexia and other literacy issues when presented with a long-form essay task, and how these might be addressed through a combination of structured textual management, visual presentation and viva exam. The workshop explores student responses to the pilot alternative assessment process, and seeks feedback from participants on the issues raised and on the practical activities that have been trialled at AUB to date. In line with recommendations from Draffan, James and Martin (2017) we invite sharing of expertise in order to further develop good practice via participants’ own ideas and experiences of alternative assessment in their individual learning environments. Participants can expect to gain insights into the practical implementation of an alternative assessment initiative in an art and design context, and an opportunity to explore the challenges and benefits associated with such initiatives.

Session description:

Participants will have the opportunity to explore the benefits and challenges associated with creating alternative assessment options in an art and design context. Discussion will provide the chance to examine how these issues in alternative assessment might impact upon other contexts.


  • Intro AUB context / course aims, assessment, session aims/structure
  • Small group discussion: alternative assessment options for written essay tasks (contingent, alternative or inclusive approaches)
  • Plenary feedback
  • Small group discussion: potential benefits of alternative approaches (student empowerment, inclusion, performance)
  • Plenary feedback
  • Small group discussion: possible challenges of alternative approaches (aligning learning outcomes, assessment criteria and marking; parity of effort and assessment; ‘washback’ effects on teaching)
  • Plenary feedback and summary


Disabled Students Sector Leadership Group, D. (2017) Inclusive teaching and learning in higher education as a route to excellence. London: Department for Education

Draffan, E. A., James, A. and Martin, N. (2017) Inclusive Teaching and Learning: What’s Next?, The Journal of Inclusive Practice in Further and Higher Education, 9(1).


Steven White, Academic Practice and Development Manager

Dr Jon Croose, senior lecturer in Contextual Studies.




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