Making assessment more inclusive for students with Specific Learning Differences/Difficulties (SpLDs): moving from pockets of excellence to mainstream practice

Lead presenter: Kate Ippolito, Educational Development Unit, Imperial College London.

Co-presenters: Prof Sara Rankin (Faculty of Medicine) & David Mooney (SpLD lead in Disability Advisory Service), Imperial College London.

Presentation slides

Inclusive assessment practice

Case study 1

Case study 2


Persuading busy academic staff of the need to evolve long-established assessment into more inclusive and effective approaches can be challenging (Ferrel, 2012). Our recent cross-university curriculum review project has given us the opportunity and challenge of doing just this. Through our roles as academic programme leads, curriculum reviewers and collaborators on a Learning and Teaching Strategy-funded project aimed at making Imperial College’s curricula more inclusive of student with SpLDs we have learnt some valuable lessons. We recognise SpLDs as including dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD as an SpLD. This workshop is designed to share experiences and, together with participants, explore how pockets of excellence can inspire and extend to mainstream curriculum design and assessment practice.

Much of our progress has come from new connections and collaborations between those with expertise in learning with SpLDs, in curriculum design, in learning technology and with disciplinary expertise. Together we can identify acceptable and feasible ways forward whilst also challenging lack of understanding and entrenched views. At this workshop we want explore how others have managed similar collaborations.

We will draw on experiences of teaching staff with SpLDs and interview accounts from students with SpLDs to illustrate challenges they have faced and strategies they have developed. The project involves working with such students as partners, as experts in learning with SpLDs and as co-creators of material to support other learners (Dunne & Zandstra, 2011). We will share examples of inclusive assessment that we have successfully embedded in our own programmes, with stakeholder reactions and strategies that have persuaded academics to adopt more inclusive approaches. We also hope to learn much from the participants to help us take our work forward.

Outline of the proposed schedule

Timing Learning outcomes Activity
5 mins Introductions
20 mins Identify barriers to assessment currently faced by students with SpLDs


Small group identification of common barriers and input on findings from Imperial students and staff and literature
30 mins Increase their repertoire of strategies to support learners with SpLDs


Embed good practice inclusive examples in their own educational contexts


Small group discussion about case studies including critical evaluation of suitability for various contexts and sharing of alternatives and refinements


20 mins Motivate and support academic colleagues to develop more inclusive assessment practices


Discussion about challenges and successes of engaging colleagues and mainstreaming inclusive assessment, with input



Dunne, E., & Zandstra, R. (2011). Students as change agents—New ways of engaging with learning and teaching in higher education. Bristol: A Joint University of Exeter/ESCalate/HE Academy Publication.

Ferrel, G. (2012). A view of the Assessment and Feedback Landscape: baseline analysis of policy and practice from the JISC Assessment and Feedback programme. JISC. Retrieved from:


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