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Assessment Considerate Marking and Feedback Policy for Disabled Students (Sep 2020)


The British Dyslexia Association aspires to create real opportunities for people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. It is committed to widening access and delivering an excellent and enriching student experience.

The British Dyslexia Association respects that everyone is different and works hard to remove any barriers to learning, so that all individuals have a fair chance to progress and develop.

The QAA Code of Practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in HE recommends that:

“disabled students and non-disabled students are offered learning opportunities that are equally accessible to them, by means of inclusive design wherever possible and by means of reasonable individual adjustments wherever necessary.” (Part B; Chapter B3; 2012).

The British Dyslexia Association adhere to the QAA’s guiding principles on expectations and practices for assessment:

  • Assessment methods and criteria are aligned to learning outcomes and teaching activities.
  • Assessment is reliable, consistent, fair and valid.
  • Assessment design is approached holistically.
  • Assessment is inclusive and equitable.
  • Assessment is explicit and transparent.
  • Assessment and feedback is purposeful and supports the learning process.
  • Assessment is timely.
  • Assessment is efficient and manageable.
  • Students are supported and prepared for assessment.
  • Assessment encourages academic integrity.

This policy has been developed to maintain equality of opportunity for students whose disabilities affect literacy and/or language in assessment work / receiving feedback – written or oral. This applies to students diagnosed with Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) – dyslexia, dyspraxia, AD(H)D, ASC, Dysgraphia Dyscalculia and Developmental Language Disorder. It includes the legal obligations that the British Dyslexia Association are required to make under the Equality Act 2010.

Legal Context

In October 2010, the Equality Act became law. The Equality Act 2010 consolidates and replaces all previous discrimination legislation (SENDA, 2002; DDA, 1995) which required educational settings to provide reasonable adjustments to enable disabled students to access the curriculum.

Individual Reasonable Adjustments

The structure and method of teaching on The British Dyslexia Courses, currently allows for a range of reasonable adjustments including:

  • Online learning at a flexible pace
  • Audio/visual guidance for each academic assignment
  • The use of text to speech and speech to text software to complete assignments (students are responsible for this)
  • Work presented in a dyslexia friendly format
  • The option to use further online accessibility tools such as grammar check, coloured background (students are responsible for this)
  • The option of verbal feedback, as well as written feedback
  • Considerate marking which focuses on the assignment criteria

Academic Standards

The British Dyslexia Association recognises that it has a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure all assessment and examination policies, practices and procedures provide disabled students with the same opportunity as their non-disabled peers to demonstrate the achievement of learning outcomes, without comprising academic or competence standards. It is important that learning outcomes and assessment criteria are non-discriminatory.

Staff and students should be reassured that disability legislation (SENDA, 2001) fundamentally states the need to maintain the rigor of academic or competence standards and staff are not required to compromise competence standards of the courses they offer but support the implementation of reasonable adjustments which aim to allow disabled students to achieve their maximum potential.

If, therefore, when individual reasonable adjustments have been made, a disabled student is not able to demonstrate academic competence as specified by the course requirements, he or she will not be able to complete the course successfully.

The purpose of coursework and examinations is for students to demonstrate knowledge and understanding. There must be no difference in the requirement for disabled students to provide evidence of learning than for their non-disabled peers. However, as a direct result of their disability, the standard of written work of students diagnosed with a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD) may differ from that of their non-disabled peers and it is these subtle differences for which markers may need to make adjustments. This applies to those with conditions outlined previously Dyslexia,

Dyspraxia, AD(H)D, ASD, Dysgraphia Dyscalculia and Developmental Language Disorder

Guidance for Academic Staff - Marking Assessment Work

The aim of this guidance is to:

  • ensure that students’ assessment work is marked fairly, neither compensating or penalising for disability
  • provide guidance for markers on good practice on marking students assessment work
  • enable markers to give positive and constructive feedback

Spelling, grammar and punctuation are rarely included as a marking criterion in any academic written work and therefore students, disabled or not, should not be penalised for minor errors that do not hinder the reader’s ability to understand the content of the academic written work. However, if the spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors detract significantly from the content of the assessment work, or if the assignment is expected at a professional level and would be intended for release to an audience (such as other professionals, parents and learners) it may be appropriate for the tutor to return the work unmarked for the candidate to proof read and make the necessary corrections. For academic standards to be safeguarded, considerate marking cannot extend to written expression so poor that coherence and intelligibility are an issue.

Considerate Marking Guideline

Difficulties Experienced

Good Practice for Marker

Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar

Spelling errors

  • Phonetically plausible spellings could be used
  • Capital letters may not be correctly placed
  • The same word spelt in different ways
  • New vocabulary, technical language, or subject specific words misspelt
  • Multi syllabic words could be disordered or omit syllables
  • Incorrect choices on spell check may result in similar word with different meaning
  • Spell check settings may result in American spellings.Letters may be mis-sequenced or reversed

Punctuation and grammatical errors

  • Full stops, commas and apostrophes may be missing or misplaced
  • Speech marks and brackets may be incomplete
  • Long sentences may be used and be incomplete or overuse of conjunctions
  • Run on sentences or short sentences that lack links with those that precede and follow
  • Punctuation in citations and references may be omitted or misplaced

Syntax errors

  • Verb confusion, such as, with subject, tense, and negative forms
  • Misuse of adverbs and adjectives
  • Inappropriate use of contractions and possessive nouns
  • Prepositions have been omitted or mistaken
  • Incomplete comparisons
  • Wrong word use or mixing up similar words
  • Question formation errors
  • Choice of pronouns and possessive pronouns
  • Use of plurals
  • Missing articles
  • Focusing on what the student is trying to say/argue rather than on the errors.
  • Concentrating on understanding the point even if there are mistakes in the text.
  • Disregard minor spelling, grammar, punctuation or syntax errors where meaning can be ascertained (unless it is competence standard).
  • If you have not made comments on all spelling, punctuation or grammar, inform the candidate in your feedback.
  • Refer the candidate, as necessary, to the marking criteria/competency standards in the handbook/workbook.
  • The standards criteria and assessment criteria specifies requirements – ensure your feedback is supportive and offers suggestions for improvement.
  • Candidates will not be penalized for errors in SPaG. However, if the spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors detract significantly from the content of the assessment work, you can ask the candidate to proof-read their work and make the necessary corrections. You may want to guide them to text to speech software or the support of a peer for this. For academic standards to be safeguarded, considerate marking cannot extend to written expression so poor that coherence and intelligibility are an issue

Use and application of number

  • Difficulties with recognizing arithmetic signs+, -, ×, ÷
  • Reversal of numbers and placement in a written calculation
  • Mental arithmetic without memory aids can be difficult
  • Times tables may not be automatic
  • Sequencing a series of steps in calculation can be difficult even when using a calculator
  • Basic number concepts such as telling the time, calculating ages, estimating and measuring can be difficult
  • Mixing up times of scheduled appointments – miscalculating how long it will take to complete tasks
  • Poor self-esteem as a learner of mathematics and/or maths anxiety
  • Ignore difficulties with manipulating numbers and focus on marking content and intended meaning unless a competency standard, or where 100% accuracy in reporting is required.
  • Where numerical content is part of an assignment, additional feedback, guidance and support may be needed.

General presentation

  • Documents may not be correctly formatted and labelled Presentation of work may appear poor even when produced with a word processor.
  • Work may appear careless or rushed
  • Presentation may not be as expected to academic standards.
  • Difficulties with recording ideas and knowledge in a sequenced order may not reflect depth of understanding
  • Word finding difficulties may result in a simpler style of writing than can be expressed verbally.
  • Focus on marking content and ignore presentation of work unless a competency standard and where 100% accuracy in reporting is required.
  • Provide guidance of how to present work according to the needs of the course.
  • Give examples for structuring and sign-post writing frames.

Structure and Academic Style

  • Order and flow of information can be muddled due to difficulties with sentence structure and paragraph construction
  • Simple words chosen rather than the more complex academic terms
  • Repetition may be evident
  • Difficulties in developing a sustained and detailed discussion
  • Proof reading may be challenging resulting in errors being missed
  • Difficulties maintaining focus on a point resulting in digressions or lengthy explanations that could be presented far more succinctly
  • Topics may not be well linked or fail to cover all the assessment criteria
  • Reference lists may appear untidy and not in alphabetical order
  • Focus on what the student is trying to argue rather than on the errors
  • Recognise the points of interest in digressions acknowledging the candidate’s research attempts in feedback and sensitively highlight what is not required
  • It is helpful to signpost the candidate to relevant information according to the assessment criteria
  • Give examples of where information can be brought together to strengthen a point
  • Give examples of referencing corrections and refer them to the referencing guide

Word knowledge and vocabulary

  • Breadth of vocabulary may be limited
  • Words with more than one meaning can cause confusion
  • Difficulties with words originating from other languages
  • Unknown or technical words, jargon and acronyms can be confusing
  • Confusion with active and passive language
  • Ignore word knowledge or vocabulary of work unless a competency standard
  • Model subject vocabulary in feedback with definitions.

A Step-by-Step Marker’s Guide

  1. Ensure marking is about the assessment criteria, the ideas, knowledge and understanding of the subject content and analytical and evaluative or other skills and not the technicalities of spelling, grammar and punctuation (unless specified as a learning outcome/competence standard)
  2. Make the marking criteria for the module explicit in the module guide, the virtual learning environment and assessment marking grids
  3. Focus on looking for ideas, understanding, knowledge and content rather than errors
  4. Give an example of required change in feedback comments and encourage students to use this example to go through their corrections independently
  5. For comments on SPaG, select a sample section rather than correcting the entire assessment work and inform the student that this is your approach
  6. Ensure positives are highlighted and constructive comments are given about what is good as well as how it can be improved
  7. Tutors should ensure feedback is clear and does not expect candidates to read between the lines. Use straightforward language in feedback comments using simple sentences e.g. “You are not clear at this point” followed by “Do you mean..?” rather than “Does not make sense”.
  8. Feedback should be offered in written format for a first version. It should be typed and added as comments and the marking grid completed. This should be well presented and accessible.
  9. A face-to-face tutorial should be provided if a second version does not meet the criteria. If required, offer one tutorial per task to go over the comments with you in a face-to-face appointment / Skype session .

Important information

These assessment guidelines only apply from the date on which they became formally introduced. Students do not have the right to request re-marking or re- grading of work marked prior to the introduction of these guidelines.

Students who identify themselves as having an SpLD later in the course or after completion are not entitled to have coursework re-marked that they submitted before their eligibility was identified.

We hope you enjoy studying with the BDA