Today, an article/blog-post by David Perry entitled "Why I'm Saying Goodbye to In-class Tests" appeared on Vitae. In the article, Perry explains how in-class tests disadvantage disabled students, as well as why universities and colleges are increasingly moving away from the legally-mandated focus on "reasonable accommodation" to embrace the values and principles of universal design. Here is an excerpt from the post:
I’ve long since stopped giving tests that evaluate whether students have memorized certain facts and dates. I want to know whether they can quickly sort and assess a lot of information, and craft arguments based on evidence. That’s a skill poorly tested in the classroom, and best practiced through a well-crafted take-home exam that requires students to access their notes, books, and even the Internet. Still, I used open-notes or open-book in-class tests, mostly just out of inertia. I had always given tests, especially in intro classes.
Meanwhile, around the country, many colleges and universities are trying to move beyond the era of reasonable accommodation and embrace the principles of “universal design.” That term — coined in the 1970s around architecture and public space —advocates that systems be designed to accommodate the widest range of function and ability possible. Universal design asks us to try and build accessibility into the fabric of our institutions and culture, rather than wait until individuals make their needs known.
In-class tests are the antithesis of universal design. They’re built to serve only those people who can: (a) hold a writing implement; (b) see written text, and (c) concentrate in a crowded room for an extended period of time. Anyone outside that range of function must seek accommodation, which, as philosopher and ethicist Joe Stramondo writes, ends up medicalizing the whole process. He argues that the operational nature of reasonable accommodation, with its many gatekeepers, turns the ADA from a law based on changing the social structure around disability into a system that conceives of disability as an individual medical problem. We can do better than that.
The entire Vitae post is here.
posted by Shelley