Access to Achievement: Enabling Students With Disability to Engage With Classroom Assessment

PhD Thesis

Marijne Medhurst. (2020) Access to Achievement: Enabling Students With Disability to Engage With Classroom Assessment [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University Faculty of Education and Arts
AuthorsMarijne Medhurst
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

Students with disability have the right to an inclusive education on the basis of equal opportunity to their peers without disability. Despite this, students with disability internationally and in Australia continue to experience barriers in accessing inclusive education and demonstrating their learning. Australian students with disability underachieve compared with their peers without disability despite expectations of quality, accessible assessment practice for all students.
The aim of this study was to examine classroom assessment practice for students with disability. The focus of this study was on how teachers enable students with disability to engage with classroom assessment within the sociocultural context of official and intended inclusive education policy and enacted classroom practice. The study adopted a case study approach and investigated how two teachers supported three focus students with disability to engage with classroom assessment in a Year 7 classroom. Both quantitative (survey data) and qualitative data (interviews, video-recorded classroom observation data, and assessment artefacts such as marked assessment tasks) were collected and analysed. Using a sociocultural lens, systematic analysis resulted in identified elements related to teachers’ pedagogy and instruction and to enabling students’ access to summative assessment. The study developed the concept “community of inclusive assessment practice” (CoIAP) to investigate how and to what extent features of classroom assessment, inclusive education and inclusive assessment come together to enable students with disability to enhance and to demonstrate their learning.
The findings revealed a tension between teachers’ navigation of sociocultural factors (i.e., disability funding, historical non-inclusive approaches and institutional practices) and intended inclusive assessment practice. The study identified a fractured CoIAP, characterised by a lack of collaboration among teachers and support staff and barriers in classroom assessment processes. Students with disability were still being required to demonstrate their learning through assessment processes that were not fully accessible to them. This is in contrast with official policy of inclusion and official expectations regarding teachers’ assessment practice.
The study brought together the fields of quality assessment and inclusive education and confirmed that quality assessment practice cannot be implemented without coordinated consideration of the requirements and characteristics of students with disability. Similarly, inclusive education practice needs to consider features of quality assessment to ensure promotion of student autonomy. The study has highlighted that inclusive assessment practice cannot be established in a context that is not reflective of inclusive education values. The study further highlighted that inclusive assessment does not occur in a vacuum but is a social practice, where teachers, students with disability and support staff negotiate sociocultural factors, including historical and institutional factors, within a CoIAP. As these factors can enable or disable students to enhance and to demonstrate their learning, the sociocultural context within which teachers engage in classroom assessment practice needs to facilitate enactment of quality assessment practice and inclusive education policy.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Page range1-488
Final version
File Access Level
Publication process dates
Deposited30 Apr 2021
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