Inclusive assessment systems

Promising policy options

Framing an enabling national context for inclusive assessments

Learning assessments must be ‘a facilitator rather than a barrier to inclusion’ (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2007: 43).

Countries should invest sufficient financial and human resources to develop quality, inclusive learning assessments (IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal, 2019a). Assessments should be designed by taking into account policy priorities meant to promote equity and inclusion within the education system. Inclusive assessments should strive to capture and represent all students, including the most marginalised (IIEP-UNESCO, 2018). Assessment data should thus be disaggregated by income, geographic location, age, sex, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, and other pertinent characteristics. Emphasis should be laid to those who are the most marginalised and for whom data is scarce, such as children with disabilities (IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal, 2019a). In addition, comprehensive background questionnaires should be included within the learning assessments.

(For more information on how to produce quality data consult Policy page Quality data).

It is essential to recognise and ensure the right of all students to participate in learning assessments (WHO, 2011). Assessments should be accessible and/or provide reasonable accommodations. High-quality assessments should thus be designed and implemented ‘with all learners in mind’ (Ainscow, 2019: 21). Moreover, they should strive to fit the needs of all students, particularly those at the bottom of the pyramid (IIEP-UNESCO, 2018). Ministries of Education can develop and implement inclusive assessments based on the principles of Universal Design (IBE-UNESCO, 2016): ‘Universally designed assessments are designed and developed from the beginning to allow participation of the widest possible range of students, and to result in valid inferences about performance for all students who participate in the assessment’ (Thompson, Johnstone and Thurlow, 2002: 74).

Ministries of Education should also provide, when necessary, additional reasonable accommodations to ensure the effective participation of all students in the assessment process. This can be achieved by granting special arrangements, allowing adaptations to the format such as large print, screen readers, braille, sign language, and oral examinations, and allowing the use of specialized software, among other options (WHO, 2011).

Overall, quality standards (validity and reliability) must be respected when developing any type of inclusive assessment. The following recommendations should be kept in mind:

  • Use methods and procedures that support all students and allow them to demonstrate their comprehension through various ways (IBE-UNESCO, 2017; IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal, 2019a).
  • Take into account children’s culture and home background, language or dialect, personal characteristics (gender, abilities) throughout the design of assessments (Raudonyte, 2019) (for relevant research examples consult chapters 4-7 in IIEP-UNESCO, 2018). 
  • Tackle down biases in assessments that will negatively affect people such as those with disabilities, women and LGBTIQ communities, people from low socio-economic status, as well as minority and displaced populations (Ainscow, 2019). In other words, assessments should be inclusive, gender-responsive, culturally and language-relevant (Thompson, Johnstone and Thurlow, 2002; Tedesco, 2016).

Moreover, it is essential to ensure the complementarity among the different types of assessments available (for precise information about the different types of assessments consult Policy page Student learning assessments).

References
Ainscow, M. 2019. The UNESCO Salamanca Statement 25 years on Developing inclusive and equitable education systems. Discussion paper prepared for the International Forum on inclusion and equity in education – every learner matters, Cali, Colombia, 11-13 September 2019. Retrieved from: https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/2019-forum-inclusion-discussion-paper-en.pdf

European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. 2007. Assessment in inclusive settings: key issues for policy and practice. Odense: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Retrieved from: https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/assessment-in-inclusive-settings-key-issues-for-policy-and-practice_Assessment-EN.pdf

IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). 2016.Training Tools for Curriculum Development – Reaching Out to All Learners: a Resource Pack for Supporting Inclusive Education. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000243279?posInSet=26&queryId=583170d7-cb0d-430f-bc8e-c0ced5165649

IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). 2017. Training Tools for Curriculum Development: Inclusive Student Assessment. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002500/250054e.pdf.

IIEPUNESCO Learning Portal. 2019a. Disability inclusive education and learning. Accessed 4 November 2019: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/learners-and-support-structures/disability-inclusive-education-and

IIEP-UNESCO. 2018. Learning at the bottom of the pyramid. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265581

Raudonyte, I. 2019. Use of learning assessment data in education policy-making. IIEP-UNESCO Working Papers. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/p f0000367608?posInSet=2&queryId=ee579ff3-44e7-459d-bfaa-d258fb2a7970

Tedesco, J.C. 2016. Ten notes on learning assessment systems. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000245774

Thompson, S.J.; Johnstone, C.J.; Thurlow, M.L. 2002. Universal Design Applied to Large Scale Assessments. Minnesota: NCEO (National Center on Educational Outcomes). https://nceo.umn.edu/docs/OnlinePubs/Synth44.pdf

UNESCO. 2009. Policy guidelines on inclusion in education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0017/001778/177849e.pdf.

UNESCO. 2019. The promise of large-scale learning assessments: Acknowledging limits to unlock opportunities. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000369697.locale=fr

WHO (World Health Organization). 2011. ‘Chapter 7 Education’. In: World Report on Disability (pp. 227-256). Malta: WHO. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/report.pdf

Framing an enabling school-environment for inclusive assessments

Ensure a flexible school environment, which provides sufficient support and resources to teachers. Encourage teachers to dedicate sufficient time to implement assessments (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2007), and encourage teachers to work together and share their experiences (UNESCO, 2015).

Provide information about the best methods and approaches to implement inclusive assessments as well as specific tools and guidelines. Support teachers to involve students and parents throughout the classroom-based continuous assessment process, for example, through parent and teacher conferences (UNESCO, 2017).

Support school-level leadership by encouraging schools to develop and implement a school plan for inclusive assessments (European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education, 2007). Foster an organizational culture geared towards inclusion and equity in general and inclusive assessments in particular. Moreover, ‘promote a culture of improving learning for all as opposed to improving performance’ (IIEP-UNESCO, 2018: 88).

References
European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. 2007. Assessment in inclusive settings: key issues for policy and practice. Odense: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. Retrieved from: https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/assessment-in-inclusive-settings-key-issues-for-policy-and-practice_Assessment-EN.pdf

IIEP-UNESCO. 2018. Learning at the bottom of the pyramid. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265581

UNESCO. 2015. Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for creating inclusive, learning-friendly environments. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001829/182975e.pd

UNESCO. 2017. A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002482/248254e.pdf

Teacher training in the implementation of inclusive assessments

To implement inclusive learning assessments effectively, teachers in mainstream settings must be provided with appropriate training, support, and resources. Strengthen teachers’ skills in conducting inclusive assessments through pre- and in-service teacher training. Teachers should understand inclusive assessments in theory but should also be given practical approaches, methods, and tools to implement them effectively in class (UNESCO, 2017).

Foster positive attitudes towards inclusive assessments. This can be done by nurturing teacher’s knowledge of inclusive education, the link between learning and assessments, and the importance of equal access to learning assessments

References
Ainscow, M. 2019. The UNESCO Salamanca Statement 25 years on Developing inclusive and equitable education systems. Discussion paper prepared for the International Forum on inclusion and equity in education – every learner matters, Cali, Colombia, 11-13 September 2019. Retrieved from: https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/2019-forum-inclusion-discussion-paper-en.pdf

IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). 2016.Training Tools for Curriculum Development – Reaching Out to All Learners: a Resource Pack for Supporting Inclusive Education. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000243279?posInSet=26&queryId=583170d7-cb0d-430f-bc8e-c0ced5165649

Lewin, K.M. 2015. Educational access, equity, and development: Planning to make rights realities. Fundamentals of Educational Planning. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000235003/PDF/235003eng.pdf.multi

UNESCO. 2017. A guide for ensuring inclusion and equity in education. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0024/002482/248254e.pdf

Use the data produced by inclusive learning assessments

An inclusive assessment system is meant ‘not only [to] allow students to maximize access to learning opportunities, but also cater for learners’ individual differences and contribute to improving the quality of education at the macro, meso and micro levels of a system’ (IBE-UNESCO, 2017: 20).

Ministries of Education should mobilise the data generated by learning assessments to conceive evidence-based policies aimed at providing equitable, quality learning opportunities for all (Clarke, 2011; Raudonyte, 2019). Learning assessments accompanied by background questionnaires ‘have the potential not only to provide valuable information on the learning outcomes of specific population groups but also on the inputs related to such factors as teachers, classrooms, parental support and school resources’ (UNESCO, 2019: 29).

All of this information should be used by decision-makers throughout the policy cycle: ‘“[G]ood” assessments should support informed policymaking that is sensitive to the characteristics of diverse societies, and understands these characteristics as complex and multidimensional[…] It should support informed and equitable and nuanced policy-making processes and not create simplistic understandings or unwanted or ill-informed policy shocks’ (Maddox and Addey, 2016, cited by IIEP-UNESCO, 2018: 81).

When analysing and mobilising learning assessment data, decision-makers and planners must focus on the whole distribution, in addition to averages. Indeed, research shows that countries ‘make more progress in increasing average performance by reducing the number of students in the lowest proficiency levels than by increasing the number of students in the highest proficiency levels.’ (IIEP-UNESCO, 2018: 62). For more information consult Policy page Use of existing data.

Ministries of Education should keep in mind that the media’s interpretation of results will have a political impact (Tedesco, 2016). It is crucial to mitigate negative, simplistic, fatalistic and misleading media coverage (Ramírez, 2018; Tawil and Prince, 2019). Mobilise multiple media channels and multiple stakeholders at all stages of the process (IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal, 2019b) and ‘translate’ results in an understandable manner for each targeted audience. Facilitate a sound interpretation of results and promote a discussion on how the results, and the assessments in general, can contribute to improving the education system.

Assessment results can also be mobilised by teachers and schools. For instance, teachers can adapt their classroom practice based on evidence generated by large-scale and continuous assessments. In this sense, teachers should pay particular attention to the learning process of those who have low levels of performance while avoiding labelling and categorisation (IIEP-UNESCO, 2018). This data can also help them identify relevant professional development opportunities required.

Assessment results can be mobilised by schools. It can help school leaders identify the strengths and weaknesses in teaching and learning processes; set learning objectives; and design school improvement plans for inclusive education in general and inclusive assessments in particular.

Assessment results should also be used to provide feedback to students. Teachers should give clear, precise, constructive, motivating and timely feedback to students after learning assessments (IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal, 2018UNESCO, 2015). They must actively engage students in the assessment process to help them understand their learning shortcomings and strengths as well as define suitable strategies to improve their learning (Clarke, 2012; Muskin, 2017). Teachers should also centre continuous assessments’ feedback on the learning process and not on final outcomes.

Finally, parents and guardians should also be regularly informed about learning assessment results and their child’s’ progress. Involving parents and guardians will reassure students as they will know they are not alone in overcoming their learning challenges (UNESCO, 2015; IIEP-UNESCO, 2018).

References
Clarke, M. 2011. Framework for Building an Effective Student Assessment System. Washington DC: The World Bank Group. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED553178.pdf

Clarke, M. 2012. What matters most for student assessment systems: A framework paper. Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/17471/682350WP00PUBL0WP10READ0web04019012.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). 2017. Training Tools for Curriculum Development: Inclusive Student Assessment. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002500/250054e.pdf.

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2018. Brief 5: Formative assessment in the classroom and school. Accessed 3 May 2018: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/monitor-learning/learning-assessments

IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. 2019b. Using data to improve the quality of education. Accessed 23 November 2019: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/monitor-learning/using-data-to-improve-the-quality-of-education

IIEP-UNESCO. 2018. Learning at the bottom of the pyramid. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265581

Muskin, J.A. 2017. Continuous Assessment for Improved Teaching and Learning: A Critical Review to Inform Policy and Practice. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0025/002555/255511e.pdf

Ramírez, M.J. 2018. Quick Guide No. 2 Making the Case for a Learning Assessment. Montreal: UIS-UNESCO (UNESCO Institute for Statistics). Retrieved from: http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/quick-guide2-making-case-learning-assessments-2018-en_2.pdf

Raudonyte, I. 2019. Use of learning assessment data in education policy-making. IIEP-UNESCO Working Papers. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000367608?posInSet=2&queryId=ee579ff3-44e7-459d-bfaa-d258fb2a7970

Tawil, S.; Prince, M. 2019. Lessons for education planners: enabling effective use of learning assessment data. IIEP-UNESCO Learning Portal. Accessed 20 November 2019: https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/blog/lessons-for-education-planners-enabling-effective-use-of-learning-assessment-data

Tedesco, J.C. 2016. Ten notes on learning assessment systems. Geneva: IBE-UNESCO (UNESCO International Bureau of Education). Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000245774

UNESCO. 2015. Embracing Diversity: Toolkit for creating inclusive, learning-friendly environments. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001829/182975e.pdf

UNESCO. 2019. The promise of large-scale learning assessments: Acknowledging limits to unlock opportunities. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000369697.locale=fr

Updated on 2021-04-28

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