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Inclusive assessment aims to tackle assessment at the point of design in order to ensure that the ways in which we assess do not exclude or unfairly disadvantage some students. This means looking at all of the practices that accompany the assessment task itself, from a consideration of the conditions that the assessment task will be undertaken, how and when the expectations will be shared with students and teaching staff, developing marking criteria, to the writing of questions and instructions.

While inclusive assessment was historically about meeting the specific requirements of disabled students, these days it is generally understood to be good pedagogical practice for all students. Indeed, it is increasingly recognised that "Assessment in higher education is neither value-neutral nor culture-free: within its procedures, structures and systems it codifies cultural, disciplinary and individual norms, values and knowledge hierarchies" (Hanesworth 2019). It is therefore not surprising that assessment is understood closely associated to awarding gaps: it is the final assessment results, after all, that translate into the final degree classifications and therefore the awarding gaps.


Guiding Principle 5: Provide structure and transparency

Students arrive at Cambridge with different cultural backgrounds, personalities, learning differences, and confidence levels. This diversity may seem overwhelming at times, but by clarifying the structure of a course, assessment and teaching methods, and by communicating the learning outcomes, students will know what is expected of them. By being clear about expectations, many issues related to the ‘hidden curriculum’ will be bypassed.


Example 1: Inclusive question design

"As a lecturer, I design formative and summative assessments consisting of essay questions for exams. In writing these, I take great care to ensure that I formulate clear essay questions that are accessible for the students to quickly grasp and respond to. I am very concerned about the language used in formulating these questions. The student cohort that I teach is highly international and many of the students do not have English as their first language. To ensure that these students are not disadvantaged during the exam because they fail to grasp the meaning of new and/or difficult words, I only use words in the essay questions that have already been used during the lecture."

- Lecturer in Sociology

Strategies used:

  • Writing clear and accessible questions
  • Considering students' backgrounds
  • Using terms relevant to discipline


Example 2: Encouraging student self-evaluation

"While previously my evaluation of whether my teaching strategies were working relied principally on verbal responses from students, and on my perception of their progress in essay writing, I now employ a wider range of tools to work out what is and isn't working for the students I am teaching. This includes strategies such as essay "cover sheets", which allow students to articulate explicitly what they have learned and what they would like to discuss/understand further. This is aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of students' perceptions of their own learning than simply reading their essays or discussing the subject with them allows. It is also designed with an awareness that student feedback itself can be affected by issues of inclusion. Students may sometimes deliberately mask their lack of understanding in supervision discussions; I have noticed that when I give students the opportunity to raise questions or issues in written form, they are much more likely to do so than if asked verbally."

- Supervisor in History

Strategies used:

  • Using essay coversheets as feedback tools
  • Encouraging students to self-evaluate
  • Designing multiple ways for students to engage
  • Facilitating feedback loops between students and teacher


Suggested readings


Download the inclusive assessment & feedback self-evaluation checklist. This provides prompts for reflection about the inclusivity of your assessment and feedback practices.