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The two major considerations for assessment of learners who have difficulty hearing is the design of any oral or aural elements of the assessment and also the complexity and phrasing of the language used in the assessment.

It is not necessarily the case that assessments with no oral or aural element will be suitable or appropriate for learners who are deaf or hard of hearing. This is because learners whose first language is BSL (British Sign Language) communicate using a language with very different structure and syntax to English, and therefore may need in cases with the most complex English an interpreter to aid them in understanding the written text.

As with the creation of all assessments you have to judge the balance between creating (or seeking permission to create, e.g. from the Awarding Body etc) an alternative assessment entirely for users who have difficulty hearing things, and creating (or seeking permission to create) an alternative format of the original assessment (this would usually only be the case where an assessment contained a significant oral or aural element, as it would in most cases be simpler to reduce the BSL/English barrier by re-writing the assessment for all learners using Plain English) than to create a different version for the deaf or hard of hearing learner).

Some adjustments will be permitted by some Awarding Bodies and others will not, some may be permitted in some circumstances and not others. It is the joint responsibility of those designing (or authorising, or validating) the assessment and of those helping to facilitate the administration of the assessment to ensure that candidates who have difficulty hearing can successfully access it on equal terms with other candidates. A recent report for JISC Techdis suggests practical steps that can be taken towards ensuring assessments are adequate for users with disabilities, and attempts to highlight which of those should be taken by the Awarding Body or validating institution, which by the assessment creator (if from the institution rather than an AB) and which should be made be those administering or facilitating the assessment process.

While there are a wide range of adjustments to the assessment process that can be made for users who have difficulty hearing (such as using automated text-to-speech conversion software (such as Read the Words) to enable a non-speaking learner to deliver an oral assessment element for example), the key to providing an equitable experience is to revisit the assessment at first principles and examine a range of potentially suitable ways of testing the learning outcomes being assessed, then providing a range of assessment options that will ensure that everyone, regardless of their disability or impairment, can navigate a successful path through those options with minimal recourse to alternatives.

Assessment considerations - subsection:

Assessment and self assessment


Further information