National Survey of Alternative Assessment Arrangements Policy Practice in Tertiary Education with Reference to International Policy and Literature

New Zealand’s 29 tertiary education institutions (TEIs) are mandated in the Education Act 1989 to provide access to education guaranteeing equal educational opportunities to students with impairments who enroll for academic study in public providers. In 2013, the number of students with impairments rose to 5% of all students. The proportion of students with impairments in the tertiary population has almost doubled since these statistics were first recorded in 1998.

ACHIEVE, the National Post Secondary Education Disability Network Incorporated (ACHIEVE), is concerned that there be continuity in professional practice across the sector. This study was contracted to survey and compare policy and practice of alternative assessment arrangements to accommodate diverse needs for extra time in examinations and tests for students with impairments in tertiary education institutions in New Zealand. The study findings illustrate how alternative assessment arrangements for accessing, allocating and evaluating extra time supports are provided in the 28 TEIs which set examinations as a mode of assessing student achievement of learning outcomes. The only residential, Māori-medium, iwi-wānanga in New Zealand does not set examinations as a mode of assessment. The findings are compared in order to present an overview of current practice. It is recommended that further research engage with Māori support services staff in wānanga by using collaborative hui so that current provision is fully illustrated.

Of the 28 institutions surveyed, all offer extra time supports either on a case-by-case basis (18%) or by allocating a standard with flexibility on an individual basis (82%). The most common standard is 10 minutes per hour of examination or longer test, with 15 minutes the next most common. The provision of a support for pacing in assessment shows a strong commitment to reducing barriers encountered by tertiary students with impairments.

Four international exemplars of policy and/or guidelines on extra time supports which use standard amounts of extra time allocation offer the same standard amounts of extra time as the majority of New Zealand TEIs. They offer 10 minutes and 15 minutes per hour of examination or test. A recommendation is made for a national standard following the Irish consensus of a time allowance of 10 minutes per hour of examination or test developed by the Disabled Advisors Working Network (DAWN) involving 21 member institutions.
Implementation of a standard in alternative examination arrangements rests on the sustainable capacity of the TEIs throughout the sector to mobilise knowledge of teaching, learning and assessment accommodation without focusing on students with impairments themselves. It is up to tertiary institutions to engage students with a range of impairments at the levels of policy and governance while institutions expand the capacity to embed disability access, equity and inclusion throughout their educational environments.