The below case study is based on a real situation presented to Disability Services, however some details have been changed to protect the privacy of the student.
Often we need to make recommendations to teaching staff about adjustments to assignments – most commonly in the form of extensions. However, there are other options that can be considered, depending on the circumstances, the needs of the student, and the academic requirements.
John is enrolled in the BA degree. He has a mental health condition and when exacerbated he can experience the following impacts: disrupted concentration and focus preventing him from studying and reading for extended periods; physical fatigue and lethargy which affects his motivation; difficulties with memory recall and comprehension, and disordered thinking. John seeks assistance through Disability Services for academic adjustments.
John was experiencing difficulty meeting a deadline for an assignment worth 20% of the overall grade (due in 4 days). John contacted Disability Services who sent the Unit of Study Coordinator (UoSC) a request for a 1 week extension.
The UoSC contacted the Disability Services Officer to discuss the request as she could not approve it as she was planning on discussing the assignment with all students in the next lecture when assignments were returned, allowing for immediate feedback and to inform the next written assessment. If any student had an extension they would have a significant advantage over other students, access to the feedback, and they would be delayed in starting the next task.
What options were available?
- An alternative question. However, John was near completion of the task, having made a draft answer. To start a new question would mean additional research and further time required for John. The UoSC felt that offering an alternative assessment at this late stage would be difficult for her and John as he would also not receive the same feedback that other students would get.
- Re-weighting the assessment to a subsequent assessment or exam. There was concern that re-weighting the assessment to a subsequent assessment or exam could place a lot of additional strain on the student and also to completely re-weight was undermining the academic integrity of the course.
- Oral assessment. John to present his first draft as an oral assessment. This was potentially a very good option as he would have been able to convey his argument, research and content knowledge however there wasn’t enough time for John to restructure his work and for the lecturer to be able to assess it prior to the next lecture.
- Partial re-weighting. The UoSC asked if the student could attempt the assignment as best they could, submit it on the original deadline and attend the feedback lecture, and she would re-weight the assignment down to only 10% with the remaining 10% being added to the final exam? The UoSC indicated that if the student felt this was not a fair solution, she would reconsider the other options.
This final option was taken to John who accepted it and subsequently submitted the assignment on the deadline.
Was this a fair solution? This option was the best alternative given the circumstances and the relatively short time available. Importantly, discussion between Disability Services, John and the lecturer had taken place to propose and agree upon the best possible option. There are a number of other options that could also have been considered had there been more time available.