SpLD Marking Guidance
The following guidance is given to academic staff when marking the work of a student with a Specific Learning Disability (SpLD) who submits a Student Coursework Coversheet alongside their coursework.
Assessment Marking Guidelines for Students with an SpLD:
For many students with specific learning difficulties and dyslexia there is a continued difficulty with presenting work in a standard academic format. Each student will have individual characteristics and support needs which are best discussed with the individual in the context of your specific course requirements. It may be helpful to ask the student to show you their educational psychologist’s assessment report for specific details and guidance. Although each student has individual support needs, there are often common characteristics in the work of people with specific learning difficulties and dyslexia.
At Lancaster University dyslexic students have the choice to submit a Student Coursework Coversheet to all assessed coursework to request that the academic marker uses the following guidance for students with SpLDs when marking the work:
- Mark work primarily for content, ideas and critical thinking without penalising for weaknesses of expression, spelling and grammatical errors unless the latter are defined as competence standards; the work itself must be effective and fulfil the assessment criteria that have been set within academic standards.
- To maintain academic standards, weaknesses of expression, spelling and grammatical errors should not be disregarded where written expression which is so poor that coherence and intelligibility are an issue.
- Any work that cannot be marked without penalising for specific weaknesses of expression, spelling or grammatical errors (e.g. externally accredited programme or programmes with ‘fitness to practice’ considerations) should implement these guidelines only as and when appropriate.
- Students should be aware of the focus of marking. If work is marked for content and ideas alone please make this clear to prevent any misunderstandings with respect to weaknesses of expression, spelling or grammatical errors.
- Do not penalise poor handwriting.
- Be sensitive toward individuals and their work. Constructive criticism that is sympathetic to the students’ difficulties can help individuals to progress.
- Clear explanations of what is expected in student’s work, how their work compares with these expectations and how it can be changed to match expectations will be most helpful.
- The use of examples to show how to achieve expectations will be helpful.
- Be aware that the use of short sentences, repeated sentence construction or simple words and terminology does not necessarily indicate poor understanding or unsophisticated concept development but may reflect difficulties with word retrieval and sentence construction characteristic of people with dyslexia.
Some students with specific learning difficulties and dyslexia experience spoken language difficulties. Markers of oral presentations and viva voce exams should use the following guidelines when marking:
- Assess oral presentations/viva voce for content, ideas, critical thinking and understanding without penalising for fluency (hesitations, mispronunciation, incomplete sentences) and organisation of ideas unless the latter are defined as competence standards; the work itself must be effective and fulfil the assessment criteria that have been set within academic standards.
- Consider the presentation/examination environment to try to reduce potential stress.
- Allow extra time if requested.
Note about Academic Standards
While academic staff are asked to use the guidance above when marking work accompanied by a Student Coursework Coversheet, it is important that academic standards are maintained. There must be no difference in the requirement for students with dyslexia to provide evidence of learning than for their peers and reasonable adjustments cannot involve failure to penalise lack of knowledge or understanding. Furthermore, where aspects of performance such as accurate spelling and grammar are part of the competence standards for a module, reasonable adjustments do not have to be made. However, as a direct result of their learning difficulty, the standard of written work of students with dyslexia may differ from that of their peers, and it is these subtle differences for which academic markers may need to make reasonable adjustments.
Institutional Procedures - Dyslexic Students
In order to be consistent across the University, and fair to both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students, we operate the following procedures:
- Students must provide appropriate evidence of their dyslexia to the Disability Service.
- The Disability Service will produce an Inclusive Learning and Support Plan for any student with a diagnosis of dyslexia to outline the support required, including notification to academic markers of the need to consider marking guidelines for students with SpLDs when marking the student's work. The student will also be provided with a Student Coursework Coversheet to attach or submit with all assessed work to request that the academic marker follows the marking guidelines for students with an SpLD (outlined above).
- Students are responsible for attaching/submitting a Student Coursework Coversheet with all assessed work to request that the academic marker follows the marking guidelines for students with an SpLD.
- The Inclusive Learning and Support Plan is shared with the student and all relevant University staff including the student's academic department(s) unless the student requests strict confidentiality of this information.