Adventures in Universal Design: A Farewell to In-Class Tests

I have decided to stop giving in-class tests under any circumstances. Here’s my essay, from the Chronicle:

I’ve been inching away from the blue book for years, but it’s time to go cold turkey and match my praxis to my principles. Whatever pedagogical gains the in-class test might bring — and I’ll argue they are few and increasingly less relevant — I can no longer justify forcing people with disabilities to disclose their conditions in order to receive basic test-related accommodations….

It’s become routine, rather than rare, for students to begin the semester by presenting their professors with documented requests for accommodation.

That it’s become routine is great but far from perfect. Not only do students have to disclose disability to their professors —who are no more immune to ableism than to any other sort of bias — but the most common form of accommodation extends the disclosure to classmates. Many students with invisible disabilities (such as anxiety disorders or ADHD) require quiet rooms and extra time to work on a test. I’m thrilled to provide both. On the other hand, when the whole class gathers to take an exam, with one student conspicuously absent, everyone notices.

If there were important benefits to taking HISTORY classes in the room, then the accommodation model might be relevant. There aren’t, I argue, so I’m done.

That doesn’t mean you have to be done, but I guess I would like you to think about it.

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