Inclusive marking and feedback

Marking work can be a challenging and time-consuming task, especially if there is a considerable number of errors and the intended meaning is difficult to extract. Concentrate on the student’s demonstration of knowledge, ideas and critical thinking related to the question asked, rather on any inaccuracies in the use of the English language.

Marking in this way is called ‘marking for content’ and helps ensure that all students are assessed on the quality and coherence of their ideas and critical analysis. Feedback provided should always be constructive and supportive of the learner, so if a student’s work requires improvement then feedback should explain to the student the ways in which they need to develop their skills in order to improve. Students could then discuss this feedback in a Dyslexia/SpLD Study Skills tutorial if appropriate.

Tips for marking for content:

  • Concentrate on the ideas conveyed in the work and how they meet the learning outcomes. Student work can be clear and coherent regardless of inaccuracies in the use of English language.
  • When marking essays and assignments, it may be useful to print two copies. Mark one for content and the other for errors such as spelling, punctuation and grammar etc.. Alternately, two differently coloured pens could be used: one for ideas and content, the other for language errors (nut avoid using a red pen!) This technique means you can show a student where their language skills require improvement, while also making it clear that these inaccuracies were not considered in the overall mark for the work. Where work is difficult to understand, it might be possible, and more helpful, to mark the work in the presence of the student.
  • Ensure your own writing is clear and legible when giving written feedback on work. Ideally all written feedback should be typed up.
  • When handing work back in an individual tutorial, read your comments out loud to the student: don’t expect them to be able to read it there and then in front of you and fully understand.
  • Be positive and constructive in your feedback – start with what the student has done well. In areas where students can improve, explain how this can be achieved.
  • Follow up verbal feedback with clear written comments. It may be difficult for a student with SpLD to hold verbal information in their memory.
  • Do not show students up in front of their peers.

Want to know even more?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) provides a comprehensive and clear framework for thinking about your teaching, and how you can move to a full inclusive approach that will benefit all your learners.

Wondering how you’re doing at the moment? Test yourself against the UDL to see how many of the principles you are already using.

Learning more about SpLDs can help you to fully understand the challenges and barriers faced by some of your learners:

Some tips for helping students with dyslexia/SpLD:

  • Give an overview before going into the detail of the lecture/session. Dyslexic people tend to be holistic thinkers and can have difficulties in making sense of the detail until they have the ‘big picture’
  • Be aware of the extra time, effort and concentration that the student needs to process information. Vary the pace of delivery, break lectures into chunks with pauses to allow time for information to be taken in, and allow time for questions
  • Pause and sum up frequently to reinforce learning. Summarise the main points at the end.
  • Express essays and projects in clear, unambiguous language. Don’t presume on their understanding: dyslexic students can sometimes ‘latch on’ to a word or phrase in an essay title and misunderstand what is actually required
  • Discuss example essays to give a good model for students to use
  • Discuss each of the steps involved in approaching a written task
  • Do not always expect dyslexic students to participate by answering questions or talking in a large group. Some students with dyslexia have difficulties with pronunciation of some words and difficulties with word retrieval which can cause them to be self-conscious, stressed and reluctant to speak in the ‘crit’ situation.
  • Vary the teaching strategies to include multi-sensory strategies

These sources were consulted when creating this page:

Ahead (2018) The UDL framework explained

CAST (2018) Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2.

Department for Educations (2017) Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Higher Education as a route to Excellence

JISC (2018) Supporting an inclusive learner experience in Higher Education

UDLL (2016) Universal Design for Learning: a best practice guide

University of Sheffield (2019) SpLD Awareness and Inclusion Training