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Special Consideration in Student Assessment Procedures

Category Academic
Type Procedure
Approved by Senate, 30 November 2016
Date Procedure Took Effect 1 March 2017
Last Approved Revision 12 October 2017
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Responsible Officer Manager, Policy and Compliance
Review Date 1 March 2019

Purpose

Special Consideration is the means by which the University seeks to ensure just and equitable treatment of students who suffer unexpected and significant impairment (e.g. serious illness) in relation to assessment tasks, including final examinations and internal assessment.

The purpose of these Procedures is to support fair, consistent and transparent Special Consideration processes through detailing:

1. the procedures for applying for Special Consideration

2. processes and authorities for assessing whether a student’s impairment, and the evidence of such impairment, is sufficient for Special Consideration provisions to be applied, and

3. appropriate academic outcomes in cases where it is determined that Special Consideration should be applied.

These Procedures elaborate on the Special Consideration provisions laid out in clauses five and six of the Examination and Assessment Regulations 2014.

Organisational Scope

University-wide.

Definitions

Aegrotat pass An ungraded pass result based on impairment.
eVision The University’s primary student management system including a web-enabled portal that allows appropriately authorised access.
Head of Department For the purpose of these Procedures, the Head of Department or Head of Programme for the relevant paper, or his or her delegated nominee.
High Impairment Significant and serious impairing circumstances such that a student might be expected to have substantially reduced performance in an examination, or to be unable to sit an examination.
Medium Impairment Moderately impairing circumstances such that a student might be expected to have somewhat reduced performance in an examination; such circumstances would not prevent the sitting of an examination.
Plussage A system in which a student’s final mark can be based either on internal marks plus the final examination mark, or the examination mark alone. The final mark will be the higher of those two.
Specified Health Sciences Programmes For the purpose of these Procedures, programmes in Dentistry, Medical, Laboratory Science, Medicine, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Radiation Therapy, and papers for Health Sciences postgraduate programmes other than papers with no clinical content which have been specifically excluded by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences).
Terms requirements The fulfilment of certain specified conditions, such as attending classes or completing oral, written or practical work, before a student may sit a final exam.
Total Possible Marks The maximum marks any student could score on an assessment (for an examination worth 60% of the overall grade for a paper, this would be 60 marks).
Unexpected Impairment An impairment which a student could not have reasonably foreseen or known would impact an examination. Chronic conditions are not usually covered by this definition, but may be covered if they significantly worsen or flare up in an unpredictable manner.

Policy Content

1. General Principles

(a) Special Consideration is intended to ensure students who have significant and unexpected impairment are not unduly disadvantaged in assessment activities.

(b) The aim of Special Consideration is to reduce the impact of impairment on assessment as practicable; a complete reduction of the impact of impairment is not guaranteed.

(c) Special Consideration shall not be used to unfairly advantage students who are impaired in assessment, i.e. through the provision of academic outcomes which the student would have been unlikely to achieve if they had not been impaired.

(d) Special Consideration is appropriate for some kinds of unexpected impairment in relation to assessment, but in certain circumstances other University provisions may be more appropriate:

i. General study support for students with impairments through Disability Information and Support

ii. Alternative arrangements for assessment in cases of ongoing and known impairment affecting assessment (note that this normally prevents approval of Special Consideration on the basis of the same impairment)

iii. Withdrawal under exceptional circumstances, where significant and unexpected impairment prevents completion of a paper or papers (note that this cannot normally be applied for if Special Consideration in final examinations has been approved for the paper in question).

For further advice on the best option for their circumstances, students are advised to contact the University Information Centre (university@otago.ac.nz, 0800 80 80 98) or Disability Information and Support.

(e) Applications for Special Consideration shall not be considered if received after the results for the relevant assessment have been made available to students.

(f) Special Consideration provisions are not available for Special Examinations.

(g) Personal information provided by students in support of Special Consideration applications will be treated in confidence and with care, in accordance with the University’s Policy on Access to, and use of, Personal Information.

2. Applications for Special Consideration

(a) Students seeking Special Consideration in final examinations should apply via their eVision portal unless the application relates to a Specified Health Sciences Programme, in which case alternative application provisions may be in place. Applications must be made no later than five calendar days after the last final examination for which Special Consideration is being sought.

(b) Applications for Special Consideration in final examinations should include relevant evidence of impairment:

i. in cases based on medical impairment (i.e. illness or injury), a University-prescribed Health Declaration, including an assessment by a health professional, is required

ii. in cases based on non-medical impairment (e.g. bereavement, property damage, interpersonal issues) such other documentation as may verify the applicant’s circumstances is required

iii. in all cases, a University-prescribed statement confirming impairment, completed by a person other than the applicant, is recommended.

The University reserves the right to require that an applicant provide a statement confirming impairment and/or such additional documentation as may be needed to assess or confirm impairment.

(c) Students seeking Special Consideration in internal assessment should apply in writing to the Head of Department concerned (or nominee). Applications should make clear the paper(s) and assessment activities to which the application applies and, if appropriate, a requested outcome (e.g. an extension for an assignment). Application should be made in a timely fashion (the meaning of which may vary based on the assessment activity in question and the nature of the student’s impairment).

(d) For Special Consideration in internal assessment students should provide a medical certificate or such other supporting evidence as is appropriate to verify their circumstances. Note that departments may waive the requirement for a medical certificate in relation to less significant internal assessment (normally assessments worth less than 10% of the overall mark) and/or requests for small extensions on due dates for assessments (normally less than 5 days).

(e) In exceptional circumstances, a health professional may make a recommendation that a student not sit an examination or test, where sitting such an examination or test may be seriously detrimental to the health of the student or to others. In such circumstances it is the student’s responsibility to provide evidence of this recommendation as part of his or her application for Special Consideration, except where the recommendation is made by Student Health in relation to a final examination.

3. Assessment of Special Consideration in Final Examinations (excluding Specified Health Sciences Programmes)

(a) Student Adminisrtration shall assess Special Consideration applications in relation to each examination for which the student claims impairment, taking account of:

i. the extent to which the evidence provided supports the student’s claim of impairment

ii. the length of the relevant impairment and its proximity to the examination, and

iii. the severity of the relevant impairment.

(b) For Special Consideration to be possible, the relevant impairment must be unexpected (see definitions above) and some part of the impairment must occur within the 14 days prior to, and/or on the day of, the examination.

(c) For each examination for which Special Consideration is applied for Student Administration shall determine either:

i. that Special Consideration be granted, with an assessment of High Impairment, or

ii. that Special Consideration be granted, with an assessment of Medium Impairment, or

iii. that the level of impairment, or the evidence of impairment, is insufficient for Special Consideration to be granted.

(d) Where Special Consideration is granted, the application will be forwarded to the relevant department for determining the outcome of Special Consideration (see clause 4 below). Full details of impairment will not be provided, but the assessment of High Impairment or Medium Impairment will be made known to the department.

(e) Where a student has a history of seeking Special Consideration for similar circumstances across multiple examination periods, the Student Administration may:

i. decline Special Consideration on the grounds that the impairment in question is not unexpected, and/or

ii. advise the student that Special Consideration will not be subsequently granted on the basis of the same impairment.

(f) Student Administration shall maintain internal guidelines to ensure consistency in assessing Special Consideration applications.

4. Academic Outcomes of Special Consideration in Final Examinations

(a) To assist in determining an appropriate academic outcome, internal assessment and other results may be used to calculate a student’s expected (i.e. unimpaired) performance in an examination versus the student’s actual (i.e. impaired) performance, noting that:

i. significant differences in class mark distributions and averages between internal assessment and the final examination in the paper concerned should be taken into account (e.g. through weighting marks to reflect these differences)

ii. for students with High Impairment, internal assessment marks in the relevant paper should be used for calculating expected performance, but only where at least 20% of the final mark is based on internal assessment and where the department considers internal assessment a reasonable guide to expected performance in the examination (otherwise an expected mark should not be calculated in High Impairment cases)

iii. for students with Medium Impairment, final results in other papers (preferably at similar levels and/or in similar subject areas) may also be used as a guide to expected performance where internal assessment in the paper concerned does not provide a reasonable indication of expected performance.

(b) Where a student has Medium Impairment a department may choose from the following standard academic outcomes, or choose an Aegrotat pass as specified under clause 4(e) below:

i. The student’s performance in the relevant examination was at or above expected performance – no action.

ii. The student did not sit the scheduled examination – no action (Special Consideration will not normally be granted where a student with Medium Impairment fails to sit an examination).

iii. The student’s performance in the relevant examination was below expected performance – examination mark adjustment up to 5% of the total possible marks available for the final examination.

iv. The student’s expected performance in the relevant examination could not be determined – examination mark adjustment up to 5% of the total possible marks available for the final examination (with the addition of 3% being the recommended outcome in the absence of any other relevant factors).

(c) Where a student has High Impairment a department may choose from the following standard academic outcomes or the other outcomes available under clauses 4(d) and (e) below:

i. The student’s performance in the relevant examination was at or above expected performance – no action.

ii. The student did not sit the scheduled examination – Special Examination.

iii. The student’s performance in the relevant examination was below expected performance but expected performance can be approximated with a limited mark adjustment – examination mark adjustment up to10% of the total possible marks available for the final examination.

iv. The student’s performance in the scheduled examination was below expected performance and expected performance cannot be approximated with a limited mark adjustment – Special Examination.

v. The student’s expected performance in the relevant examination could not be determined – Special Examination.

(d) Notwithstanding the standard outcomes for High Impairment in clause 4(c):

i. a department may recommend no action instead of a Special Examination where a student with High Impairment has very poor performance in significant internal assessment (a mark of less than 30% in internal assessment where internal assessment for the paper is worth at least 30% of the final result)

ii. a department may recommend a Special Examination in any case of High Impairment where it is felt that this is justified and will not unfairly advantage the student.

(e) An Aegrotat pass may be appropriate where a student has demonstrated competence in the paper concerned (normally through achieving a minimum C+ standard in significant internal assessment) andi. is close to, but not entitled to, a passing mark via a mark adjustment, and/or

ii. is entitled to, but is unlikely to be able to sit, a Special Examination, due to ongoing impairment or relevant timing factors (e.g. an Aegrotat pass may be appropriate to allow timely graduation).

Aegrotat passes are not available as Special Consideration outcomes for students in Specified Health Sciences Programmes.

(f) Where possible and appropriate, a department may offer a student the choice between:

i. an adjusted examination mark or a Special Examination, or

ii. an Aegrotat pass or a Special Examination.

Departments are encouraged to consider these options where delays in sitting Special Examinations may potentially disadvantage students, particularly in terms of the provision of a timely finalised result for a paper, or where it is possible a student may prefer another justifiable outcome to a Special Examination. Where an Aegrotat pass is offered as an option, students should be made aware of the potential implications of this (see further information on the Examinations webpages).

(g) All mark adjustments should be applied to the final examination result rather than directly to the overall result for the paper. Mark adjustments should be used to approximate but not exceed expected performance (where expected performance can be determined).

(h) Where plussage is used, any mark adjustment on the basis of Special Consideration should be applied to the final examination result before a plussage decision is considered.

(i) When a student sits a Special Examination, the better of the two results from the original examination and the Special Examination shall count as the final result.

5. Review Process for Special Consideration in Final Examinations

(a) A student who is dissatisfied that Special Consideration in a final examination or examinations (excluding examinations in Specified Health Sciences Programmes) has not been granted may request that the decision be reviewed.

(b) To request a review, the student must write to the Head, Student Experience within five days of the initial decision to decline Special Consideration, detailing the grounds for requesting review, and including any additional documentation as appropriate. There is no formal provision for a student to present his or her case in person.

(c) On reviewing a Special Consideration decision the Head, Student Experience (or their nominee) shall consider whatever evidence he or she deems relevant, which will include:

i. consideration of the review request letter from the student

ii. consideration of all documentation provided by the student and may include:

iii. consideration of the academic record of the student (if needing to determine whether marks appear consistent with claimed impairment when compared with unimpaired results)

iv. consultation with the student’s Health Professional

v. consultation with any parties providing statements in support of the student’s case

vi. consultation with the student’s academic department, and/or

vii. consideration of such other evidence as may assist in making a fair and informed decision.

(d) As a result of review, the Head, Student Experience (or their nominee) may:

i. uphold the initial decision not to grant Special Consideration

ii. overturn the initial decision not to grant Special Consideration and grant Special Consideration with High Impairment, or

iii. overturn the initial decision not to grant Special Consideration and grant Special Consideration with Medium Impairment.

(e) If, on assessing the academic outcome for a student with Medium Impairment, a department finds that the student’s examination performance is well below expected performance (normally at least 15 percentage points lower than equivalent internal assessment marks), the department may request that the Head, Student Experience (or their nominee) reconsider the level of impairment; this may or may not result in the level of impairment being adjusted.

6. Special Consideration in Final Examinations for Specified Health Sciences Programmes

(a) For final examinations in Specified Health Sciences Programmes the appropriate department, school or faculty office shall make an assessment as to whether the student’s impairment justifies Special Consideration, and if so, the academic outcome as a result of this.

(b) In so far as is practicable, assessment of Special Consideration in Specified Health Sciences Programmes should be carried out by the relevant department, school or faculty office in accordance with the Examination Office guidelines established under clause 3(f), and with the recommendations for academic outcomes in clause 4.

(c) Notwithstanding 6(b) above, where programme regulations for Specified Health Sciences Programmes detail Special Consideration processes which differ from those in these Procedures, the programme regulations shall take precedence.

7. Special Consideration in Internal Assessment

(a) The provision of any Special Consideration in relation to internal assessment is at the discretion of the Head of Department (or nominee) and should take account of:

i. any relevant paper or programme regulations

ii. fairness to the student concerned

iii. fairness to other students in the class

iv. the significance of the assessment in question, in terms of its contribution to the final mark and result

v. practicalities of providing Special Consideration, and

vi. the requirement that students demonstrate competency to pass the paper.

(b) Special Consideration in internal assessment should normally only be granted where impairment is significant (i.e. is likely to have a demonstrable and significant effect on performance).

(c) Special Consideration should not be granted in internal assessment where a student has been granted Alternative Arrangements in relation to the same assessment on the basis of the same impairment.

(d) For assessments due in on a given date (e.g. essays, assignments, lab reports), the recommended action where Special Consideration is granted is an extension to the due date for submission. Extensions of five days or more should normally be accompanied by appropriate independent evidence (see clause 2(d)).

(e) For tests and other in-class assessments, the recommended options where Special Consideration is granted are:

i. the rescheduling of an in-class assessment (e.g. a student presentation)

ii. the setting of an alternative and equivalent test or assessment activity for the student in question

iii. a calculated score based on the student’s marks from other assessments in the paper, which may include future assessments and the final examination, and which may be weighted based on class performance (i.e. the score may be increased if the class tended to grade higher on the assessment in question or vice versa)

iv. additional marks to a maximum of 10% of the total possible marks available for the test or in class assessment based on the student’s impairment

v. no change, where a test is worth less than 5% of the final mark in the paper.

(f) The recommendations in clauses 7(d) or (e) do not prevent a Head of Department (or nominee) from taking alternative actions where they believe that such actions are consistent with the principles in clause 7(a).

(g) Terms and/or attendance requirements may be varied where Special Consideration is granted, so long as the academic integrity of the paper can be maintained.

(h) Care should be taken where a student requests Special Consideration for multiple assessments in a paper, that this will not prevent the student from demonstrating competence in the paper. If sufficient assessment cannot be completed, the student should be advised to consider applying for withdrawal under exceptional circumstances (see clause 1(d) above).

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Examination and Assessment Regulations 2014
Administration of Final Examinations Policy
Guidelines for Alternative Arrangements for Internal Assessment, including Tests and Examinations, for Students with Disabilities or Impairments

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of these Procedures or need further clarification, contact the Manager, Policy and Compliance, Academic Services, on chris.stoddart@otago.ac.nz