Flexible assessment as an inclusive means of recognising the industrial experience of Part Time Undergraduate Chemical Engineering students in group projects

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For the past decade, undergraduate engineering courses at Teesside University [TU] have included a group project module at most FHEQ Levels, designed to give students an opportunity to develop their group working skills whilst solving an industrially relevant problem. The modules run for nine weeks across a semester and culminate in an intensive week in which other modules are paused so that students can fully immerse themselves in the project. Within the Chemical Engineering courses, these modules have been developed to help meet the requirements of the IChemE Design Checklist - the Level 4 module focuses on the design, build and commissioning of a small plant, and the Level 5 module serves as a precursor to the major Design Project at Level 6.
Approximately 30% of TU undergraduate Chemical Engineering students are sponsored by employers in the chemicals industry. These students join the course at Level 5 having successfully completed an appropriate Level 4 qualification, and study Part-Time [PT] on a day-release timetable. The Level 5 group project module has typically proven problematic for these students for two reasons:
1. the day-release schedule makes engaging with the intensive week difficult for PT students, thereby affecting their module performance;
2. PT students are employed in different roles across a range of sectors, and some are involved in equivalent projects in industry, thereby diminishing the learning benefits to them on the module.
Whilst the popularisation of online platforms for collaborative work (e.g. MS Teams) has minimised the impact of issue #1 (Gooneratne & Russell, 2021), the impact of issue #2 has previously been minimised via ad hoc adjustments for individuals, akin to assessment accommodations made to support disabled students. Nieminen's (2022) work on Assessment for Inclusion highlights the inherent ableism of such accommodations and the resulting exclusion and lack of belonging felt by disabled students. The same comments regarding exclusion can be made when considering the adjustments for PT students.
A solution to this problem exists in the form of flexible assessment. When incorporated into the original assessment design and structured carefully, flexible assessment provides a robust means of recognising relevant experiences of PT students on the Level 5 group project module and ensuring an authentic assessment experience for all students from the outset. This work will detail the evolution of assessment for PT students on this module and provide guidance on embedding flexibility into the assessment design whilst maintaining assessment integrity. Whilst this case study focuses on provision for PT students, the lessons learnt within have implications for inclusive assessment innovation across all student cohorts, and will hopefully encourage other educators to explore the incorporation of flexibility into their own assessment strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2022
EventChemEngDayUK 2022 - University College London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Apr 20228 Apr 2022


ConferenceChemEngDayUK 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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