Volume 6 
May 2004 
Issue #1

Creating Better Tests for Everyone Through Universally Designed Assessments, Sandra Thompson and Martha Thurlow, University of Minnesota, David B. Malouf, U.S. Department of Education, May, 2004


Universally designed assessments are designed and developed to allow participation of the widest possible range of students, in a way that results in valid inferences about performance on grade-level standards for all students who participate in the assessment. This paper explores the development of universal design and considers its application to large-scale assessments. Building on universal design principles presented by the Center for Universal Design (Center for Universal Design, 1997), seven elements of universally designed assessments are identified and described. These elements were derived from a review of literature on universal design, assessment and instructional design, and research on topics such as assessment accommodations (Thompson, Johnstone, & Thurlow, 2002). The seven elements are:1. Inclusive assessment population; 2. Precisely defined constructs; 3. Accessible, non-biased items; 4. Amenable to accommodations; 5. Simple, clear, and intuitive instructions and procedures; 6. Maximum readability and comprehensibility; 7. Maximum legibility . Each of the elements is explored in this paper. Numerous resources relevant to each of the elements are identified, with specific suggestions for ways in which assessments can be designed to meet the needs of the widest range of students possible. Challenges and opportunities arising from the application of universally designed assessments are identified.