Inclusivity in Pre-Assessment Support

Swann, Nicola, Moir, Hannah [Collaborator], Owusu-Sekyere, Frank [Collaborator], Boddie, Tia [Collaborator] and Barber, Diana [Collaborator]

Impact Summary

An attainment gap persists between our UK domiciled white students and students of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups (BAME), despite the best efforts of the inclusive curriculum framework. It has previously been identified that use of academic language can be a contributing factor to lower attainment for BAME students (Open University Annual Report, 2013) and that they may be less likely to access support (Stuart et al., 2011). I set up a SADRAS project in collaboration with students and staff to investigate the use of pre-assessment support in Sport Science courses at Kingston University and explored students’ preferences, to determine whether differences were evident between BAME and white students. Results suggested differences in both use of academic support and preferences between student groups, with availability and location highlighted as constraints of use for BAME students. The results of this preliminary study were presented at the Advance HE Assessment and Feedback Symposium, leading to further dissemination at an invited seminar with the Open University STEM Pedagogy Group (eSTEeM). I am now extending the research with a second SADRAS project, extending the analysis to undergraduate students throughout the SEC Faculty.

Key Achievements

  1. Research into causative factors of the BAME awarding gap
  2. Dissemination of findings - AdvanceHE Assessment and Feedback Symposium
  3. Interinstitutional discussions on the inclusivity of student academic support

Key Aims

A report from the Open University highlighted that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity (BAME) students in particular can at times struggle with academic language (Open University Annual Report, 2013). This could affect their performance in a range of assignments, where the emphasis is on scientific writing and use of language. In addition, the assessment criteria may not be well understood affecting students’ ability to meet these criteria in their work. In order to provide academic support to students, the SEC Faculty provides the SEC Academic Success Centre and academic staff make themselves available to support students via office hours and appointment. However, students’ requirements for support may differ and, anecdotally, uptake of the support on offer is low. It has also been suggested that BAME students may be less likely to access support (Stuart et al., 2011), which could affect attainment. The aim of this study, therefore, was to determine the level of awareness, use and preferences for academic support for students on select courses in the Department of Applied and Human Sciences.. The student viewpoint was deemed essential for this project so it was planned as a SADRAS funded project, with two student partners and three academic partners.


Data collection consisted of hardcopy questionnaires, targeting student members within Sport Science and Nutrition courses at Kingston University, publicised by word of mouth and distributed by student research partners. The survey took less than 5 minutes to complete and asked for anonymous demographic information (course, year, ethnicity, commuting status). The questionnaire then aimed to capture the awareness and use of pre-assessment support, based on the academic services offered by the university, in addition to students’ preferences and reasons for not seeking support. The survey was conducted in December 2019. Surveys were complemented by a focus group with students across levels 4, 5 and 6. This focus group allowed the study to capture a more comprehensive view of student members’ preferences, as suggested by McKenna (2017). The focus group followed a semi-structured guide, led by student partners.

Key Outcomes

A total of 80 students completed the survey in the preliminary study, 47 reporting their ethnicity as white and 33 as BAME. Results suggested differences between white and BAME students in use of academic support (Office hours 55% white: 42% BAME, Staff appointments 36% white: 22% BAME), which were reflected in preferences, where the highest preference of BAME students was in-module tutorials (52%) compared to white students preferring office hours or staff appointments (57%, 53% respectively). The focus group indicated that student use of pre-assessment support is influenced by pre-assessment concerns, preferences for more specialised and personal forms of support and preferences regarding the nature of communication. This emphasises the need to understand requirements of different student groups to provide universally accessible support options, the importance of accessibility and relatability of staff and the benefits of personal support in both one-to-one and group environments. The study findings have influenced change in practice within the Department of Applied and Human Sciences, from induction processes through to module delivery and also illustrate the need for further research, particularly to understand the needs of different student groups that are considered under the BAME definition, who are not all affected equally in terms of experience or attainment. We have obtained SADRAS 2020/21 funding for a follow up study, exploring these themes in a larger number of students across the Science, Engineering and Computing Faculty.

Actions (Repository Editors)

Item Control Page Item Control Page