Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Special Consideration in Post-Secondary Institutions: Trends at a Canadian University

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Special Consideration in Post-Secondary Institutions: Trends at a Canadian University

Article excerpt

Special Consideration Policies and Procedures

Special consideration refers to the adaptation of a grading process because of circumstances beyond a student's control that negatively affect his or her academic performance. This practice is common in secondary and post-secondary institutions and is intended to maintain fairness in evaluation without creating an advantage to the affected student (Rodeiro, 2010). The criteria for granting special consideration vary by university but for the most part include either a documented medical condition or evidence of temporary disability or bereavement (de Lambert & Williams, 2006). Other reasons may include accidentally missed tests, automobile accidents, religious observances, and participation in mandatory activities such as military service. One study conducted at an Australian university found that the majority of requests resulting in alternative scheduling of missed tests or examinations were due to illness or physical injury (Croucher, 1995). If granted, special consideration includes a variety of practices such as extending deadlines for papers, reducing penalties for late assignments, allowing students to write makeup tests or examinations at a later date, or adjusting grades (Rodeiro, 2010).

Students are typically required to provide evidence or documentation to verify the condition meriting special consideration (Croucher, 1995). If the condition is medical in nature, this often includes a doctor's note dated on the day of the missed test to be submitted along with the special consideration application. For example, at the University of Toronto (Mississauga), a major North American university, the special consideration process is as follows: On the day of a missed assessment, students must first declare their absence online and then submit the request for special consideration to the department concerned. Evidence that a physician was consulted within a day of the illness must also be provided, using a university medical form. The medical note must indicate that the student was unable to take the test on the examination date for medical reasons. Requests are handled by the department. If the department considers the case worthy of special consideration, a makeup test, if required, will take place within two weeks of the missed test (University of Toronto Mississauga, 2011).

Post-secondary institutions differ from secondary schools in their policies and procedures for requesting and granting special consideration. For instance, Rodeiro (2010) reported that in British secondary schools, the school submits special consideration requests to a national awarding body that is responsible for dealing with post-examination adjustment of grades. Thus, special consideration requests cannot be submitted directly by parents or students, and the school plays a primary role in the process. Canadian secondary schools do not deal with special consideration requests through an awarding body, however, and in this regard are more similar to post-secondary institutions. In post-secondary institutions, such as the one examined by Croucher (1995), where it is normally the student's responsibility to submit a request, policies and procedures tend to be less flexible and in most cases require official documentation such as a medical note.

The governing body in charge of reviewing and granting special consideration varies by university. Often, university-wide guidelines for special consideration requests have been developed to standardize this process in order to ensure fair treatment across academic departments and among students. In other cases, individual departments are entirely responsible for such decision making (Croucher, 1995). Exceptions are handled on an individual basis, and decision making may extend beyond departmental or institutional guidelines. For example, a student may informally ask a professor for another opportunity to take a missed test or permission to submit a late paper without penalty, perhaps to boost a borderline grade (de Lambert & Williams, 2006). …

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