Activity 10.1: Adjustments
I was really impressed with these resources and the emphasis on planning and ensuring materials were accessible from the start of the course design.
The part that really struck me as so useful but little seen in higher education in the UK was the following....
Work out in advance a strategy for teaching a disabled student. The following approach may be helpful.
1. Identify your teaching objectives and the learning outcomes they are meant to deliver for a given activity.
2. Identify any difficulties that your teaching environment, methods and materials will cause the student. Might this make it difficult for them to achieve the learning outcomes? Is it possible for them to achieve the learning outcomes another way? You should discuss this with the student - do not make assumptions.
3. In consultation with the student and the staff member who is coordinating their support, identify the reasonable adjustments you can make to your teaching methods and materials to meet the student's needs without compromising the teaching objectives and learning outcomes. If necessary, get advice from other staff in your institution on what constitutes a reasonable adjustment. Let the student know about the adjustments to be made.
4. If the student has individual support from specialist support staff (e.g. a study support assistant, a mentor or a scribe) find out what their role is and discuss how the three of you can work together effectively.
5. Agree which actions will be taken by you, which by your institution and which by the student to provide the reasonable adjustments you have identified. These adjustments may include actions taken before, during and after a given teaching activity.
6. Keep a record of decisions made and give the student a copy. Such a document may be useful for other staff teaching the same student. However, don't assume it can be used to determine adjustments for another student - each student must be considered individually.
7. After working with the adjustments for a while, review them with the student and make any changes required.
One point that really struck me was the care taken to consult with all the involved parties. For example, a disabled student or lecturer may not be aware of the possibilities for adaptation of materials whereas a support worker or disabilities representative may have more experience in this area.
Another point that struck home was the importance of recording all the decisions and why they were made. Disabled students, like any other student, may fail their course and look for excuses to explain it. It is a very easy excuse to blame the failure on the lack of support they have received. In some cases this can be completely justified but in others it is just a young person desperately looking for an explanation.
In one case I personally experienced, a young man's school had over-supported him during his A levels and he had applied to university with the impression he was very good at maths. The university were marvellous in adapting materials and he had excellent support but he failed the year because he could not do the maths. He tried to look for reasons everywhere and one reason he found was to blame the lack of support from his department. I was his support worker and notetaker and had evidence of all the department had done so managed to persuade his parents that this was no reason to sue the university. Unfortunately the department have had their fingers burnt and are not at all keen on accepting another student with visual impairment.
I mentioned in a post last week that I have experienced problems when adaptation of materials/environment for one student causes problems for another. These situations can become very complex and involve negotiation with two sets of students, support workers etc. Communication is the key skill again but can be further complicated when students do not wish to disclose specific difficulties to their lecturers. The young man I mentioned last week who had difficulty in finding lecture rooms due to visual impairment and short term memory problems, had disclosed his visual impairment but not his dyslexia. This meant that he did not want to discuss his problems finding lecture rooms with the lecturer and thus could not discuss the problem caused when the room was moved due to accessibility difficulties for a wheelchair-user.