Disability

This year is the first year in my teaching practice where I had encountered students with severe disabilities and in almost every instance I was completely unequipped to deal with it. As I shifted from an Associate Lecturer role into a fractional position I overhauled the content that I delivered and the approaches in which I taught. From mainly teaching on a one to one basis in the form of tutorials, I was then charged with delivering lectures and larger group seminars across the wide ranges of courses.

A deaf girl attended one of my lectures for the first time with her teaching assistant and the experience completely called into question my teaching practice.  After the lecturer I spoke to the teaching assistant  – who had been signing to the student – as she had looked incredibly flustered throughout the duration. She told me she found it incredibly hard to keep up with the pace that I spoke and my tendency to go wildly off topic and deviated form the supportive slides so the visuals and the words did often not run in parallel.  It was interesting to receive this feedback as I suspect that in many instances before students may have struggled and not felt comfortable discussing it as they may not wanting to cause a fuss.

The second encounter I had was in a practical computer based session when I was teaching a severely dyslexic student (a disability I also suffer with to a much lesser extent) The programs we would need to use for the session where not on her computer which had software which would read allowed the words she highlighted in menus, so she had to work on the computers within the room.  Whilst I was keen to offer her help and support whenever the students were engaging in an activity and not focusing on myself demonstrating, I found it difficult to strike a balance making sure she was up to speed and maintaining a pace working through the activities that would keep everyone engaged.

When discussing these issues with other educators also studying on this unit, I have realised that they have resources in to support the learning in the classroom. As the content that I am delivering has only been debuted this year, as my teaching develops the outlines that are stated within the ‘Is Universal Design in Education Any of My Business’ could be a useful guide. Especially the below points.

Posting advance organisers, lecture outlines, key points online prior to class (I had always been reluctant to the past for fear that I student may see the key notes and use them as an alternative to attended the lecture)

Using a variety of media (audio, text, video, images, social media)

Starting each class with a summary of the key points from the previous class and doing the same when shifting or transitioning to a new topic during class

At current I do not feel that my current teaching practice engages (or that of my immediate peers) any the needs of a diverse audience in our teaching methods.  The only thing that I am aware off is additional support is given to students with dyslexia in for there academic writing, with extensions being offered on deadlines for the both the assignments and the portfolio parts of the projects. When disabilities are encountered it seems to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

This task has highlighted to me the complete lack of planning and consideration for understanding of the needs of a diverse audience. Although I suffer from dyslexia in my time in education I went along with the flow and developed my own coping strategies and little accommodation was made from educators and now I have moved into the role of educator have perhaps mimicked the methods I was taught by.