I'm doing some teaching again and this time I have been made aware of a student with a disability affecting their ability to work in groups, contribute to the class, etc. Any advice on how to approach this, i.e., ensure that my seminars are interactive and involve group work without possibly causing this student to feel singled out?
When I was teaching, I would receive a report from the university's disability services about specific students which would detail what actions I needed to take. For instance, ensuring that all visual information was described in detail, or avoiding drawing attention to those needing to leave the classroom to take medications etc. Did you receive anything like this/ is there someone you could ask for such a report?
I am a tutor for a student who sounds like they may be similar, though their illness is severe. I also teach this student and have helped to figure out some strategies which allow them to engage in class without worsening or triggering their illness.
The key thing to remember is that you as teacher should do your best to accommodate that student's needs so that they get the same education experience as the other students, without compromising the other students experience. It can be tricky, especially with interactive styles of teaching.
In terms of practical things, we do the following to accommodate this student's needs:
- before being taught by any new teacher, a short meeting is arranged between the student, myself (as someone the student is comfortable with) and the teacher. This allows the student to meet the teacher and chat to them in a less pressurised environment and emphasises that the teacher is aware of the student's illnesses and is making steps to accommodate them.
- in seminars, if there is going to be a presentation aspect, this is always done in pairs (unless it's an assessment). The student has identified another student they are happy to work with (and that other student is the only other student in the cohort who knows of the student's illness) and they always work together to prepare the presentation, but the other student delivers it.
- assessed presentations are fairly informal, just teacher and student. This student is never asked to present to the class.
- I often have students write ideas on post it notes which are put on the wall to trigger discussions. The student has a small doodle they put on the post it note, so I know that was their idea and don't highlight it as something to discuss unless they bring it up.
- we always put students into groups, rather than letting them choose groups as this is a huge source of anxiety for the student.
Some of these strategies are specific to this student, and we developed them together...
... so they may not work with your student. The best thing to do is to speak to their tutor about what if any specific accommodations need to be made.
I think it's always nice to email any student with a disability you're aware of, to let them know that you're aware of it, and happy to discuss any strategies you can put in place in your teaching to allow them to partake fully.
Thanks everybody - this is very helpful.
I was sent a report but actually it was more of a list of things that are problematic for the student, such as group work, speaking in front of others, presenting, etc.
Therefore, I've planned the first seminar so that students can work through the activities in pairs/small groups or individually - as they prefer. I will facilitate discussion but will not "go round the class" (forcing everyone to contribute).
I was thinking of either talking to the student after the session (or emailing them after the seminar), as IntotheSpiral has said - to let them know I'm aware of the situation and happy to discuss any strategies etc. Or would it be better to send an email before the seminar? Only problem being - this is all very last minute - the student may or may not see the email before the seminar on Monday. Maybe that doesn't matter?
Just to let you know I took your advice on board and it is going fine. It was really helpful that the tutor actually saw me briefly before the seminar and filled me in on what was appropriate for the student - e.g. what situations speaking in front of others was OK. The seminar went well and the student was able to participate fully!
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