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H810 – Learning outcomes (A10.2)

October 5, 2010

I found the case study of Michael (DART, undated) quite impressive. Working 28 years as a solicitor and then changing the profession is on its own already impressive, but being blind and doing that is really impressive. Reading such case studies, make me realise that my own problems are actually no problems compared to the challenges e.g. Michael face and how great he deals with his situation. I think we can actually learn a great deal from disabled people.

What are the issues in achieving learning objectives in my context?

I am teaching health-care in a vocational school and I am teaching the hands-on-training in health-care which includes e.g. body care, or to position patients e.g. in the lateral recumbent position or to feed patients and the accompanying theory to the subject. The learning outcomes that I want, and have to achieve (given by the curriculum) cover knowledge and understanding, cognitive skills and key skills but mainly practical skills. According to the course material are key and practical skills the most difficult to achieve and reasonable adjustments are needed to facilitate the needs of all learners so that they can achieve the required learning outcomes. Although some learning outcomes could be substituted or done in another format, is the main focus on the practical skills. The school form that I teach in requires no practical demonstration of skills and thus a disabled student could successfully pass the class, would I, depending on the severity of his/her disability, advice a student to probably rethink his career choice.

However, learning outcomes are highly context dependent and context was a major issue in H800, especially in the ECA and that the strength in one context can be the weakness in another context. I would probably add that curricula determines also learning objectives, as well the level of study, the characteristics of your students, your school environment and I think it also depends on the personal teaching style and the experience each teacher/lecturer has. Do I focus more on collaborative or individual work, teacher or student-centred work. Hence, there are many issues in achieving learning objectives.

Are there fundamental challenges for students with particular impairments in the subject that I teach?

Currently,  I am teaching only non-disabled students, but I could imagine some fundamental challenges for students with particular impairments, especially in the hands-on-training in health-care which includes e.g. body care, or to position patients e.g. in the lateral recumbent position or to feed patients. Students with mobility difficulties would not even be able to access the care room due to the five stairs in front and I am honestly stumped for an answer how I could offer solutions to this challenges, what reasonable adjustments would be needed. Has anybody any ideas? I once read from a practicing physiotherapist who is himself a wheelchair user, but at least here in Germany he is in the minority. Frankly, regardless which type of disability students would have, they would all cause fundamental problems in our school, and am completely unprepared and I would have to make reasonable adjustments in my whole teaching.

What would I need to consider if I would design a module in art history that includes the ability to analyse visual primary sources as a core competence?

Michaels case study, as well the course material provide a lot of recommendations:

  • First, and probably most important the advise not to assume that all students with disabilities have the same study support needs. Not even within a particular impairment, e.g. visual impairment, can you assume equal needs. Michael for example dealt pretty relaxed with his disability and puts others at ease, but he is a grown up man, who has a lot of work experience and know how to deal with people, but a younger student might not display the same traits and might experience quite different problems as Michael.
  • another important advise is to talk to the disabled student in private to find out what s/he wants and needs and to find out how the disability affects them and how they prefer situations to be handled. However as Lindsay (case study) reports: ‘When concerned members of staff who know me and care about me – I don’t get annoyed at that, that’s nice – but I get really annoyed when they stop me in corridors, busy corridors, and start asking me how I am.’ Another important issue is to talk to the disabled student in person, not to his support worker. But as Lindsay points out she also do not want to be addressed somewhere in public, reporting from an incidence where the tutor shouted
  • Informing disabled students in advance about upcoming field trips, assessments and provided them learning material in an accessible format in advance to allow them enough time for preparation should be good practice, as well to allow them more time for studying if they need it.
  • accessible formats of learning material, consideration of the layout of the room before lecture/teaching to facilitate all needs and a myriad of other issues would have to be taken into consideration.
  • But I think one main issue for teachers, lecturers or practitioners is to acknowledge accessibility and to have the right attitude. Paul (cases study) stated as follows: Disability issues are not problems, they’re challenges. They’re professional challenges that have to be overcome in order to be a professional academic, who is meeting the needs of all students, in the learning and teaching context. If they see it as a problem, then it will be constantly a burden to them and they won’t enjoy the challenges, which often disability issues can raise for all students.
  • Detailed descriptions of the visual sources would be also needed, in a format that is accessible by all, e.g. digital so it can be read by the PC or as podcast for students with visual impairments. I am not sure if this would be possible, but if the source would be e.g. a sculpture (a small one) that can be made accessible to a visual impaired students, so the student can palpate (feel out) the subject.  Field trips, like going to a museum would have to be planned in advance to allow necessary preparation time for students who might require special transportation or a support worker, and of course alternative material that allow e.g. students with visual impairments to get the most out of this experience as well. Sometime museums offer audio podcasts that guide you to the museum and provide necessary information, which would be not accessible for deaf or hard hearing students, thus as well an alternative format, e.g. a transcript would be needed as reasonable adjustment, though I am not sure if all my suggestions are indeed practical and reasonable.
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