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Accessibility and inclusion in tuition (AccIT)

Project leader(s): 
Rachel Slater, Anne Campbell and Elaine McPherson
Theme: 
Faculty: 
STEM
Status: 
Current

The AccIT project has four main aims:

  1. To develop understanding of accessibility issues in STEM tuition.
  2. To raise awareness of these issues amongst STEM staff including tutors, tutor and student support staff, accessibility staff and module teams.
  3. To gather evidence and examples of how STEM tutors adapt their tuition practice to respond to disabled students’ needs.
  4. To develop a toolkit / case studies to share good practice and provide STEM tutors with tools to support and improve accessibility in their tuition practice.

At this preliminary stage AccIT has two overarching research questions:

  1. What are the needs of students with disabilities in STEM tuition?
  2. What practices do STEM tutors employ to adapt their tuition practice to respond to disabled students’ needs?

The includes face-to-face and online tuition but will also go beyond that to include other aspects under the tutors’ control as outlined in the ‘project scope’ below.

Key outputs will include information on accessibility in tuition and a toolkit/cases studies to share good practice and support tuition. It is anticipated than longer-term outcomes from dissemination of these outputs will include developed understanding of accessibility in tuition amongst tutors and others who support students, and more inclusive tuition practice. This should help develop tutors’ confidence and ability in supporting their disabled students which should have a positive impact on students’ experiences and performance. Findings may also help identify training needs for tutors and others who support students.

A note on project scope and terminology

Accessibility refers to accessibility for students with a disability, long-term health condition, specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia) or mental health difficulty. Other WAS priority student groups, such as BME, SiSE, PEQs, low-SES and carers are beyond the scope of this project. Although the project team note the importance of accessibility for tutors with a disability, the focus of this project is adapting tuition to respond to disabled students’ needs. A focus on disabled tutors’ needs could be a follow-on project.

Inclusion refers to practices that level the playing field for disabled students which enables them to be included and supported alongside other students (i.e. not an adjustment that means they are supported separately, for example individual tuition in lieu of tuition in groups). Such practices include principles of proactive and universal design rather than retrospective or ad-hoc adjustments.

Tuition refers to the practices within the control of an AL to support their students. This includes face-to-face and online tuition, but also goes beyond that to cover other practices within AL control. For example, communications to build trust and relationships, tutor group forums, TMA feedback and feedforward. This will include any additional email and/or telephone tuition that ALs choose to have to support students who have a disability, for example to support them in attending and getting the most out of a tutorial.

Technical accessibility of Adobe Connect or any other tuition software / tool is beyond the scope of this project (and is the focus of projects elsewhere in the University). What is in scope is accessible and inclusive practices to address issues as a consequence of technical inaccessibility.

Slater, R. (2019) project poster (PDF)

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