There are a number of things you can do in your planning that will make your teaching more inclusive and benefit many students. Start by considering the learning environments you use for your sessions, the learning activities of the courses you teach and the way they are assessed. Look at the potential barriers to learning that your students might face. Here are some examples of reasonable adjustments you can make.
- Make sure that the physical environment is as accessible as possible and that any necessary technologies are in place.
- You may be asked to incorporate anticipatory adjustments or specific individual reasonable adjustments into your planning, such as including rest breaks, facilitating the use of recording devices or accommodating a note taker.
- Provide a teaching programme at the beginning of your course – this will help students to pace themselves and plan effectively.
- Give guidance to students on the types of session you expect to give as this will impact on support requirements – a lecture may mean a note taker or a recorder is required, a field trip may require a portable keyboard.
- Specify learning outcomes and assessment methods so a student can alert specialist support staff to their needs.
- Plan the structure of your lectures and other teaching sessions so the progression is logical and easy to follow. Allow time for reinforcement and consolidation.
- Provide handouts and instructions for practical sessions in advance, or place them on the intranet. Prepare your handouts using the RNIB clear print guidance.
- If you are using PowerPoint presentations, make sure they conform to good practice.
- Respect students’ requirements for confidentiality even though this may affect the strategies put in place.
- Find out where to go to in your institution for guidance if you are not clear about what is required.
- Plan regular meetings with the student to review the situation and reflect on difficulties and the strategies that were a success.
A number of more specific suggestions are given below. Although they are identified in relation to adjustments helpful to disabled students, they may give you ideas for planning your teaching for all students.
Blind and visually impaired students have particular difficulties accessing print or other materials that are presented visually. Before you teach, ask your student about their individual needs and what reasonable adjustments would help provide access to the places and materials you intend to use. You will need to consider access to
- printed texts such as handouts, instructions for practical activities, lecture notes, reading lists and exam papers
- other visual materials such as diagrams or photographs, whether they are presented on paper or a white board, projected on an OHP or form part of a PowerPoint presentation
- projected materials such as videos
- electronic materials such as e-mails, internet sites and virtual learning environments (VLEs).
Make these materials available in their new formats in advance so that a student can prepare for the teaching session. Providing reading lists well in advance gives the student the opportunity to obtain an audio tape transcription.
The RNIB’s ‘See it Right’ pack of information provides useful guidance on producing visual materials in user-friendly and accessible formats.
If your teaching sessions use demonstrations of practical techniques (e.g. in a laboratory or workshop or on a field trip) then you should discuss with the student, and their practical support assistant if they intend to use one, how these techniques can best be learned and carried out.
Discuss with the student where they need to sit in the sessions they have with you. They may be able to see material that is projected or written clearly on a white board if they are sitting a certain distance away from it. They may also require space for a guide dog, or an adjacent seat for their note taker or practical assistant, or they might need access to a power source for a laptop computer or specialist recording device. Be guided by them and remember to ensure that their seating requirements are met in all the locations you use.
Effective preparation for teaching a deaf or hard of hearing student centres around good communication.
- Provide printed or electronic copies of teaching material in advance, so the student and their support worker can prepare by familiarising themselves with the content and vocabulary. Lecture outlines, reading lists, instructions for practical work, glossaries and new vocabulary lists are all helpful
- Ensure that subtitles or transcripts are available for any
audio–visual material you intend to use
- Repeat any questions from other students so a deaf student is fully aware of the content
- Learn how to support deaf students who are lip-reading in lectures and in group situations
- Develop your confidence to manage teaching sessions where a sign language interpreter or lipspeaker is present
Students with specific learning difficulties often have to chunk their learning into bite-sized pieces with plenty of time for rehearsal.
- Provide clear learning outcomes and describe your expectation of how these will be achieved – offer some flexibility to suit all learning styles. This allows a student who is unable to achieve your preferred layout, for example, a chance to negotiate an alternative method of presentation with you.
- Plan the structure of your sessions to allow question and discussion time, as well as moments for reinforcing knowledge and building on what has already been learnt. Link new material to old by using a stepped approach.
Students with mental health difficulties may require advance notice of activities you are planning – group work, presentations, practical work, watching videos, tests, revision, outings etc – and any alternatives available.
- Anticipate differences in assertiveness and in involvement with group work and presentations.
- Be aware that some students prefer to avoid interpersonal interactions.
- Build in accredited skills development and allow marks for preparation and not just delivery.
Access is often the main issue for those with mobility difficulties. Note taking and coping with other aspects of practical work can be problematic for those who have dexterity difficulties, pain or fatigue.
- Allow extra time for the student to arrive at your session.
- If electronic media are used then computer accessibility issues should be checked. This is not just about the physical aspects of computer labs, but is also related to use both of hardware such as the keyboard and mouse, and software.
- Plan ahead for practicals and fieldwork as adaptations may need to be made in advance.
- Have a named contact for the student in case of unexpected changes to the format, timing or rooms for a particular course.