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  5. Engaging students as experts in the trial and evaluation of Disability Language Guidance

Engaging students as experts in the trial and evaluation of Disability Language Guidance

Project leader(s): 
Elaine McPherson and Kate Lister

This student-centred eSTEeM project is addressing an issue that has been identified by disabled students in a previous participatory research activity; the importance of language and terminology when discussing disability and study needs with students. Many students with conditions or study needs that are classified by HESA, the HE sector and beyond as ‘disabilities’ (i.e. mental health conditions, dyslexia, etc.) have stated they do not identify with the term ‘disabled student’, or other disability-related terminology, and that this can mean that they do not disclose their needs to the Open University, or that they do not seek the reasonable adjustments they need. Student success, in terms of completion, progression and attainment, can be affected as a result.

Work has taken place to identify the terminology and language behaviours that students prefer, and, as part of the Inclusive STEM project (HEFCE-Funded), guidance has been produced for different stakeholders, using STEM students as the focus. The following outputs have been produced from the HEFCE project:

  1. Guidance for student-facing staff (including ALs and Student Support teams) on the impact of language on student identity, on specific terminology, and on how to mirror students’ language in conversations
  2. Guidance for students on how to engage with current disability-related terminology, and on how to influence others’ language and advocate for their preferred language

This eSTEeM project would evaluate the guidance produced for STEM and its effectiveness in improving student motivation and engagement of STEM students who participate in the project. It will also help to  embed a more student-centred language within STEM staff practice and culture. We propose to do this through participatory research design and following CAST change management methodology (currently being used to evaluate the impact of SeGA’s Accessibility Coordinators), using a network of staff and student ‘champions’.

The objectives of this project are:

  • To seek critical input into the drafts of the guidance created in a participatory manner
  • To recruit students to support the dissemination and use of the guidance
  • To trial the guidance with students and staff
  • To evaluate the trial and the guidance