Providing Learning Support for Blind or Visually Impaired Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

Follow-up Work

The problems faced by blind and visually impaired students do not end as they leave the field study venue. They are likely to confront a number of potentially problematic activities as they undertake follow-up work and prepare themselves to be assessed on their field studies. These problems fall under the following broad headings:

Data collation

A considerable amount of fieldwork involves groups of students working together on investigations in the field. From this, jointly gathered data are usually brought back to campus for subsequent sharing and analysis. This raises the problem of how group members should get together to share and collate their data. One way of forestalling this problem is for staff to arrange for all raw data to be shared during the field course — e.g. during evening work sessions. Back at campus, the following approaches might help the visually impaired members of particular work groups:

Data analysis and interpretation

Much of the mapping, data visualisation and statistical analysis undertaken after a field course should be organised using the same general strategies in place for this kind of work in the degree programme at large. (See the companion document on Preparation for Fieldwork.) If the visually impaired student does not have access to suitable facilities — e.g. software adaptations for data visualisation and mapping — then several alternative strategies might be considered:

Where safety considerations are involved — e.g. with the use of laboratory equipment — then additional time and appropriate supervision should certainly be made available.

Assessment requirements

Special attention needs to be given to the kind of assessment used to judge the fruits of field work if it is to reveal the full range of learning that has been achieved by blind or visually impaired students. See the discussion in the Assessment document.

Evaluating the fieldcourse

Most forms of teaching and learning are evaluated nowadays, increasingly by formal feedback mechanisms. The fieldcourse is perhaps subject to more evaluation than most other forms of teaching, because of the resource implications of this form of learning. For the blind or visually impaired student, it is important that their experiences are debriefed, so that lessons can be learnt and applied to subsequent field courses. Some of this debriefing may be undertaken during the fieldcourse itself, either informally with the individual visually impaired student, or as part of a more structured feedback session held with all students. After return to campus, the fieldcourse tutor might also arrange a meeting with the visually impaired students to discuss any additional issues they feel might be relevant.

Two forms of action can be taken. During the fieldcourse itself, some on-the-fly adjustments might be necessary based on daily feedback form the visually impaired students. (This might include modifications to daily schedules where it is found that these students require more time to complete specific field activities.) In the longer term, the feedback should be used to improve the field experience of subsequent cohorts of visually impaired students. (See the related discussion in the Graduation and Beyond document.)

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock