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

Designing and Implementing the Fieldwork Curriculum

Defining fieldcourse objectives and study activities

In the twenty-first century, it is no longer appropriate to make ad hoc arrangements for students with disabilities. External pressures, such as the QAA Code of Practice: Students with Disabilities (QAA, 1999), and the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act, require that necessary steps be taken to ensure that students with disabilities are not disadvantaged during their higher education studies. (See the accompanying section on Standards and Requirements.)

Learning objectives

The selection of appropriate learning objectives for fieldwork should be based on criteria that include the assessment of their suitability for visually impaired students. This raises the question as to whether it is desirable to modify objectives to suit the needs of individuals, in the sense that all students should be challenged to experience something beyond their current experience and capabilities. It also raises the question as to whether it is possible to modify learning objectives, in the sense that it may be educationally impoverishing to remove certain activities from a field study programme to suit a particular group of students.

An alternative way of approaching this issue is to take the view that it academically desirable to consider the needs of all students as part of every curriculum planning exercise. Thus, the prior experience and learning styles of students should be considered when designing any curriculum — whether it is to be delivered on campus or off campus. Here are some specific questions that might be asked of individual learning objectives:

These questions should be asked in relation to both existing and proposed fieldwork objectives.

Fieldcourse activities

When the broad learning objectives have been established for a particular fieldcourse, the detailed study activities can be decided. Typically, these are related both to the learning objectives established for the fieldcourse, and also to the characteristics of the field study area. However, the selection of appropriate fieldwork activities also needs to be based on criteria that judge their suitability for visually impaired students. Again, both existing and prospective fieldwork activities need to be reviewed in relation to these needs.

Normally, a single set of fieldwork activities is drawn up, and is followed by all students. However, when fieldwork involves visually impaired students, alternative approaches are necessary. Here are two examples:

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock