Providing Learning Support for d/Deaf Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

Improving Learning Before and After Fieldwork

In this section we describe generic situations which commonly happen when preparing for fieldwork and after one returns from the field and indicate the aspects of the situation which might be problematic for d/Deaf students (and in many cases also for hearing students). We then suggest measures which staff could take to assist d/Deaf and hearing-impaired students. Clearly you need to be sensitive to the general difficulties which some fieldwork can cause for d/Deaf students, and be ready to negotiate with each student as to what would suit them best.

Briefing students before going into the field

Such briefings are very similar to a lecture and so the d/Deafness issues will be comparable and quite familiar to both staff and d/Deaf students. Coping strategies should already have been worked out. This is much less problematic than being in the field itself. However, it may be that the briefing room is not equipped with an induction-loop system so hearing aids will not operate as effectively as in a purpose-built lecture theatre.

Group work in the field

Nearly all fieldwork is done in groups - safety concerns alone will ensure this, reinforced perhaps by a lack of equipment, the need for many hands to do the task (e.g. land surveying) and a belief in the educational value of experiencing team work. The supervision of students in the field may be easier if they work in groups.

Particularly in physical geography and earth/environmental science the success of the fieldwork may depend on communication among the group of students. Examples of such communication would include discussing where to take environmental samples or measurements, how to operate equipment, carry out field measurements and recording the results, and discussing what the field measurements and observations mean. Such discussions will be an integral part of, for example, geological field mapping, botanical surveying, till-fabric analysis, taking stream-flow measurements, and soil coring. It is easy for staff to overlook just how much informal but vital inter-group communication there is in such activities. The hearing students in the group need to be briefed to ensure that the d/Deaf student (and his/her interpreter) can understand all that is going on, are fully involved in the discussions and can participate in the work of the group. The only exceptions would be in special cases where a deaf student could not be expected to operate as a hearing one would, e.g. a lip-reading student working with equipment which has only audible warning signals or response modes, or taking verbatim notes of an interview.

Post-fieldwork de-briefing and reporting

After you have returned with your students from the field, you will want to de-brief them and get them to report back on what they did and have discovered. In part this is a similar situation to the pre-fieldwork briefing, but it goes beyond that. First, the centre of attention is unlikely to be just the member of staff; students all round the de-briefing room will be reporting back on their fieldwork results. This makes it more difficult for lip-reading students to place themselves correctly to see clearly all the interventions. You may want most of the students to speak during the de-briefing but they cannot all wear transmitters for those with certain hearing aids. Reporting back may also take more elaborate and structured formats such as mock public enquiries or other forms of role-play and debates.

Page updated 14 December 2001

GDN pages maintained by Phil Gravestock