Providing Learning Support for d/Deaf Students Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities
Could Good Fieldwork for Deaf Students Mean Good Fieldwork for All?
In the social model of disability the issues turn around equal opportunities for disabled students. But what of the 'equal opportunities' of the other students in the group? Non-disabled students might argue that changes made to accommodate the needs of a d/Deaf or hearing-impaired student might adversely affect their own learning opportunities. However, there are strong arguments that would suggest that following principles of good fieldwork for d/Deaf students will bring tangible benefits to all students:
- Clear and effective information-giving and advice helps all students select courses appropriate to their interests and needs.
- Good induction into courses clarifies requirements, terms, culture and responds to students' learning needs.
- Verbal and written communication should be good between academic staff and all students, where the staff are as sensitive to 'message received' as they are to 'message sent'; where a variety of media is used to communicate with students and where the communication is respectful of students and their differences.
- Fieldwork situations are carefully thought-through occasions for creative learning with attention paid to all students' learning needs, interests and abilities, and to important key skills such as supportive and co-operative groupwork.
- The design of fieldwork may well be a collaborative, problem-based experience for staff and students together.
Principles of good teaching from the general literature on learning and teaching in higher education support this idea that good learning for d/Deaf students is to a large extent a sub-set of good learning for all. Take Ramsden's 'important properties of good teaching' (1992, p.89):
- A desire to share your love of the subject with students.
- An ability to make the material being taught stimulating and interesting.
- A capacity to explain the material plainly.
- A commitment to encouraging student independence.
- An ability to improvise and adapt to new demands.
- Using teaching methods and academic tasks that require students to learn actively, responsibly and co-operatively.
- Using valid assessment methods.
- A focus on key concepts, and students' misunderstandings of them, rather than covering the ground.
- Giving the highest quality feedback on student work.
- A desire to learn from students and other sources about the effects of teaching and how they can be improved.
Accommodating the differing needs of all students is an obligation on all teachers. Teaching and learning can be enriched for all concerned when this is done creatively and in partnership with students. d/Deaf and hearing-impaired students are one group amongst many with distinctive needs, but they are not the only such group. Any group of fieldwork students will include people with a range of abilities and disabilities and with particular needs. The best teaching of fieldwork will seek to find out and work with those needs.
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 116 2