Providing Learning Support for Students with Hidden Disabilities and Dyslexia Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities
Some Closing Thoughts
By way of a brief summary, this guide closes with a list of some key general points. The intention here is not to repeat the detailed advice given earlier but rather to deduce from it a number of overarching principles. These provide a broad framework for action.
- If academics leading fieldwork are to provide appropriate student support, they will need training and guidance. This handbook, and the others in this series, are intended to offer a useful starting point. However, for academics to respond effectively to the new disabilities legislation and Code of Practice, an investment in relevant staff development is essential.
- Without sacrificing academic rigour or standards, academics will need to think more imaginatively about the different ways in which different students might be enabled to demonstrate their achievement of the intended learning outcomes for the programme, module or field exercise.
- For students studying degrees which include fieldwork, the additional demands created by field trip participation need to be discussed when the student is applying for admission to the degree programme and at the point at which the DSA allowance is agreed.
- Information about detailed fieldwork plans, activities and itineraries needs to be shared with students and disabilities staff well in advance of the trip itself so that, if necessary, adjustments can be made to the programme, to the accommodation and travel arrangements and to the academic curriculum etc.
- For students with hidden disabilities there are often issues about disclosure, confidentiality and possible discrimination. Many such students do not want to be seen as "special cases" requiring different or favoured treatment. Staff need to be sensitive to these concerns.
- Students must accept some measure of responsibility for their own learning, their own health and for working with academic and support staff to negotiate appropriate decisions about their participation in field activities. Students with hidden disabilities must acknowledge the possible consequences of non-disclosure which may put them at risk and break departmental safety policy.
- In future, academics will need to work more closely than they generally have previously with specialist colleagues responsible for disability services. This will open up new understandings and opportunities.
- Many of the measures needed to assist students with hidden disabilities are, however, no more than the delivery of general good practice. For example, many aspects of the layout of text for students with dyslexia would bring general benefits of clearer documentation for everyone. In this way dyslexia support can be a means for bringing generally improved standards of presentation.
- Full advantage should be taken of the new (and in some cases not so new) technologies to enhance fieldwork. Devices such as laptops, talking calculators and dictaphones can all be advantageous for students with dyslexia. On occasion, and where suitable resources exist, "virtual" fieldwork facilities may also be helpful, through the use of Web-sites and interactive software.
- Students with dyslexia often have counter-balancing strengths in other areas and feel disadvantaged by assessment systems which rely very heavily on essays. Fieldwork can be used as an opportunity to recognise strengths in areas such as verbal presentations and thereby help to level the assessment playing field.
- Fieldwork can be a very intense social as well as academic experience. For some students with hidden disabilities this will bring new opportunities but occasionally also new challenges. In monitoring and evaluating all aspects of fieldwork (academic and social) it is important to ensure that all opinions are sought and valued. For the students who have been the focal point of this fieldwork volume, their disabilities may be hidden but their voices must not be.
© Geography Discipline Network/authors, 2001
ISBN: 1 86174 118 9