Providing Learning Support for Students with Mobility Impairments Undertaking Fieldwork and Related Activities

After Fieldwork

The planning of fieldwork for students with mobility impairments does not stop with the fieldwork itself. Consideration also needs to be given to any issues arising from follow-up work, either during periods of residential fieldwork, perhaps in the evenings, and later. Students with some forms of mobility impairments might need additional time to complete tasks. This might be for at least two reasons. First, the nature of their impairment might mean that they can only do tasks requiring physical dexterity, such as use of a keyboard or laboratory equipment, more slowly. It might be necessary in some cases to arrange special resources, such as an under-sized computer keyboard which will fit on a wheelchair tray. Secondly, they might be less able to access resources such as libraries as quickly as other students. This might mean that during fieldcourses they need more time to carry out visits to resources such as libraries, or that after the fieldcourse the deadline for submission of work resulting from the fieldcourse must be extended. Forms of assessment also need to be considered, although this is largely outside the scope of the present guide (see the Case Studies from Higher Education Institution y and Cranfield). In seeking updates and feedback on the day's activities it is important to be inclusive, by asking the disabled student(s) to contribute as much as any other student.

An important part of fieldwork is its subsequent evaluation. Most institutions now carry out some form of evaluation on courses, typically by student questionnaire. This might be appropriate for aspects of the course shared by all students, whereas aspects related to overcoming barriers to access might be better evaluated in one-to-one discussions with the students concerned, possibly carried out by a "neutral" person. It is important to ensure that on return student feedback is encouraged for all planned and unplanned activities, so that future generations benefit from best practice. Any concerns raised and/or complaints must be taken seriously and resolved in a timely fashion. In some cases evaluation during the event might be more appropriate as some changes might be made immediately, and communicated clearly with the student as to how the matter is progressing. Consideration should be given as to whether students with mobility impairments might be able to contribute to the enhancement of the experience for later generations of students by a more detailed additional form of evaluation of their experience. This does, however, need to be handled sensitively to avoid any sense of different treatment. One means is simply to conduct a very informal interview, perhaps in the bar, stressing the intention to learn from the experience in order to improve the quality of experience for future students.

Whilst it is true that one cannot be responsible for what happens once the student has graduated or transferred between studies to a different HEI, it is reasonable and sensible to maintain contact at graduation and beyond. This can aid: learning from the student's experience; seeking contribution towards future course publicity; involving students in developing better practice such as participating as a guest speaker or involved with the preparation for the fieldwork; inviting students as a role model for future students; and assisting with alumni works. Much of what has been said above applies equally of course in the general sense to all students, not just those with mobility impairments.

Page updated 14 December 2001

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