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Listening to Students: The Experiences of Disabled GEES Students of Learning in HE Mick Healey and Tim Hall University of Gloucestershire

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Presentation on theme: "Listening to Students: The Experiences of Disabled GEES Students of Learning in HE Mick Healey and Tim Hall University of Gloucestershire"— Presentation transcript:

1 Listening to Students: The Experiences of Disabled GEES Students of Learning in HE Mick Healey and Tim Hall University of Gloucestershire

2 Exercise 1 In twos or threes briefly identify what you think are the main barriers and opportunities that disabled students face in learning and being assessed in geography, earth and environmental sciences? 3 mins

3 Introduction Disabled students face both barriers and opportunities in their learning in HE Despite the growth of interest in the topic, the voice of the disabled students themselves has hardly been heard, beyond the anecdotal Will examine GEES subjects in six universities in England

4 The Nature of Disability a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his or her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities Disability and Discrimination Act (1995) 4.8% of undergraduates (21,900) in the UK self- assessed themselves as having a disability in 2001/02 The actual proportion may be closer to 10%

5 Self-assessed disabilities by UK undergraduates 2001/02% Dyslexia37.6 Unseen disabilities (e.g. epilepsy, diabetes, asthma)23.5 Multiple disabilities7.1 Deaf/Hearing impairment6.4 Wheel-chair user/Mobility difficulties4.8 Mental health difficulties4.2 Blind/partially sighted3.5 Personal care support0.3 Other disabilities12.6 Source: HESA (2003) The Nature of Disability

6 Improved Opportunities Quality Assurance Agency Code of Practice 3 Disability Discrimination Act (1995) Human Rights Act (1998) Special Education Needs and Disability Act (2001) – Become DDA (1995) Part 4 Disability Discrimination Allowance Disability Discrimination Draft Bill Context

7 Hurst (1996) pointed out that the lived experience of disabled students has been missing from previous studies Despite the publication in the last two years of a number of guides to support higher education staff teaching disabled students (Doyle & Robson, 2002; Gravestock & Healey, 2001; Teachability, 2000), there are few studies which have responded to Hurst's call Context

8 Aim: To identify and evaluate disabled students' experience of teaching, learning and assessment Method: Questionnaire survey of all GEES students in six universities (Gloucestershire, Lancaster, Liverpool John Moores, Middlesex, Oxford Brookes, Plymouth) self-declared as having a disability 80 completed questionnaires, a response of 32% from GEES universities (2003) Aim and Method

9 Findings from questionnaire 14% chose the institution in the light of their disability 15% chose field of study in the light of their disability Main Findings

10 Disability-related barriers% Lectures54 Laboratories / practicals25 Other on campus classes29 Fieldwork – residential19 Fieldwork – non-residential19 Fieldwork – Independent43 Using IT facilities17 Barriers Related to Modes of Teaching

11 Look at the responses from the GEES students about the disability-related barriers that they have impacted on their learning in: a)Lectures (Box 3) b)Independent fieldwork (e.g. associated with dissertation) (Box 11) What conclusions do you draw from their responses? Barriers Related to Modes of Teaching

12 Disability-related barriers% Written examinations62 Coursework63 Oral presentations37 Barriers Related to Modes of Assessment

13 Look at the responses from the GEES students about the disability-related barriers which have affected their experience of different types of assessment (Box 12). What conclusions do you draw from their responses? Barriers Related to Modes of Teaching

14 First survey of experience of GEES disabled students in HE Emphasised barriers they face, there are also many examples of good practice With slight exception of lectures, over 50% disabled students and often as many as 75% have NOT experienced any disability-related barriers with teaching and learning However, up to two-thirds of GEES students identified barriers with different forms of assessment Summary and Conclusions

15 Although the survey found that in many cases the minority of disabled students faced barriers in teaching, learning and assessment, for those who did face these barriers, they were serious in their impact These findings suggest that using a general category entitled disabled students is problematic and devising general policies to support their teaching, learning and assessment may not always meet the specific needs of individuals This emphasises the importance of individual discussion with disabled students, rather than assuming one solution fits all Summary and Conclusions

16 It is invidious to treat disabled students as a separate category; rather they fall along a continuum of learner differences and they share the same challenges and difficulties that face all students in higher education Arguably in the long run the main beneficiaries of disability legislation and the need to make suitable adjustments in advance are the non-disabled students, because many of the adjustments, such as well prepared handouts, instructions given in writing as well as verbally, notes put on-line, and variety and flexibility in forms of assessment, are simply good teaching and learning practices which benefit all students Summary and Conclusions

17 One unintended consequence of this (disability) legislation is that as departments and institutions introduce more flexible learning and alternative ways of assessment for disabled students, demand is likely to rise for giving greater flexibility for all students. Disability legislation may prove to be a Trojan horse and in a decade, the learning experiences of all students may be the subject of greater negotiation. Healey (2003, 26) Summary and Conclusions

18 Have enjoyed course SO MUCH - very diverse modules. Just finishing now. Want to do Masters (urban regeneration) but can't afford to. After years of isolation / boredom / loneliness, felt like I came back to life. Sad because my intelligence/education / skills wasted. I sometimes try for jobs but overqualified / under experienced. My disabilities do not tidily fit into a box - plus very personal (some of them). What I am is wasted. Shame. Try to ignore/keep busy. (Complex, multiple disability) Summary and Conclusions

19 Paper on which this talk is based is available: GDN Web site: Summary and Conclusions


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