Tips on how to make your teaching accessible
Accessible teaching means taking into account the various needs of students from a disability perspective. The environment plays an important role in the impact of the disability. If you can treat the students with openness and respect in a good physical environment, there will be less need for individual solutions. It is an educational challenge for you as a teacher to create a teaching environment that is accessible and inclusive for all students. Adaptations that are necessary for students with certain impairments can often benefit the student group as a whole and lead to educational development.
Getting in touch
People with an impairment are often creative and have lots of strengths which can be very useful to them in study situations. It is therefore very important, and even vital, for successful studies that a discussion is held about what works best in each individual case.
Use the course web page to encourage students to get in touch with the teacher or course leader before the start of a course so they can discuss whether they have any special requirements. Remind students to get in touch at the start of the course. It is the student who knows what adaptations can provide them with support. All students for whom educational support has been approved will have a certificate which you can ask to see.
Some impairments are more difficult to talk about than others. Students do not always want teachers to know that they have been granted educational support. Perhaps the student is having a good spell and does not need any adaptations or maybe the student is managing well with support other than that which the teacher can provide. As a teacher, you are not expected to do anything if you have not been informed about or asked for. Students are encouraged to get in touch in good time. If a student indicate his/her need too late, it is not always practically possible to fulfil the requirements.
You are always welcome to contact the coordinator/contacts for support for students with an impairment if you want to have a general discussion, although we are not always able to express an opinion on an individual's needs.
Studying at university is demanding – and for students with an impairment, it is even more demanding. A teacher who presents information, instructions and knowledge in a clear and structured manner makes it easier for all students. Think about whether you can:
- Give instructions both verbally and in writing
- Communicate the structure of the lecture and provide summaries
- Provide enough breaks. This is important, for example, for students who have difficulty concentrating or who have pain issues
- Use the course web page/Fronter to create PowerPoint presentations and other material in advance
- Speak clearly and repeat questions from students so that everyone can hear
- Make your teaching varied and allow the students to use a range of senses
- Have a positive approach to students recording lectures
Things to remember for examinations
Ideally, try to vary the examination formats so that students with different strengths can demonstrate them. Students who have had educational support approved are entitled to adapted examinations. This may mean sitting alone, being given more time, using a computer or something else.
A common question from teachers is whether they can give students who have had educational support approved extra time for their submissions. The examiner/course leader should agree the deadline with the student well in advance. If the student needs longer, the extra time must be reasonable. The student's chances of obtaining higher grades will not be affected, provided the student meets the agreed deadline. Remember that:
- It is the student's responsibility to ask about an adapted examination in good time
- The intended course learning outcomes are the same for all students on the course, but the paths to achieving these outcomes may be different
- Adaptations can also be made to oral reports, such as reporting in a small group or only to the examiner and faculty examiner
When drawing up a course syllabus
Clear objectives and proficiency requirements make it easier for students and are a good starting point for what adaptations can be made.
- Could alternative examination formats even be indicated in the course syllabus?
When choosing the reading list
To enable students to have recordings made by MTM (Swedish Agency for Accessible Media), it is important to follow the rule that the reading list must be available at least 8 weeks before the start of the course. No changes can be made to the reading list once the course syllabus has been specified.
- Use the course web page/Fronter to provide reading references. Which literature is it a good idea to have at least looked at before which lectures?
- Encourage the students to work together and share their notes.
- Course materials, such as compendia, should only be available in electronic format, so that they can be read by speech synthesis software.
- Recorded lists of plant names could be something that you as a teacher would like to make available to all students on the course web page. Pronouncing Latin names can be difficult, not just for those with dyslexia.
At SLU there is a Centre for Educational Development (UPC). If you want to discuss educational issues or are wondering how you can formulate course syllabuses, please feel free to get in touch. Read more about the Centre for Educational Development.
Henriksson, Ann-Sofie, 2012. Undervisa tillgängligt! [Make teaching accessible!] revised edition. Uppsala University.