Institute of Teaching and Learning

Professional Development for Teaching and Learning

Topic 12: Students with special needs

At Deakin the unit chair should receive notification of any students with disabilities that will necessitate special provisions in classes or where there will be an assistant or note-taker attending the class alongside the student. It will therefore be the chair's responsibility to talk with you and determine if any substitute activities need to be considered. For example blind students enrolled in first year Biology are unable to do microscope work. One year a Biology student who was partially blind was able to view the microscope slides on a TV monitor using a video/microscope hook-up. You could certainly expect extra assistance from the technician and/or unit chair if special arrangements are necessary. A couple of years ago two special needs students were in the one practical class. One student was profoundly deaf and another could not write. The demonstrator found the class challenging as she needed to give a lot of assistance to the two students (and their aides who usually are very good but have no background in the discipline), while not neglecting the rest of the class. It can be quite tricky to achieve the right balance. If you find yourself in such a position, you need to talk with the unit chair, so that the class is perhaps kept smaller.

Many students have difficulty with spoken and /or written English. These students may not fully comprehend instructions and may try to overcome this by watching carefully and copying what they see other students doing. This behaviour is often difficult to pick. Students are supposed to have a certain level of competency in English before they enrol at Deakin but for some, classes are still an enormous struggle and prac classes and prac reports are the greatest hurdle. Division of Student Life has workshops on writing skills as well as writing skills advisors. The Academic Skills website is very useful for all students but struggling students in particular should be directed there for assistance.

 Activity: Students with special needs

Speak to your Unit Chair and find out if you have any students with special needs. If you do, determine what these needs are, whether they will have an assistant with them and what you need to do to work with these students.


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28th June 2011