There is a range of inclusive teaching strategies that can assist all students to learn but there are some specific strategies that are useful in teaching a group which includes students with mental illness.
In considering alternative forms of assessment, equal opportunity, not a guaranteed outcome, is the objective. You are not expected to lower standards to accommodate students with a disability, but rather are required to give them a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
Ways Faculty Can Help Students with Specific Learning Disabilities
First Day of Class
- Have copies of the syllabus ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of the semester so textbooks can be transcribed to e-text in as timely a manner as possible.
- Invite students to self-identify on the first day of class by making a public statement such as: "If you're registered with Disabilities Services please contact me to discuss disability accommodations. If you haven't registered for services yet go to Starr 313 to start the process."
- Include a disability access statement in the course syllabus.
- Keep instructions as brief and uncomplicated as possible. Repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
- Assist the student by finding effective notetakers from the class.
- Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
Lectures and Other Teaching Sessions
- Present lecture information in a visual format (e.g., overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.). Use visual aids or examples to illustrate key points. Videos, diagrams, practical and experimental activities also help to explain abstract concepts.
- Provide hand-outs (preferably electronically) in advance of lectures and display main points to be covered in each session. (Many dyslexic students find text easier to read if the background is a pale color rather than white).
- Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
- When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
- Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
- Provide study guides or review sheets for exams.
- Provide alternative ways for the students to do tasks.
- Introduce new concepts and vocabulary explicitly. Provide an overview of topics to emphasize the underlying structure and show how new material fits in with other parts of the subject
- Keep diagrams and slides clear and uncluttered, with limited content and in 'plain English' where possible.
- Encourage the use of assistive technology, such as tape recorders or laptops, if students are eligible for the accommodation. Allow audio-taping of teaching sessions wherever possible to assist comprehension and revision.
- Give any instructions or explanations in a clear sequence, orally and in writing, and explain the purpose of whatever is to be done
Writing Assignments and Examinations
- Allow the use of spell-check and grammar assistive devices when appropriate to the course and if a recommended accommodation.
- Focus feedback on content and structure and encourage computer use to improve presentation. Penalizing poor spelling or handwriting increases anxiety students with learning disabilities. Discuss these issues as appropriate.
- Provide assistance with proofreading written work or refer to the Writing Center.
- Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
- When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.
- Give reading lists in advance, preferably annotated or with guidance to identify essential texts. Give exact references for research articles.
- Offer help with time management and give plenty of warning of deadlines.
- Encourage the student to understand and build on their own strengths and ways of learning.
- Make sure coursework involves learning the skills needed to complete the course successfully.
- Help students to develop note-taking skills and encourage them to work in pairs or small groups after lectures to pool notes and review topics. Refer the student to the Academic Support Center for further assistance.
- Give the student time to think before answering questions in class, and enough time to read information before being expected to use or discuss the material.
- Email Disabilities Services at [email protected] for ideas to help individual students.