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Student Case Studies: Group Work and Presentations

Look at these scenarios illustrating how a student’s needs can be impacted by their university experience.

Alex

Alex is hearing impaired student with dyslexia. During a lecture the class is asked to break into small groups to discuss an issue that has been covered in the lecture and then feedback to the class after 15 minutes.

Read Alex’s case study

Consider these two version’s of Alex’s story:

Version 1

The tutor gives a brief overview of the task and leaves some simple instructions projected onto the whiteboard. Alex tries to work with students near them in a group and they start to discuss the topic. Alex is trying to understand what the task, but the group starts discussing the topic straight away. Alex tries to ask the group what they think the task is but isn’t sure they agree with what they say. It doesn’t seem to correspond to what is written on the slide. Alex tries to follow the conversation but due to the noise in the room isn’t able to do so. They do catch some of what their nearest group member says and has some ideas they want to contribute in response but the conversation seems to have moved on by the time Alex has formulated their idea. The discussion begins to leave Alex behind even though the group do try to involve them and Alex stops trying to contribute, focussing on trying to follow the flow of the conversation and make some mental notes. When the group feeds back the most vocal members offer their feedback. Alex doesn’t feel able to contribute. When the tutor asks for additional points, Alex stays quiet.

Version 2

Alex is hearing impaired student with dyslexia. The notes for their lecture have been posted up on the VLE the day before and details of a group task have been included in these. Due to their dyslexia Alex makes a point of downloading these and reading them through as this help them to prepare in advance for the key elements of the lecture. During a lecture the class is asked to break into small groups to discuss an issue that has been covered in the lecture and then feedback to the class after 15 minutes. The tutor goes over the brief overview of the task again and leaves a slide projected onto the whiteboard showing some simple instructions. The tutor also suggests groups find quiet break out spaces for the task and suggests some that they have identified close to the lecture room. Alex has decided they will work with some students they are used to working with who are aware of Alex’s hearing impairment. The Alex has asked them and the lecturer if they can leave the room to work in a quieter environment. This has been agreed. Alex outlines with the others their understanding of the task and the group starts discussing the topic straight away. As the group members know Alex prefers a slower pace of discussion, they all make their points clearly and give Alex time to contribute. Alex has thought about the topic beforehand so has had time to formulate their points. When the group feeds back the most vocal members offer their feedback but Alex doesn’t mind as they have felt able to contribute. When the tutor asks for additional points, Alex makes on of their own.

Pause for thought

  • How does Alex feel in each of these scenarios?
  • What do you think are the issues that Alex faces in the first scenario?
  • Are the issues due to Alex themself or the environment?
  • Would other students also benefit from the differences illustrated in the second scenario?

Charlie

Charlie is an autistic student with social anxiety. Charlie has been asked to prepare and present a talk to their course on a topic that they know well.

Read Charlie’s case study

Consider these two versions of Charlie’s story:

Version 1

Charlie has been asked to prepare this in a group that has been randomly allocated to them. This is an assessed piece of work in their first year of study. Charlie previously did a similar presentation at Sixth Form college and it caused them sleepless nights as they felt that they hadn’t been able to contribute to the group work, as they hadn’t agreed about the task, the group met in a busy café and as a result Charlie didn’t get on very well with them. This was largely because Charlie didn’t agree with the way the group wanted to do the presentation. Charlie had similar concerns about this group and felt that some of the group didn’t work as hard as they did and also had a different view of the task. Though Charlie might ordinarily have felt presenting in a group helped them, they were anxious about presenting something that they didn’t really agree with. On the day Charlie did try to present but in the feedback was told they had poor body language and lack of eye contact.

Version 2

Charlie is an autistic student with social anxiety. They have been asked to prepare and present a talk to their course on a topic that they know well. They have been asked to prepare this in a group of fellow students. Charlie is able to choose their group. This is a formative peer assessed project. Charlie previously did a similar presentation at Sixth Form college and it caused them sleepless nights as they felt that they hadn’t been able to contribute to the group work and as a result Charlie didn’t get on very well with them. This was largely because Charlie didn’t agree with the way the group wanted to do the presentation. Charlie’s tutor encourages the group to use WhatsApp and email to work on their presentation and supports them in breaking down the tasks between them. Charlie and the group are given the opportunity of presenting by video or just to the tutor but having agreed roles, Charlie and the group want to present to the class. All the groups are encouraged to use a variety of methods to present their work including VLOG, film clips and posters. It is clear that the exercise is a test of the group’s knowledge and preparation, not their presentation skills. Charlie was glad to present in a group and though they were still a little anxious beforehand Charlie felt the overall presentation went well and the group was given positive feedback for their preparation.

Pause for thought

  • How does Charlie feel in each of these scenarios?
  • What do you think are the issues Charlie faces in the first scenario?
  • Are these as a result of Charlie or the environment?
  • Would other students also benefit from the differences illustrated in the second scenario?

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