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Student Case Studies: Lectures and Classroom Teaching

Look at these scenarios illustrating how a student’s disability related needs can be impacted in different lectures and classroom teaching situations.   

Rebecca

Rebecca is an engineering student who has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia.

Read Rebecca’s case study

Rebecca is a final year Engineering student who has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia.

Rebecca’s course has a large amount of lecture-based input, where students often spend two hours or more in a lecture hall receiving teaching input from their tutors. Engineering is one of the biggest courses in the University so lectures tend to dominate the course, alongside the smaller practical sessions that Rebecca far prefers.

Up to now, Rebecca has struggled with her learning experience, particularly in lectures, where due to difficulties with memory and speed of processing information, she has often had to make the choice between concentrating on what is being said and on taking notes. Rebecca has found the pace of lectures too fast and this has also impacted on her concentration. She has found herself disengaging in many lectures and for some classes, Rebecca has consciously avoiding attendance, as she has found these lectures particularly difficult.

Rebecca feels that she has never got the balance quite right between listening and note-taking and ends up frustrated after most lessons. She feels that she has poor recall of what has been covered in lectures and ends up with sets of notes of limited use to her. Some lecturers do circulate notes or lecture slides in advance of lectures and Rebecca has learnt to use these to support a note-taking structure, but this is inconsistent and often the slides aren’t circulated until the day, meaning Rebecca can’t print them off beforehand.

Rebecca has tried to work around this by relying on friends to borrow notes on many occasions, but this not only highlights her difficulties and makes her dependent on other students, but Rebecca also still has to make her own notes each evening after her lectures and overlearn the topics covered. This results in Rebecca working much harder to embed knowledge that many of her non-dyslexic peers. As a result, Rebecca has found the course consistently challenging and has not achieved the results she had expected despite a huge amount of hard work.   

As a result of her challenges and in response to a suggestion from another student, Rebecca recently sought a diagnosis of dyslexia and she has recently received a report confirming this. As a result, she has met with staff from the university’s Student Services department and they have recommended some adjustments that will support Rebecca’s experience in lectures. These recommendations include notes to be provided in advance of lectures (two days in advance), the opportunity for Rebecca to record lectures and provision of some specialist study skills support from a specialist tutor to help with things like note-taking strategies and structuring her study. The more consistent provision of notes in advance has proved particularly helpful for Rebecca and she now loads these in advance on her laptop and uses a software programme called Audio-Notetaker to record audio against each slide and make occasional typed notes, highlighting key points. Though Rebecca can still lose track of what the lecturer is saying on occasions, she finds she can relax and focus on the content more, with the confidence that she will automatically have a more robust set of notes at the end of each lecture. Rebecca is now far happier in her studies and feels that she is getting greater benefit from the teaching she receives.

Pause for thought

  • How does Rebecca feel before her needs are recognised and then afterwards?
  • What do you think are the issues Rebecca faced before she received a diagnosis of having dyslexia?
  • Are these as a result of Rebecca or the environment?
  • Would other students also benefit from the adjustments made in response to Rebecca’s dyslexia? How might they benefit?

Charlie

Charlie is a psychology student whose physical impairment makes note-taking difficult.

Read Charlie’s case study

1. Charlie is a 38 year old psychology student with a physical impairment that means that they have difficulty in taking typed or written notes. Charlie also has social anxiety meaning that they are anxious about group tasks and don’t easily interact with their peers. Charlie’s anxiety in group situations impacts their cognition at times and can mean that it takes them time to understand tasks they have been given at short notice. This is a further source of concern for Charlie as they often find themselves on the outside of conversations or tasks as they try desperately to catch up with the flow of conversation or the purpose of an exercise.

Charlie has a seminar timetabled where an assignment will be discussed. There is some talk of a group task being involved as well but no-one is clear what that is. Charlie has been in similar seminars before and has not enjoyed them and hasn’t felt that they have learnt anything, particularly in the group task. They have struggled to take any meaningful notes so Charlie has also found themselves having to approach the tutor afterwards to ask for clarification on the detail of the assignment.

Charlie becomes increasingly anxious thinking about the seminar and is really not looking forward to attending. They are considering not attending at all.

Or…

2. Charlie is a 38 year old psychology student with a physical impairment that means that they have difficulty in taking typed or written notes. Charlie also has social anxiety meaning that they are anxious about group tasks and don’t easily interact with their peers. Charlie’s anxiety also means it takes them time to understand tasks they have been given at short notice. This is a further source of concern for Charlie.

Charlie has a small group seminar timetabled where an assignment will be discussed with five other students and their tutor. A week before the seminar, the tutor outlines what will be involved and follows this up by posting a lesson outline with lesson goals and some background information a few days before the seminar. Charlie reads these to understand the structure of the seminar and is pleased to see that the group task is explained and that there is information about the assignment. Charlie has briefly undertaken reading about the topic to prepare themselves and checks that it is ok to use their voice-recorder to record the discussions in the seminar instead of making notes. Though Charlie finds group situations challenging, they have prepared their thoughts and are able to make some key points during the group discussion. Charlie still has some questions regarding the assignment after the seminar but having gone over their notes, finds that these have been answered.

Charlie feels that they have benefitted from the seminar and is looking forward to getting started on the assignment.

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’s impairment of the envieonment?
  • Would other students also benefit from the differences illustrated in the second scenario? If so, how might this be?

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