What are some avoidable occurrences when providing instruction to students when some students may have accommodations? How can I best manage student behaviours while always keeping accommodations in mind?
This will be the first of four tips about classroom management. This past week has brought up many questions about responding to and managing student behaviors in the class and/or changing up the class rhythm to avoid such concerns. The examples below are re-crafted from long-ago cases but may help illustrate the type of concerns that can cause a student to respond negatively in class.
Examples of Possible Occurrences and Suggestions and Innovations
Occurrences which may be opportunities to learn from include:
- A faculty member may ask a student to move seats, forgetting that “preferred seating” was one of their accommodations. It is suggested to respect the seating choices of students, and address any seating related behavioural considerations one-to-one, after class.
- A faculty member may forget about a device-related accommodation and say something in class, such as “Can I get everyone to put their devices away?” thus preventing accommodated note-taking. It would be better to ask students to offer their full attention, and wait until you feel you have received it from the majority of the room. Students using devices for attentional/accommodated purposes will not be stigmatized.
- A faculty member may forget about a mobility-related accommodation, and not have a station allowing seated work, saying “Everyone will circulate to these 4 stations and write till I say to move.” It would be best to review all accommodations frequently, and consider incorporating seated work in all activities.
- A faculty member may not have been familiar with ways of referring to ability/disability and might have said something like, “Let’s all speak up as we have someone hearing impaired,” forgetting that the terms deaf and hard of hearing are acceptable to the deaf community, whereas impaired is not. It would have been better to simply rebroadcast the question that was asked and write key words on the board, so everyone can access it.
- A faculty member may suggest a student with an accommodation may want to “just write the quiz in class as it’s short,” or say something like “I forgot to load the changed test date to Accessibility Services,” or ” I forgot to pick up the tests.” This scenario would not meet the responsibility of providing the same level of service to all students, and is best avoided.
- A faculty member may have rearranged the class timing, forgetting that an accessibility support person for their student may have been scheduled with another student at that time, or that a student may have a deliberately spaced timetable. Such changes must be made sparingly and formally, through a Chair, and with advisement to Accessibility Services and Scheduling.
- A faculty member may say, “Why are so many people suffering from mental health issues or autism?” and open that up for class discussion. This could stigmatize and alienate many in the class who themselves, or whose loved ones, may be experiencing these conditions. This type of conversation may not be appropriate, if not tied to course outcomes, and is best avoided.
These are all unfortunate and avoidable occurrences. As educators, we are held to a high standard under Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and Ontario Human Rights (OHR) Code. It is suggested that if a student calls you out in class, apologize, ask pardon, and commit to doing better next time. Offer to have a chat after class as well, asking how you can help. On no account make excuses or diminish the harm the incident may have caused.
Teaching & Learning exists to help you adjust your teaching approaches. Reach out to a Teaching & Learning Consultant for any support or advice you may require. Accessibility Services Advisors can support you in discussing any accessibility related concerns, and in better understanding the impact of such occurrences on students.
For additional context, there is an interesting case from another institution to consider.