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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Small Changes Aid Students of All Abilities

Simple modifications in classroom teaching practices could greatly assist college students with disabilities and help out the rest of the class to boot, in the view of an Assumption College professor.

In a guest column for The Chronicle of Higher Education, James M. Lang recounted how his institution invited faculty to hear a panel of students discuss their various disabilities and what they needed in the way of accommodation to succeed in their coursework.

For the most part, the students asked for easy changes that would add little to no time or cost to an instructor’s lecture preparation and wouldn’t disrupt class proceedings. Among the requested alterations were: writing larger and more legibly on whiteboards with black markers (not colors); creating PowerPoint slides with fewer words in bigger type; and providing PowerPoints or other materials before or after class so students can review them on their own.

“In example after example, [the students] described teaching practices that would have universal benefit in the classroom and that could be adopted without putting a spotlight on students with disabilities,” Lang noted. “So if I take a little more time and effort to make my writing large, legible, and organized on the whiteboard, I am going to help the student with visual impairments—but I’m also going to help everyone in the room take better notes on our discussion.”

Lang suggested that faculty “should take the diversity of learners into consideration up front as we design our courses. And if we do, we will need to make fewer accommodations at the request of specific students, because inclusive design practices help all learners succeed.”

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