Small groups and seminars

Generic information on common learning activities


Small class teaching, including seminars and tutorials

Learning in small groups forms an important part of advanced education and training. It is important that disabled students should be able to participate as fully as others, but these situations can often pose particular problems for them.

You will need to consider the environment in which the session takes place, the way in which it is structured and delivered and the content of the session in order to ensure disabled students can fully participate. It can be useful to seek suggestions from disabled students themselves, as they are experts on their own disabilities.

Approaches to Inclusion

Consider the physical environment and whether it allows the disabled student to participate fully as a member of the group. In any small group situation, make sure that all participants can see each other clearly. A semi-circle is ideal for this. It may be important for hearing impaired students to be able to sit with their backs to the daylight for lip-reading purposes. Deaf students will need a clear view if sign language interpreters are used. Wheelchairs take up a lot of space, so make sure that there is room and that users can place themselves within the group.

Consider where the room is situated. Are there easily accessible routes to it? Students with mobility impairments may take longer to get to it. It is helpful to be away from any noisy environments as this will disadvantage hearing impaired students.

Ensure that the session is well chaired, that everyone participates and that each person indicates when they are to speak. Students with visual and hearing impairments will find this useful and it can help the former if a visible object (like a relay baton) is passed from speaker to speaker.

Tiredness can be an issue for students with dyslexia, ME or a sensory disability as their concentration levels may need to be higher. Consider breaking sessions up into a number of different activities.

If a student is to lead a session, consider asking them to provide their presentation notes in advance and make sure that they are aware of the communication needs of their audience.

Be aware that using video material can exclude some disabled students. Consider providing transcripts and alternative sources of similar information. When using PowerPoint or overhead projection presentations, it is important to consider the number of slides used, the amount of information on each one and the pace of delivery. Consider providing these in advance.

Some disabled students have problems with multi-tasking.  For example, a hearing impaired student cannot be lip-reading, and reading or writing at the same time.

Specific Advice

Consider the location of disabled students within the group. They need to be able to see everyone clearly and to feel that they are part of the group.

Ensure lighting is adequate for all your students, including those with visual and hearing impairments.

Consider how you chair the discussion. You may need to more actively chair in order for disabled students to participate fully.

Consider providing copies of any notes and slides used in the session. This can be done in various formats including email, disk and on the web as well as hard copy. This will be of benefit to many disabled students including those with dyslexia, sensory impairments and physical impairments.

Liaise with your room bookings staff to ensure that teaching rooms are accessible and accessible routes to them are practical for students to use in the time available.


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