The case study describes a B.Ed student with auditory difficulties. She describes the difficulties she encountered during her first year at college and during a school placement, and the support she received.
On the course
So, when you say there is a certain style of tutoring that’s better for you, can you explain that to me a bit more?
Usually I can tell by talking to someone whether I will be able to learn from them. I speak to them about how they teach – do they do a lot of overheads, or just writing on the board or if they just talk. If they just talk I lose track of what’s going on, but if they are writing or print things on the screen, I can follow what goes on.
Can you remember back to when you first got here? The first week, like the induction process and so on, were there any arrangements to help you or did you need any help?
I found the first week quite difficult because everything was in big rooms, it was like the whole year together for the first couple of weeks. Everything was in a great big room and quite difficult to follow….It is difficult to see, the lighting is difficult…..I can’t read the board if it is too far away.
So did you miss out on stuff in the first week?
I didn’t like asking other people what was said. They gave us lots of written information so I just read that.
..did everybody on the course get a personal tutor?
Everybody got a personal tutor.
How has that worked?
It is a very good idea. Because I didn’t know what I was getting me until I turned up for the first meeting, but she sees me every week. She speaks to my tutors for me and things like that….If I need extra notes, or if I need help with my work.
In lectures, now, how does it work, because in induction you said you were in big rooms? Presumably some of the lectures are in lecture theatres.
We don’t really have lecture theatres, they are all in classrooms.
What things make it easier for you to understand, to hear what’s going on?
Natural light is better. It depends where the tutor stands too. If they stand with their back to the window, then their face is in shadow. Or if they stand right next to the OHP then I can’t see, but if they stand in front of it or behind it then I can.
What was the process for getting people on the course to know that? Has there been a process?
My PDR tutor didn’t know. Although once she found out she told my other tutors that I had special needs.
What do you feel about disclosing that issue with people on the course?
I don’t mind, but it would have been easier if my PDR teacher knew before I came. Then she would have known what to expect.
What sorts of things would you go through a tutor with if somebody said, ‘You are starting a new module next year and you need to go and speak to the tutor about things.’ What sort of things would you say to them?
It would help if I had the notes before the lesson so that I could follow them. Sometimes they think that if they speak louder and if they stand closer to me then I will be able to understand them – if they stand next to me, but that’s no use because then I can’t read their lips. They think they are being helpful by standing next to me but it’s not helpful.
Have you had any (tutors) that have said, ‘I can’t provide the notes, for instance?
This year only one tutor remembered to provide the notes…..Just one tutor gave me them every week, but every other tutor forgot….As time went on I’ve got friends in my class so I borrow theirs…..They don’t mind, but it is easier if I have the notes before because it helps me follow the lesson.
Do you do any group work? How do you find that?
I find that quite hard, actually…..The other students don’t understand that if you are sat next to them and if they all talk at once ….
You’ve done a piece of group work this year, have you? Tell me a bit about how that’s worked, or not worked.
It didn’t work. I didn’t gain much because I lost where they were up to in the conversation and I thought, ‘If I say anything it will be the wrong thing at the wrong time’. So I just didn’t say anything.
You said that in discussions you lost track of what people were saying, is there any way that could have been made better, either by the university or …
Sometimes it was just the room. They were all classrooms and I got diverted by other people. I couldn’t concentrate on the people because of the other people around.
Do you do examinations? Are you OK with that?
We don’t really have exams. We had one for numeracy…..I had a room on my own and I could use a dictionary.
Would you not rather be in the hall with anyone else? What is the reason for you having a separate room?
So I can use a dictionary and I can ask questions if there are words I don’t understand. It would be difficult with everyone else because they would all be wondering why I was using a dictionary.
Do you get a computer from the DSA?
Can you tell me in what ways that is useful?
I use the ‘Can teach’ website and the DfEE one a lot. It gave me lots of teaching tips and things. And on the NET website they had a thing for disabled teachers or students, and it gives you lots of handy tips for using in the classroom. That was quite helpful.
Your English language, in terms of writing, have you progressed that through school or have you had difficulties with that.
I did that through school but here I have got a tutor as well, who comes once a mont….They help me with my assignments. What I write is correct but it is not grammatically correct…..Before I used to speak I used to sign and the grammar is different, you put the subject at the beginning of the sentence. So it is quite difficult to remember when I am writing that the subject doesn’t always go at the beginning of the sentence.
What about using the library?
I use the library quite a lot but I find it quite hard work to find the things that I want……My tutor that comes to help me with my English helps me with my research to find the things I want.
You were talking about other students, what’s their attitude towards you?
Their attitudes were quite surprising, especially the ones that were in my main subject. They were saying, ‘You can’t be a teacher.’ And they were doing Special Needs as their main subject. They said, ‘You can’t be a teacher.’, and ‘What do you want to do that for?’ But most of them have been OK.
Do you do a placement on your course?
We’ve done one already.
What did you do?
Go in to school.
What did you teach?
How was that?
When I first went, the school didn’t know until the first meeting. They weren’t informed when they were to take a student, so they didn’t know until the meeting. My class teacher hadn’t worked with someone with an hearing impairment before and didn’t know how to speak. She didn’t know how to talk to me and didn’t know what to tell the children.
So what did you tell the children in the end?
The school told me not to tell them because it would confuse them.
So you never said anything?
I told them that they should face people when they talk to them, but that is what they should do anyway.
So did you have any problems at all in the teaching placement?
Not with the children but with the staff.
What were the problems then?
They were quite old-fashioned, some of the staff and ask how I could teach and said that I wouldn’t be able to cope in the classroom with all the children. It was quite difficult.
So how did you cope?
It was quite easy, actually, because you just face the children and you don’t turn your back on them. As long as you position them right and they sit in the right place, then you can see all of them.
So you were hearing everything that was going on?
I couldn’t hear them all but I could see what was going on. If we did group work or a thing with the whole class, I would just have a bean bag and if they weren’t holding the bean bag they couldn’t talk to me.
In a classroom, were you literally standing at the front and doing the proper teacher role? If they wanted to speak at the back, did you have problems hearing that, or did you hear them?
I could read their lips.
I suppose that everyone had to put their hand up and that kind of thing.
Yes. The teacher didn’t like it though that I had re-arranged them all to how she normally has them. I re-arranged them because I couldn’t see the people on the back row. So I had them just dotted around. She didn’t like it because they weren’t in line.
Did the teachers observe you teaching?
Did you pass?
Did they make any comments about that sort of thing?
Yes, she wrote it on my report.
What did you think about that?
She wrote that my classroom organisation is poor because they weren’t structured. But they don’t have to be sat in rows to be structured, they weren’t naughty or anything.
Are you allowed to comment back on that report?
Yes. I told her at the time that’s why I did it. She said that I had confused them by sitting them a different way. They thought it was exciting. They were fed up of sitting rows after a whole year.
Did you get chance to go back to the teachers and say, ‘Look, it’s worked, I’ve done it.’
She did admit at the end that it had worked but she said it had only worked because of the age of the children and if I went into an older class, it might not work. I’ve been to schools before and it has worked.
Is there anything that the university could have done?
The thing was I was supposed to have pre-visits to the school. But they sent me to (name of town) and they used to take us on a university bus. But because it was so far away I couldn’t get there to go to any pre-visits. But next year the PDR tutor said that she wants to be more involved. Because the tutor that they gave me is not a tutor that works at the university, she’s a retired head teacher and helps them out when they do school placements I couldn’t go to anybody in the university before I started my school experience because she wasn’t there.
When you are in the placement, did you get chance to talk to the placement tutor about that?
She only came once. We were there five weeks and she came one time but she had to see all the students in my school, so we didn’t really get much time one-to-one. She just observed me in the classroom.
You passed and you coped with it. Do you feel a bit short-changed in that somebody should have been dealing with the issues, or …
I remember when I had my interview and they talked about school experience and when I spoke to the lady, she said it would be OK because it will be in your report from (name of Access Centre) that you have to go and visit the school and someone from the university will speak to the school but it never happened.
What’s going to happen next year, then?
This year it was that the year head sorted the placements out and I don’t think she was really that aware … she just put me in with far away group, but my PDR tutor is going to be more involved this year. She wants to check that the placement is right for me and I can go before and somebody from the university will speak to the tutors in the school.
Three tips for lecturers
If you could give lecturers three tips on teaching better for yourself, specifically, what would they be?
Not to wander round the classroom. Not to switch the lights off then carry on talking or to repeat what they said when the lights went off have a summary. Not to talk to the board.
So the second one, about switching the lights off – when do they do that?
If it’s a video or the OHP they turn the lights off and then they talk. When they put the lights back on they could give a summary of what has happened. ….Some of the tutors are quite well-meaning but they really make me stand out. If we are having a class discussion, instead of saying it is easier to have a class discussion if everybody sits round the edge, they’ll say it will be better for Helen to read everybody’s lips if everybody sits round the edge. Really it’s a good arrangement to have anyway if you have a group discussion – everybody should sit round the edge, but they make it sound like it’s just for me. …Video. I can’t hear the videos. I can’t hear voice-overs. Some tutors make it really obvious say, ‘I know this is no good for you.’, but you just sit there. They don’t explain what the whole video is about before or after. They say it in front of the whole class this is no use for you.