Dance, Drama and Performance

Defining characteristics of dance, drama and performance

The area of DDP comprises the study of:
• discrete fields of activity, conventionally characterised as the ‘disciplines’ of dance, drama, theatre, performance and their production, within which each has its own intellectual/ practical performance traditions, bodies of knowledge, skills and concepts
• areas which combine these activities with video, film, television, radio and multidisciplinary performance
• work which integrates a variety of modes of performance and creation, including other media, digital arts and new technologies, and interdisciplinary and intermedia performance. It is in this arena, particularly, that the boundaries of the performing arts dissolve as new practices and processes challenge existing conceptions.

The practice and conceptual bases of the performing arts are, therefore, discrete, diverse and inter-related. They do not embrace a stable body of knowledge and skills but are characterised by changing social, political and artistic values and practices; it is the dynamic nature of these cultural practices and their frequently contested nature that sustains the vitality of the subject areas. Reciprocally, the activities of students and staff in HEIs impact upon and change those practices.

Given the diversity and dynamism of the subject domain it is vital that any definition of the subject does not constrain future innovation, nor should the continuation of well-established methodologies and engagement with traditional subject matter be threatened.

This diversity and development is reflected in the provision of DDP at bachelor’s degree with honours level in the higher education sector of the UK, for example, some HEIs offer:

  • specialist vocational training in conservatoires of dance, drama, theatre, performance and production arts
  • single honours dance, drama, theatre or performance, or programmes with a similar nomenclature
  • combined honours programmes bringing together dance, drama and performance or dance, drama and performance with subjects beyond this domain
  • interdisciplinary courses in which no specific subject is named in the award (for example, contemporary arts). In these a blurring of categorical boundaries between art forms, particularly in contemporary practice, has led to combinations of dance, drama and performance with, for example, visual arts, digital arts, music and writing.

Professional bodies may have an influence on standards and awards within some
departments in HEIs. For example, the National Council for Drama Training and the
Council for Dance Education and Training, through their historical accreditation of
drama/theatre and dance programmes in the UK, continue to prescribe professional
standards in the context of some vocational honours degree awards.

Nature and scope of dance, drama and performance

The subject domain comprises a ‘family’ of methods, practices, disciplines and fields of study. In broad terms, the field of study includes:
• practical work experienced in the performance, creation, design and presentation of dance, drama, theatre, performance, and production, and related areas, such as film, television and radio study, both in terms of process and product
• theoretical studies (for example, analytic, historical, critical, contextual) appropriate to the context of the award in dance, drama, theatre, performance and production, and related multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary areas
• performance and production in relation to technologies (film, television, video, digital sound and imaging)
• preparation for vocational destinations.

The area embraces the study of the performance traditions of non-western cultures
and the cultural pluralism that informs historical and contemporary performance practice.

The ‘family’ is characterised by the following common features:
• knowledge and understanding of the ways in which ‘performance’ originates, is constructed, circulated and received
• ’embodied knowledge’ and ‘practice as research’
• the acquisition of knowledge, skills and understanding through processes of research, action, reflection and evaluation
• practical, workshop-based learning is normally a feature of all DDP programmes – practical learning can involve active participation in all, some or a combination of the following:
    o rehearsal/devising processes
    o production
    o performance
    o technical theatre/media
    o production management – including stage management
    o reflecting the public and community nature of performance practice, particular emphasis may be placed on collaborative learning and heuristic principles, on ‘learning through doing’ in group contexts
    o study may embrace analysis of theory and of performance texts, which may be written or notated. Equally, emphasis may be placed upon the study of the design and creation of performance as an event or process
    o research – practical and/or theoretical – is seen as a necessary requirement for engagement with all facets of performance an  production practice and theory
    o the location of practice within an appropriate framework of ideas, histories and skills.

Studies in DDP are further informed by concepts and methods drawn from a wide and diverse range of other disciplines. In turn, DDP offer their own distinct theories and practices to other fields of study.

Different skills and knowledge are called for in the different destinations of graduates in this area. Common destinations include the professional arts, the entertainment industries, applied arts, community work, education, scholarship and the media industries. ‘Graduateness’ in this domain cannot be defined in the singular but will involve a range of both subject-specific and generic skills. The transferable skills of graduates in this domain are those much sought after in other environments such as business and commerce. These skills include those of communication (written, oral and performance), of research and analysis, the ability to work independently, interpersonally and in groups, to deadlines and under pressure, with flexibility, imagination, self-motivation and organisation.

The subject identifies the following groups of learning activities. You can view the potential challenges related to each here (please note some of these links contain large amounts of data and may therefore take some time to load).

assessment
graduate and generic skills
subject skills and other skills

Resources – Dance, Drama and Performance

For further information on dance, drama and performance, please see the following external links and references:

If you would like to recommend any links to be added to this page please email s.smith@worc.ac.ukĀ 


Accessing and Networking with National and International Expertise (ANNIE) http://www.kent.ac.uk/sdfva/ANNIE/ie/index.htm.

Artifact http://www.artifact.ac.uk/.

Arts Empowerment http://www.artslynx.org/heal/index.htm.

Assessing Group Practice http://assessing-groupwork.ulst.ac.uk/.

Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union http://www.bectu.org.uk/.

Consortium of Arts and Design Institutions in Southern England (CADISE) http://www.cadise.ac.uk/.

Disability Arts Against Exclusion http://www.bild.org.uk/publications/arts_leisure.htm.

Equity http://www.equity.org.uk/.

The Higher Education Academy – PALATINE Dance, Drama and Music http://www.lancs.ac.uk/palatine/.

Masquerade http://masqueradedrama.org.uk/.

The Performance Reflective Practice Project http://www.hum.dmu.ac.uk/Research/PA/ReP/index.shtml.

Practice as Research in Performance (PARIP) http://www.bristol.ac.uk/parip/.

Project on the Effectiveness of Problem-Based Learning (PEBL) http://www.hebes.mdx.ac.uk/teaching/Research/PEPBL/.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Memory / Recall Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


Paired Associate Learning

Paired Associate Learning (PAL), or flash cards, is a good strategy to use when a subject requires the memorisation and understanding of large amounts of factual material such as various vocabulary words, terms and definitions.

PAL involves the pairing or connection made by the student between a known or unknown stimulus and a known or unknown response. For example, in Economics, the word for buyer is consumer. Buyer is the known stimulus that must be linked to the unknown vocabulary word, consumer. Often both the stimulus and the response are unknown. For example, in art history, students must learn what the word chiaroscuro means. Since chiaroscuro is a word most students have never encountered, both the word (stimulus) and its definition (response) must be learned. The use of Paired Associate (PA) cards is an efficient and effective method of learning this sort of factual material.

The process of using PA cards involves two steps:

  • The development of cards according to your personal learning style.
  • The use of the cards over a period of time for practice and rehearsal
How to Develop Cards

Don’t be discouraged if your first response from the student to the suggestion of making PA cards is a negative one. Many students already feel overloaded by all the demands of Higher Education courses, and they are hesitant to make a commitment to learning a strategy that involves extra work. The use of PAL does require students to prepare cards throughout the semester rather than cramming all of the studying into the night before an exam. On the other hand, students who use PA cards may suffer from far less stress and anxiety before exams because they feel better prepared and more confident.

Students should be encouraged to make cards that are based on their individual learning strengths and weaknesses. For example, auditory learners might develop cards that rhyme ~ the stimulus and the response, visual learners may prefer to use drawings to represent information.

Once the students have developed a style for card making, they should find that they are able to produce effective cards rapidly. They may also find that making cards also gives them proof of studying and a feeling that they are making real progress with their learning.

Using PA Cards to Learn

The second step of PAL is learning the material on the cards. Once the student has developed a group of cards, they can use them to quiz themselves on a regular basis by looking only at one side of the card and trying to remember the proper response. Alternatively, the students can look at the response and try to recall the stimulus.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Mobility Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aims to end the discrimination which many disabled people face. The DDA will affect dance organisations of all scales and types, potentially impacting on the way they deliver services and provision of access for disabled people. 2001 saw an amendment to the act relating specifically to education (The Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA)), which requires that:

  • Disabled people must not be treated less favourably than non disabled people for reasons related to their disability without justification.
  • There is a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.

Disabled people make up between 14% and 26% of the population, depending on the definition used (although only 4% of the disabled population are wheelchair users). And the expectations disabled people have about access and inclusion are growing all the time. It is time for all sectors, including the dance sector, to think through the issues that inclusion brings and form a coherent response. The Dance and Drama Awards scheme has done so. It is now equipping all the schools involved in the scheme with guidance on access and inclusion, providing a specifically created day long session of disability equality training for each school and developing a number of pilot action research projects designed at bridging gaps in the sector including:

  • A foundation course for disabled dancers run by CandoCo in partnership with a school.
  • A programme for musical theatre looking at new writing and new approaches being developed by Guildford School of Acting.
  • Research into a programme for learning disabled dancers.

In some areas, the dance sector has been quick to respond to the inclusion agenda, in others it has been a real fight to even get the subject discussed. However, the increased inclusion of disabled people is now everyone’s responsibility and now, thanks to the DDA, everyone’s legal obligation. Educational providers need to take into consideration the needs of their learners, but also their audiences when putting on productions or exhibitions, reasonable steps must be taken to:

  • Provide auxiliary aids and services to enable, or make it easier for a disabled person to use a service.
  • Change policies, practices and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service.
  • Provide a service through a reasonable alternative method which will overcome barriers presented by physical features.

For example, it may be considered unreasonably difficult for a visitor with arthritis, who finds standing for more than a few minutes painful, to have to stand to view an exhibition. By providing appropriate seating, the organisation would be making a reasonable adjustment. However, if a visitor cannot use the seating, because it was too low, this would not be a reasonable adjustment. Other considerations for students and audiences with mobility difficulties might include: providing a pre-booking or telephone information service about productions, ensuring presentations are at an appropriate height for wheelchair users, considering evacuation procedures at venues, the use of portable ramps if access is difficult and is there sufficient accessible parking available for students and visitors?

In many cases all that is required is some creative thinking, new attitudes and new solutions with regard to inclusivity. Try to think of reasonable but cost effective ways of delivering the curriculum of offering the service if the physical environment makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use it.

Institutions are legally liable for any acts of discrimination carried out by a member of staff. A useful starting point is to consider implementing the following:

  • A procedure for training and informing all teaching staff in the department about reasonable adjustments and the implications of discriminating against students.
  • A policy towards disabled students.
  • An appropriate complaints mechanism.
  • An amendment to the Equal Opportunities Policy

Look carefully at all the educational opportunities provided for students e.g. exhibitions, concerts, festivals, training, workshops, conferences, information, library and research facilities, venues, transport, etc. Decide a priority for areas requiring attention and how this will be achieved and devise an action plan detailing how the changes will be implemented and monitored.


This case study outlines the experiences of staff and students working with a student wheelchair user on a Dance and Professional Practice Programme at Coventry University

Dance, Drama and Performance and Motivation

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


General Motivational Strategies

Capitalise on Students’ Existing Need

Students learn best when incentives for learning satisfy personal motives for enrolling on the course of study. Motives will vary from student to student and could include the following: a need to learn something in order to complete a specific task or activity, the desire to seek new experiences, the need to perfect skills, the need to overcome challenges, the need to become competent, the need to succeed and do well, the need to feel involved and to interact with other people. Satisfying such needs will be rewarding in itself, and such rewards sustain learning more effectively than achieving good grades alone. (Source: McMillan and Forsyth, 1991).

Make Students Active Participants in Learning

Students learn by doing, making, writing, designing, creating, solving. Passivity dampens student motivation and curiosity. Questions could be posed to students instead of telling them how to do something. Encouraging students to suggest approaches to problems or guessing the results of experiments will help them to solve problems. (Source: Lucas, 1990).

Ask Students to Analyse What Makes Classes More or Less ‘Motivating’

Sass (1989) asks his classes to recall two recent teaching sessions, one in which they felt highly motivated and one in which they felt less motivated. Each student is asked to make a list of specific aspects of the two classes that they feel influenced motivational levels. Students are then asked to meet in small groups to discuss the characteristics that contribute to feelings of high and low motivation. In over twenty courses, Sass reports, the same eight characteristics emerge as major contributors to student motivation:

  • Instructor’s enthusiasm.
  • Relevance of the material.
  • Organisation of the course.
  • Appropriate difficulty level of the material.
  • Active involvement of students.
  • Variety.
  • Rapport between tutor and students.
  • Use of appropriate, concrete, and understandable examples.
Hold High but Realistic Expectations for Students

Research has shown that a tutor’s expectations have a powerful effect on student performance. Acting as if it is expected that students will be motivated, hardworking, and interested in the course, will ensure they are more likely to be so. Setting realistic expectations for students with regard to assignments, giving presentations, conducting discussions, and grading examinations, will also help them to achieve. ‘Realistic’ in this context means that standards are high enough to motivate students to produce best work but not so high that students will inevitably be frustrated in trying to meet those expectations. To develop the drive to achieve, students need to believe that achievement is possible – which means providing early opportunities for success. (Sources: American Psychological Association, 1992; Bligh, 1971; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Help Students to Set Achievable Goals for Themselves

Failure to attain unrealistic goals can disappoint and frustrate students. Students need to be encouraged to focus on continued development and improvement, not just on the next assignment or exam. Students can be assisted in this by encouraging them to critique individual work, analyse strengths, and work on weaknesses. E.g. asking students to submit self-evaluation forms with assignments. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Tell Students What They Need to do to Succeed on the Course

Don’t allow students to struggle to find out what is expected of them. Reassure them that they can do well on the course, and tell them exactly what they must do to succeed. An example of this might be to say to students "if you can handle the examples on these problem sheets, you can pass the exam." Or, instead of saying, "you’re really behind," tell the student, "here is one way you could go about learning the material, what can I do to help you?" (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Tiberius, 1990).

Avoid messages that reinforce the tutor’s power as an instructor or that emphasise extrinsic rewards. Instead of saying, "I require," "you must," or "you should," stress "I think you will find…" or "I will be interested in your reaction." (Source: Lowman, 1990).

Avoid Creating Intense Competition Among Students

Competition produces anxiety, which can interfere with learning. Bligh (1971) reports that students are more attentive, display better comprehension, produce more work, and are more favourable to the teaching method when they work co-operatively in groups rather than compete as individuals. Refrain from public criticisms of performance and from comments or activities that pit students against each other. (Sources: Eble, 1988 and Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Be Enthusiastic About the Subject

An instructor’s enthusiasm is a crucial factor in student motivation. A bored or apathetic tutor will encourage boredom amongst students. Typically, a tutor’s enthusiasm comes from confidence, excitement about the content, and genuine pleasure in teaching. When interest for the subject wanes, tutor’s should think back to what was attractive about the subject – these aspects of the subject matter could be brought to life for the student. Devising exciting ways to present material could be seen as a challenge, however dull the material itself may seem.

Work From Students’ Strengths and Interests

It is helpful to find out why students are enrolled on the course, how they feel about the subject matter, and what expectations are. This enables tutors to devise examples, case studies or assignments that are relevant to students’ interests and experiences. Take time to explain how the content and objectives of the course will help students to achieve personal educational or professional goals.

If Possible, Let Students Have Some Say in Choosing What Will Be Studied

Give students options on term papers or other assignments (but not on tests). Let them decide between two locations for a field trip, or have them select which topics they want to explore in greater depth. If possible include optional or alternative units within the course. (Sources: Ames and Ames, 1990; Cashin, 1979; Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman, 1984).

Increase the Difficulty of the Material as the Semester Progresses

Give students the opportunity to succeed at the beginning of the semester and then gradually increase the difficulty level once they feel they can succeed. If assignments and examinations include easier and harder questions, every student will have a chance to experience success as well as challenge. (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Use Varied Teaching Methods

Variety reawakens students’ involvement in the course and motivation levels. Break routines by incorporating a variety of teaching activities and methods within the course: role playing, debates, brainstorming, discussion, demonstrations, case studies, audiovisual presentations, guest speakers or group work. (Source: Forsyth and McMillan, 1991).

Emphasise Mastery and Learning Rather Than Grades

Ames and Ames (1990) report on two secondary school maths tutors. One tutor graded every homework assignment and counted homework as 30 percent of a student’s final grade. The second told students to spend a fixed amount of time on homework (thirty minutes a night) and to bring questions back to the class regarding problems they could not complete. This tutor graded homework as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, gave students the opportunity to redo assignments, and counted homework as 10 percent of the final grade. Although homework was a smaller part of the course grade, the second tutor was more successful in motivating students to do homework. In the first class, some students gave up rather than risk low evaluations of ability. In the second class, students were not risking personal self-worth each time they did homework but rather were attempting to learn. Mistakes were viewed as acceptable and something to learn from.

Researchers recommend de-emphasising grading by eliminating complex systems of credit points; they also advise against trying to use grades to control non-academic behaviour (e.g. lowering grades for missed classes) (Forsyth and McMillan, 1991 and Lowman 1990). Instead, assign ungraded written work, stress the personal satisfaction of doing assignments, and help students measure progress.

Design Tests That Encourage the Kind of Learning Students are Expected to Achieve

Many students will learn whatever is necessary to obtain the grades they desire. If tests are based on memorising details, students will focus on memorising facts. If tests stress the synthesis and evaluation of information, students will be motivated to practice those skills when they study. (Source: McKeachie, 1986).

Avoid Using Grades as Threats

As McKeachie (1986) points out, the threat of low grades may prompt some students to work hard, but others may resort to academic dishonesty, excuses for late work or other counterproductive behaviour.

Responding to Students’ Work

Give students feedback as quickly as possible. Return tests and papers promptly, and reward success publicly and immediately. Give students some indication of how well they have done and how to improve. Rewards can be as simple as saying a student’s response was good, with an indication of why it was good, or mentioning the names of contributors, e.g. "X’s point about X really synthesised the ideas we have been discussing." (Source: Cashin, 1979).

Both positive and negative comments influence motivation, but research consistently indicates that students are more affected by positive feedback and success. Praise builds students’ self-confidence, competence and self-esteem. If a student’s performance is weak, they will benefit from knowing that the tutor expects them to improve and succeed over time. (Sources: Cashin, 1979 and Lucas, 1990).

  • Introduce students to good work completed by peers.
  • Share the ideas, knowledge and accomplishments of individual students with the whole class.
  • Pass around a list of research topics so that students will know whether others are writing papers of interest to them.
  • Make available copies of good examples of previous essays.
  • Provide class time for students to read papers or assignments submitted by classmates.
  • Have students write a brief critique of a classmate’s paper.
  • Schedule a brief talk by a student who has experience or who is doing a research paper on a topic relevant to the lecture.
  • If negative feedback is necessary, make sure it is specific and relates to the particular task or performance and not the individual student as a person.
  • Many students may be anxious about performance and ability – being sensitive to this when phrasing comments avoiding offhand remarks, will help students to remain positive.
  • Ask students for a possible approach to a problem.
  • Praise students for small, independent steps.

In following these steps, students will learn that it is acceptable not to have an instant answer. They will also learn to develop greater patience and to work at individual pace. And by working through the problem, students will experience a greater sense of achievement and confidence that will increase the motivation to learn.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Motor / Manual Dexterity Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aims to end the discrimination which many disabled people face. The DDA will affect dance organisations of all scales and types, potentially impacting on the way they deliver services and provision of access for disabled people. 2001 saw an amendment to the act relating specifically to education (The Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA)), which requires that:

  • Disabled people must not be treated less favourably than non disabled people for reasons related to their disability without justification.
  • There is a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.

Disabled people make up between 14% and 26% of the population, depending on the definition used (although only 4% of the disabled population are wheelchair users). And the expectations disabled people have about access and inclusion are growing all the time. It is time for all sectors, including the dance sector, to think through the issues that inclusion brings and form a coherent response. The Dance and Drama Awards scheme has done so. It is now equipping all the schools involved in the scheme with guidance on access and inclusion, providing a specifically created day long session of disability equality training for each school and developing a number of pilot action research projects designed at bridging gaps in the sector including:

  • A foundation course for disabled dancers run by CandoCo in partnership with a school.
  • A programme for musical theatre looking at new writing and new approaches being developed by Guildford School of Acting.
  • Research into a programme for learning disabled dancers.

In some areas, the dance sector has been quick to respond to the inclusion agenda, in others it has been a real fight to even get the subject discussed. However, the increased inclusion of disabled people is now everyone’s responsibility and now, thanks to the DDA, everyone’s legal obligation. Educational providers need to take into consideration the needs of their learners, but also their audiences when putting on productions or exhibitions, reasonable steps must be taken to:

  • Provide auxiliary aids and services to enable, or make it easier for a disabled person to use a service.
  • Change policies, practices and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service.
  • Provide a service through a reasonable alternative method which will overcome barriers presented by physical features.

For example, it may be considered unreasonably difficult for a visitor with arthritis, who finds standing for more than a few minutes painful, to have to stand to view an exhibition. By providing appropriate seating, the organisation would be making a reasonable adjustment. However, if a visitor cannot use the seating, because it was too low, this would not be a reasonable adjustment. Other considerations for students and audiences with mobility difficulties might include: providing a pre-booking or telephone information service about productions, ensuring presentations are at an appropriate height for wheelchair users, considering evacuation procedures at venues, the use of portable ramps if access is difficult and is there sufficient accessible parking available for students and visitors?

In many cases all that is required is some creative thinking, new attitudes and new solutions with regard to inclusivity. Try to think of reasonable but cost effective ways of delivering the curriculum of offering the service if the physical environment makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use it.

Institutions are legally liable for any acts of discrimination carried out by a member of staff. A useful starting point is to consider implementing the following:

  • A procedure for training and informing all teaching staff in the department about reasonable adjustments and the implications of discriminating against students.
  • A policy towards disabled students.
  • An appropriate complaints mechanism.
  • An amendment to the Equal Opportunities Policy

Look carefully at all the educational opportunities provided for students e.g. exhibitions, concerts, festivals, training, workshops, conferences, information, library and research facilities, venues, transport, etc. Decide a priority for areas requiring attention and how this will be achieved and devise an action plan detailing how the changes will be implemented and monitored.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Organisational Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


Development of effective organisational skills can be affected by a number of factors such as if the student has dyslexia or dyscalculia and finds it difficult to organise their thoughts and apply them to the solving of problems. Another example could be if the student has ADHD and finds it difficult to focus on the relevant information without being distracted by external factors. It is possible that some students simply haven’t developed effective organisational skills prior to entering Higher Education and application of some of these strategies are likely to be beneficial to all students regardless of the cause of the difficulties.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help all students to develop their organisational skills, and these can be summarised as follows:

  • Ask students to locate another tutor, or a member of their peer group that can act as a monitor of progress, and can regularly review the student’s progress on their assignments. Encourage students to meet on a regular basis with their monitors to discuss progress and to plan and organise for the forthcoming work.
  • Encourage the use of diaries and calendars to help organise deadlines and schedule study appointments.
  • If students have difficulties managing long assignments, encourage them to break these down into smaller sequences of short, interrelated activities.
  • Students may need help to make structured notes either during lectures or from textual information sources. This help may take the form of an appointed note-taker (depending on the severity of the difficulties experienced by the student) or by running short tutorials on effective note-taking and encouraging all students to attend.
  • Consider providing a checklist of mistakes that the student frequently makes in their written assignments and encourage the student to refer to this list when proof reading their work prior to handing it in. Ensure the list has a positive slant and is not simply a long list of criticism.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Speech Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

Some students will have difficulties communicating through speech. A person may have problems articulating their thoughts in a spoken way (dysphasia), or injury or medical conditions such as a stroke or cerebral palsy, can lead to a lack of control of the muscles involved in producing speech. Fluency difficulties such as stuttering and stammering may also occur. Those born profoundly deaf will have difficulty communicating through speaking, as this is learnt primarily by hearing speech. An inability to express themselves adequately may result in a person with a speech impairment being perceived as less able or intelligent than they actually are.

Speech-impaired students will most likely be used to managing their difficulties in a variety of situations before they reach university and will have developed their own strategies for communication.

People with severe speech impairments may use assistive technology such as electronic or computerised voice synthesisers to communicate. Note pads and communication boards can also be used, or a student may communicate with an assistant acting as a communicator, or by signing to an interpreter. Language is primarily learnt by hearing and speaking it so, as with hearing impaired students, students with a speech difficulty may experience difficulty and may find extra language tuition helpful.

The key point for staff to remember is to value the student’s own insight into his or her needs. Communicate with the speech-impaired student well in advance, using the student’s preferred means of communication, and discuss how the student has coped in similar situations. These methods may then be adapted to allow the student to contribute effectively in tutorial or group-work situations.

In some cases, the student may simply need reassurance. For example, he or she may feel self-conscious about slow speech. You may be able to assure the student that slow speech will enable other students in a tutorial situation to think about what is being said. You may also make the point that other students tend to be understanding and helpful in group situations.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help all computing students with speech difficulties, and these can be summarised as follows:

  • Speech difficulties can be affected by a person’s emotional state. Speech is often clearer when a person is feeling confident and relaxed, and this is one of the most important factors to consider when communicating with people who have speech difficulties. Make tutorials, etc. as relaxed and informal as possible.
  • It may prove useful to have a meeting at the beginning of the semester to discuss any concerns and requirements that the student may have. The student should already have developed their own coping strategies and should be able to advise you on what support they are likely to find beneficial.
  • Students with communication difficulties may take longer to express themselves than other students, requiring patience and understanding from staff. Try to talk in a relaxed setting with no time pressures. Some people may find it especially hard to maintain fluent speech in stressful situations such as during oral examinations or when making a presentation to the rest of the group. Where such tasks are time limited in nature, consider if it is appropriate to offer the person a few minutes extra to complete the task so they can get their message across.
  • For dance and drama students, it may be worth considering whether the student can perform a piece of work using another student or a trained interpreter to provide a voice-over.
  • Be tactful and sensitive. Students may have previously had a negative educational experience which has resulted in poor self confidence.
  • Students with communication difficulties may find group work and tutorials challenging, and may need time to gain confidence before joining in. It may be helpful to meet with the student beforehand and discuss what they feel comfortable with, for example if it is acceptable for you to ask them to read out loud.
  • People with speech difficulties are likely to find telephone communication difficult and stressful. Email may be a more appropriate method of communication.
  • Do not correct or speak for a person with a speech impairment. Wait while the person talks and do not finish their sentences or interrupt. If you are in a tutorial situation, make sure that other students allow the person to finish speaking and do not interrupt them.
  • If you don’t understand what is being said, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask the person to repeat it, maybe several times. People are usually used to repeating what they say.
  • Be sure you understand fully what the student means. It may help to say what you have understood and ask them to repeat the rest.
  • Break down questions into individual points, and ask questions requiring a short answer if appropriate.
  • Oral examinations may need to be modified to allow the student to demonstrate their skills fully. Any alternative arrangements made will need to be co-ordinated by the Examinations Officer.
  • Remember that if a student has difficulties with their speech, this does not automatically mean that they have problems with their hearing or their comprehension – speak to students naturally.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Stamina

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

Case Study


 

Students can experience difficulties with their stamina for a number of different reasons. It may be that they have difficulties with their physical stamina which could be as a result of physical disabilities or the fact that they experience pain associated with certain movements. They may also experience problems associated with the level of stamina required to stay on top of a heavy workload or reading load. Mental stamina could be affected by visual or language difficulties which result in students having to work twice as hard as other students in order to keep up, or it could be as a result of medication that they are taking for a medical condition.

Any medication used to control difference diseases and/or medical conditions needs to be fully understood in terms of their possible side effects. Tutors may need to discuss these with the student and to consider the effect that unexpected tests or assignments (for example) may have on the student. Greater consideration may also by needed for granting extensions. For a small number of students, health and safety issues may need to be considered, although it is hoped that students with medical conditions such as epilepsy or asthma will usually have a realistic idea of their limitations.

Etiquette and Strategies
  • Avoid discussing any student conditions in front of other students – respect confidentiality at all times.
  • Be discreet, don’t make an issue about students who may need to leave the room, need to eat during lectures or who need to make frequent trips to take care of personal needs.
  • Some students may need a place of privacy for taking medication including injections, others may need a place of rest during the day.
  • Stress from new situations (especially for those who are away from home for the first time) may adversely affect some students. Try to make students feel at ease and confident in their surroundings.
  • The physical environment can affects some conditions, for example dust, smoke, or dampness. Students are likely to have any medication they need with them but tutors should be aware of where to seek help if necessary.
  • Students may be forced to miss lectures or tutorials as a result of health difficulties. Tutors can help by assisting students to keep up with course materials, ensuring that they receive back copies of handouts / lecture notes, etc.
  • If students are able to only work for limited amounts of time, allow extensions for submission of assignments – but take care not to let students build up a large backlog of due work.
  • Help students to manage their time and organise their work by breaking tasks down into manageable chunks.
  • It may be helpful to identify a buddy in a group who will supply notes and generally support any students who have been absent due to illness or stamina difficulties.

 


 

Case Study

Case study about a student with severe asthma on a Drama course

Dance, Drama and Performance and Visual Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aims to end the discrimination which many disabled people face. The DDA will affect dance organisations of all scales and types, potentially impacting on the way they deliver services and provision of access for disabled people. 2001 saw an amendment to the act relating specifically to education (The Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA)), which requires that:

  • Disabled people must not be treated less favourably than non disabled people for reasons related to their disability without justification.
  • There is a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.

Disabled people make up between 14% and 26% of the population, depending on the definition used, and the expectations disabled people have about access and inclusion are growing all the time. It is time for all sectors, including the dance sector, to think through the issues that inclusion brings and form a coherent response. The Dance and Drama Awards scheme has done so. It is now equipping all the schools involved in the scheme with guidance on access and inclusion, providing a specifically created day long session of disability equality training for each school and developing a number of pilot action research projects designed at bridging gaps in the sector including:

  • A foundation course for disabled dancers run by CandoCo in partnership with a school.
  • A programme for musical theatre looking at new writing and new approaches being developed by Guildford School of Acting.
  • Research into a programme for learning disabled dancers.

In some areas, the dance sector has been quick to respond to the inclusion agenda, in others it has been a real fight to even get the subject discussed. However, the increased inclusion of disabled people is now everyone’s responsibility and now, thanks to the DDA, everyone’s legal obligation. Educational providers need to take into consideration the needs of their learners, but also their audiences when putting on productions or exhibitions, reasonable steps must be taken to:

  • Provide auxiliary aids and services to enable, or make it easier for a disabled person to use a service.
  • Change policies, practices and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service.
  • Provide a service through a reasonable alternative method which will overcome barriers presented by physical features.

For example, it may be considered unreasonably difficult for a visually impaired person to read a leaflet which is in small type and a pale colour. In this case, the institution or organisation may need to reassess is house style. Other considerations for students and audiences with visual difficulties might include: providing information in large print on plain backgrounds, Braille, audio tape, computer disk, audio description on videos, a personal guide, telephone information service, spoken announcements, a torch or other form of appropriate lighting in galleries, a tactile map, tactile pictures or touch opportunities.

In many cases all that is required is some creative thinking, new attitudes and new solutions with regard to inclusivity. Try to think of reasonable but cost effective ways of delivering the curriculum of offering the service if the physical environment makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use it.

Institutions are legally liable for any acts of discrimination carried out by a member of staff. A useful starting point is to consider implementing the following:

  • A procedure for training and informing all teaching staff in the department about reasonable adjustments and the implications of discriminating against students.
  • A policy towards disabled students.
  • An appropriate complaints mechanism.
  • An amendment to the Equal Opportunities Policy.

Look carefully at all the educational opportunities provided for students e.g. exhibitions, concerts, festivals, training, workshops, conferences, information, library and research facilities, venues, transport, etc. Decide a priority for areas requiring attention and how this will be achieved and devise an action plan detailing how the changes will be implemented and monitored.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Ability to Empathise

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

Dealing with Emotional Issues

Students who are dealing with emotional issues through dance, drama and performance may find that they need an outlet for emotional energy. For some students (particularly those with Autistic Spectrum Disorders or Asperger’s Syndrome), the ability to empathise with the characters they want to portray on an emotional level, and to cope with the social and emotional demands of a dance and drama course may be difficult skills to develop.

Students can be easily stressed, become depressed or be prone to rage reactions and/or temper outbursts and similar frustrations.

  • It may be helpful to identify a person that a student can go to on a regular basis (if necessary) for support with these issues.
  • Be aware of signs from students that things may not be going well.
  • Educate peers to the difficulties that students with social understanding and communication difficulties have.Consider peer support such as a buddy system or peer support network.
  • Identify relaxation classes that students may wish to attend.
  • Help students to recognise some of the precursors to stress.
  • Help students to develop strategies of stress management.
  • Ask students what positive strategies they have used in the past to help them to cope in stressful situations.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Anxiety / Stress

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk


Dealing with Emotional Issues

Students who are dealing with emotional issues through dance, drama and performance may find that they need an outlet for emotional energy, some students (especially those prone to stress and/or anxiety) may find this demanding and difficult.

Students can be easily stressed, become depressed or be prone to rage reactions and/or temper outbursts and similar frustrations.

  • It may be helpful to identify a person that a student can go to on a regular basis (if necessary) for support with these issues.
  • Be aware of signs from students that things may not be going well.
  • Consider peer support such as a buddy system or peer support network.
  • Identify relaxation classes that students may wish to attend.
  • Help students to recognise some of the precursors to stress.
  • Help students to develop strategies of stress management.
  • Ask students what positive strategies they have used in the past to help them to cope in stressful situations.

Presentations

Many students will feel anxious when asked to give a formal talk or presentation, especially for the first time. There could be many reasons for this anxiety which may include any or all of the following:

  • Unfamiliar situation: because most people speak formally only rarely to an audience, the novelty of the situation is a cause of apprehension.
  • Lack of Confidence: this stems often from a feeling that others will be better speakers than us, or that they will know more about the topic in question.
  • Sense of Isolation: the speaker is alone, the centre of attention, and therefore vulnerable.
  • Self-Consciousness: about our accents, grammar, voice and image generally.
  • Fear of Looking Foolish: students may be worried that they will forget what they want to say, or will stumble over words, will say the wrong thing, etc.
  • Fear of the Consequences: e.g. being judged by others, particularly tutors, as lacking in ability or insight because of a poor public presentation. At least with an essay, mistakes can be made in private!

There are a number of signs of anxiety that can affect students if they are feeling anxious about the presentation: increased heart and breathing rates, increased adrenaline, over-rapid reactions, and tension in the shoulder and neck area. These bodily changes can also affect the voice, making it sound tremulous, or disjointed by over-rapid breathing.

Students should be encouraged to overcome anxiety by planning and preparing presentations and thinking about what they want to say and how they want to say it. By encouraging students to adopt the following strategies, they can learn to prepare for presentations and therefore build confidence:

Planning:

  • This involves setting objectives; considering the purpose of the presentation and the message that the student is trying to get across to the audience.
  • Knowing the audience: How many people will the student be speaking to? Why will they be there? What is their prior knowledge? What are their expectations?
  • Brainstorming to get ideas down onto paper and selecting and ordering the points that they want to make.
  • Considering the time that has been allocated and how much can be reasonably said in the time.

Decide how the presentation will be structured:

  • The first four minutes are the time when the student is likely to have the full attention of the audience, it is important that they use this time to make an impact.
  • Making notes: unless students will be reading a speech or a paper, notes should consist of only key words and phrases. Just enough to jog the memory and remind them of key points they want to make. They can be encouraged to use cue cards, mind maps or ordinary notes on paper depending on preference.

Preparation:

  • Students will need to prepare any visual aids they will want to use well in advance.
  • Ensure any equipment is available and that students are familiar with using it.
  • Check the venue and ensure that students are familiar with the surroundings.

Practice:

  • Encourage students to practice the presentation out loud, either alone or in front of peers and invite feedback.
  • Use a tape recorder to listen back to presentations. This will identify how much students will need to vary the tone of voice, any areas where they will need to add emphasis and the amount of enthusiasm they need to project into the presentation.
  • Encourage students to practice in front of the mirror to identify any mannerisms or gestures they might want to add or change.
  • Practice smiling to convey the message that students are pleased to be speaking to the audience and are enjoying the presentation. This will affect how the student relates to the audience as well as help them to build confidence.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Auditory Difficulties

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email v.chapman@worc.ac.uk

Case Study


 

The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) aims to end the discrimination which many disabled people face. The DDA will affect dance organisations of all scales and types, potentially impacting on the way they deliver services and provision of access for disabled people. 2001 saw an amendment to the act relating specifically to education (The Special Education Needs and Disability Act (SENDA)), which requires that:

  • Disabled people must not be treated less favourably than non disabled people for reasons related to their disability without justification.
  • There is a requirement to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage.

Disabled people make up between 14% and 26% of the population, depending on the definition used, and the expectations disabled people have about access and inclusion are growing all the time. It is time for all sectors, including the dance sector, to think through the issues that inclusion brings and form a coherent response. The Dance and Drama Awards scheme has done so. It is now equipping all the schools involved in the scheme with guidance on access and inclusion, providing a specifically created day long session of disability equality training for each school and developing a number of pilot action research projects designed at bridging gaps in the sector including:

  • A foundation course for disabled dancers run by CandoCo in partnership with a school.
  • A programme for musical theatre looking at new writing and new approaches being developed by Guildford School of Acting.
  • Research into a programme for learning disabled dancers.

In some areas, the dance sector has been quick to respond to the inclusion agenda, in others it has been a real fight to even get the subject discussed. However, the increased inclusion of disabled people is now everyone’s responsibility and now, thanks to the DDA, everyone’s legal obligation. Educational providers need to take into consideration the needs of their learners, but also their audiences when putting on productions or exhibitions, reasonable steps must be taken to:

  • Provide auxiliary aids and services to enable, or make it easier for a disabled person to use a service.
  • Change policies, practices and procedures which make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for disabled people to use a service.
  • Provide a service through a reasonable alternative method which will overcome barriers presented by physical features.

Important considerations for students and audiences with auditory difficulties might include: sign language interpreters or lip readers/speakers, induction loops, pen and paper, minicoms, telephones with amplification and/or textual display, subtitles, videos with sign language interpretation, printed information and information on a computer screen.

In many cases all that is required is some creative thinking, new attitudes and new solutions with regard to inclusivity. Try to think of reasonable but cost effective ways of delivering the curriculum of offering the service if the physical environment makes it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use it.

Institutions are legally liable for any acts of discrimination carried out by a member of staff. A useful starting point is to consider implementing the following:

  • A procedure for training and informing all teaching staff in the department about reasonable adjustments and the implications of discriminating against students.
  • A policy towards disabled students.
  • An appropriate complaints mechanism.
  • An amendment to the Equal Opportunities Policy.

Look carefully at all the educational opportunities provided for students e.g. exhibitions, concerts, festivals, training, workshops, conferences, information, library and research facilities, venues, transport, etc. Decide a priority for areas requiring attention and how this will be achieved and devise an action plan detailing how the changes will be implemented and monitored.

 


Case Study

Case study about a Media and Performance student with a hearing impairment.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Information Processing

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In this document, the use of the term information processing skills is taken to be the ability to process the information required to complete a specific task or problem. Sometimes the difficulty may be associated with performing tasks simultaneously e.g. listening to a speaker, making notes and formulating responses – for some students performing these processes simultaneously is problematic. Development of this skill may be affected by a number of factors such as if the student has dyslexia or dyscalculia and finds it difficult to extract the relevant information and organise it effectively. Another example could be if the student has ADHD and finds it difficult to focus on the relevant information without being distracted by external factors.

This can be problematic for the dance, drama and performance student if they find it difficult to learn sequences or text for a performance or they find it difficult to interact with other performers or an audience due to slowness in interpreting what has been said and responding to it, and this can be particularly stressful for the student studying dance, drama and performance.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students of dance, drama and performance develop their information processing skills, and these can be summarised as follows:

  • Prepare students for a teaching session by summarising the order of various activities that are planned. Explain, for example, that a review of a previous session will be followed by new information and that both group and independent work will be expected, as well as any practical activities.
  • State the required materials well in advance of a teaching session – allow students plenty of time to obtain copies of scripts, musical scores, or equipment, and work through them prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions or encourage students to record their work onto video or audio media if they find live performance particularly stressful. Leaving useful information on an overhead screen while students are conducting group work is a way of allowing students to refer back to points of relevance while they are working on the task in hand.
  • Check student performance – question individual students to assess their learning and aspects of their performance skills. Doing this reguarly can help to identify any potential problems and ways of working through them with the student.
  • Ask probing questions – probe for the correct answer after giving the student sufficient time to process the information and work out the answer to the question. Count for at least 15 seconds before giving the answer or calling on another student. Ask follow-up questions that give students the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learnt.
  • Help students correct their own mistakes – describe how students can identify and correct their own mistakes with regard to their performances. Encourage them to support one another as they develop their skills by identifying areas for improvement in each other’s work.
  • Help students to focus if they are experiencing difficulties – remind students to keep working and focusing on their assigned task e.g. by providing follow-up directions or assigning learning partners.
  • Divide work into smaller units – break down assignments into smaller, less complex tasks.
  • Highlight key points – highlight key words or instructions that help students to focus on specific directions. This would be particularly relevant when following scripts.
  • Use cooperative learning strategies – encouraging students to work together in small groups can help them to maximise their own learning and each other’s learning. But it is important to check that this style of learning suits all students in the group as some students find this difficult.
  • Use assistive technology – some students may find the use of visual technology (such as computers and projector screens during lectures) can help them to focus on key points at the same time as conducting a task.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Language / Comprehension Difficulties

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Students on dance, drama and/or performance programmes who experience difficulties with language and comprehension may have developed their own particular learning style that is different to that of other students. For example they may find themselves at an advantage over other students if they find it easier to develop their creative thoughts, but may have difficulties communicating their thoughts through written means, preferring instead to undertake coursework in the form of an oral assessment, or a piece of dance or a performance.

Teaching students with individual difficulties is about identifying the individual skills required to perform a particular task and focusing on those to establish appropriate interventions and teaching strategies that may be appropriate for a student. It is associated with identifying the individual strengths and weaknesses of each student and considering how these can be best utilised to maximise the effectiveness of the learning programme. Effective teaching is also concerned with being flexible and empowering students to adopt and perfect their own individual learning styles.

Students with language and/or comprehension difficulties may find a programme of study more demanding that other students and may have to work twice as hard to achieve what they are striving for. It is crucial that all students within a group are educated to accept different learning styles and adopt their own learning practices in order to accommodate difference students’ learning needs. This should eventually lead to a supportive atmosphere within the learning environment.

It is also important to remember that just because a student has a difficulty acquiring and developing effective language and/or comprehension skills, this doesn’t mean that they can’t improve or that they will always require extra study support. All students within a group will develop at different rates, will be starting from different stages, and will end up at different stages, and will have overcome different barriers to their individual learning along the way.

It may be helpful to bear the following strategies in mind:

  • If possible, learn as much as possible about the profiles in terms of strengths and weaknesses of all students within a group. If a student has particular difficulties with language and/or comprehension, this may need to be achieved through an individual assessment.
  • Understand the students’ different learning styles and consider the effects these might have on their emotional as well as their cognitive development.
  • Understand as much as possible about the different demands that the programme of study is having on the students.
  • Match the demands of the programme against the individual student profiles to identify any specific learning needs, but try to do this realistically and positively.
  • Adopt any appropriate interventions: e.g. extra literacy skills sessions, teaching of organisational skills, confidence building exercises, provision of appropriate IT equipment and/or support working memory by making information easier to manage.

Remember that many students who have experience difficulties with their language and/or comprehension may well already be operating at a high level once they gain entry into Higher Education. It is likely that they will have had to demonstrate a high level of determination and hard work in order to overcome the barriers they have already faced with their learning, and it is important to remember this and not just to dismiss students as lazy or not motivated.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Dance, Drama and Performance and Students with ADHD

Inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are the main characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As a student’s academic success is often dependent on their ability to attend to tasks and tutor expectations with minimal distractions, a student with ADHD may struggle within the typical HE academic environment. Activities associated with acquiring necessary information for completing tasks, completing assignments and participating in discussions with their tutors and peers are all activities that can potentially be problematic for the student with ADHD.

The behaviours associated with ADHD can change as people get older and where a young child can often appear to have large amounts of energy and restlessness, adolescents and young adults can often be withdrawn and less communicative. Characteristics of ADHD can also include impulsivity and reacting spontaneously without regard to previous plans or necessary tasks and assignments.

As students with ADHD may experience difficulties with the structured environment of a tutorial or lecture or focusing on their assigned work, they may need adjustments to the learning environment to help them remain focused on the task in hand. Students may need to be questioned about where they prefer to sit within the learning environment to help them to focus on what is being said, they may also benefit from working closely with another student who can help them to develop their cooperation skills or, if space permits, work in separate learning areas, away from other students. Different students will find different scenarios work better for them and open communication with the student about this is essential.

It is crucial to assess the unique education requirements of each student with ADHD on an individual basis as they will all have different strengths. It may help to work in a multidisciplinary team consisting of the student, other academic staff and the institutional disability service. Assessments, such as a learning style inventory could be considered to determine the student’s strengths and allow teaching staff to best build on these existing abilities. The settings and contexts in which any difficulties occur should also be considered as part of the evaluation.

There is some evidence to suggest that students with ADHD can excel at dance and drama programmes, as they respond well to a less formally structured learning environment, where they can express themselves more freely. At the same time, students with ADHD can also possess the ability to totally focus on something when it really interests them. Some education psychologists have also suggesting using music and dance with children who have ADHD to help them to control their behaviour and focus on their learning, so it is possible that some students may have learnt as children to associate the use of music and dance with various methods of their learning. Students with ADHD can also be total perfectionists in their area of interest, which can be extremely beneficial to the student who is studying dance and drama. It is often just a case of tapping into the most appropriate teaching method to give that student the best opportunity to develop their skills.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Dance, Drama and Performance and Students with Autism

Students with autistic spectrum disorders can experience a number of difficulties which may affect their study of dance, drama and performance programmes. Possible difficulties and inclusive strategies for overcoming them might include the following:

Communication

While individuals with autistic spectrum disorders may have an excellent vocabulary and sound syntactic knowledge, the performance or communicative aspect of their language may be poor. They may have difficulty knowing when to speak and when to remain silent, what to talk about and with whom, when, where and in what manner. They may have difficulty inferring ideas from what is said, or they may take what is said very literally.

Students with autistic spectrum disorders may be unable to alter register or language style in different language situations – resulting in a very pompous or stilted language style. Their language can appear odd and inappropriate. Sometimes particular phrases will be repeated many times in a stereotyped fashion. In addition, non-verbal communication, both receptive and expressive, is often not well developed. Individuals may often interupt inappropriately and be unable to interpret any cues that such interruptions are unwelcome. They may also appear non-compliant at times, as they often have difficulty taking direction and coping with negative feedback. Students with autistic spectrum disorders may often be perceived as being rude or arrogant – and it is important that academic staff are aware that the student has impaired communication and that any rudeness is unintentional. Tutorial participation may present problems for some students and allowances for these communication difficulties may be necessary.

Social Interaction

Students with autistic spectrum disorders can be loners who never seem to quite fit in. This may be as a result of eccentric behaviour, peculiar ways of speaking and a lack of social skills. However, students with autistic spectrum disorders are generally very keen to develop social relationships but lack the ability to understand and use the rules governing social behaviour.

He or she may attempt to initiate contact inappropriately or react unnecessarily aggressively to a rebuff.

Students may feel rejected but not understand how their own behavioural responses have contributed to their isolation. Over time, some students may withdraw from uncomfortable interactions and become quite isolated (concomitant psychiatric difficulties can occur, e.g. depression, obsessive compulsive disorders).

Some of the more specific difficulties associated with social interaction include:

  • Students may interpret quite literally what is said to them.
  • Difficulties in reading the emotions of others.
  • Problems with social distance.
  • Difficulty understanding unwritten rules and when they do learn them, may then apply them rigidly.
Coping with the Learning Environment

Students with autistic spectrum disorders are often resistant to change and cope best in a structured environment in which any change is predictable. The vastness of universities and the adult learning environment in which students are expected to take responsibility for their own learning is likely to be difficult for such students.

Because these students often have difficulty inferring information, they may find it difficult to take on board the significance of important dates and timetables.

Students may appear rigid and non-compliant and have difficulty taking direction and coping with negative feedback. They may also find it hard to concentrate on a subject matter if it is not one that interests them on a personal level. It is important to remember that many students perceive the world almost exclusively from their own viewpoint and will use language in the literal sense, which can cause difficulties when interpreting language for drama productions.

 

Dance, Drama and Performance and Dyslexia

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Dyslexia

Dyslexia affects the area of the brain that deals with language, leading to differences in the way information is processed and affecting the underlying skills needed for learning to read, write and spell.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Students with Dyslexia

Dyslexia affects the area of the brain that deals with language, leading to differences in the way information is processed and affecting the underlying skills needed for learning to read, write and spell.

Dyslexic students can often perform a range of complex tasks, such as solving complicated problems in electronics or design, yet cannot to the seemingly simple: learning to read and spell, organising writing, taking notes, remembering instructions, telling the time or finding their way around. A way of regarding this pattern of strengths and weaknesses is as a cognitive or learning style, in fact many dyslexic students themselves experience their dyslexia as a difference in the way they think or learn.

Many students with dyslexia have learnt to adopt certain strategies to help them cope with day to day life within the student environment. However, there are certain times when adoption of these strategies becomes difficult and the student may experience adverse effects as a result. For example, during times of transition (e.g. exams and assessments, change of module / course or changes in the student’s personal life), learning new application procedures, during periods of extreme time pressure and/or when students lack the necessary understanding to complete a task. It may be that the students has been demonstrating a high level of competence up to the point of transition and suddenly starts to lack confidence or suffer from stress and anxiety. It is important to be aware of this and look out for the signs that suggest a student may not be coping as well as they might.

It is during times of difficulty that it may be necessary for tutors to consider alternative ways of achieving student goals. It is wrong to assume that all students will want to approach their studies in the same way and a certain amount of flexibility may need to be adopted. Some of the following strategies may be useful to bear in mind in order to generate a supportive, inclusive learning environment for all students:

  • Develop your own understanding of dyslexia and talk to your student about how it affects them personally and what they understand about their own preferred learning style.
  • Ensure that all students have access to any information you provide by ensuring it is in an accessible format.
  • Identify any specific issues within the learning environment and identify and promote alternative ways of sharing and accessing information e.g. by using verbal communication instead of written.
  • Try to develop an atmosphere of support amongst all students.
  • Take steps to build the confidence of students so that if any students do want to disclose their dyslexia, they can be sure they will be supported and understood.

 

Dance, Drama and Performance and Dyspraxia

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Dance, Drama and Performance and Students with Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is a specific learning difficulty that affects the brain’s ability to plan sequences of movement. It is thought to be connected to the way that the brain develops, and can affect the planning of what to do and how to do it. It is often associated with problems of perception, language and thought. The effects that dyspraxia has on a person’s ability to function in a day-to-day environment, as well as in a learning environment can vary, depending on the degree of difficulty.

It is possible that dyspraxic students will experience difficulties with their gross motor skills which can affect their ability to balance and learn skills of coordination. They may also experience clumsy gait, poor posture and a tendency to bump into things or trip over things. These are all factors that can affect a student during dance and drama studies. However, students are also likely to be able to develop their own strategies to overcome any difficulties. Tutors will therefore need to be mindful of the difficulties a dyspraxic student may be facing and if necessary, communicate with them about alternative teaching or assessment methods that may be more suited to the individual student.

 

Dance, Drama and Performance and Medical Conditions

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Medical Conditions

The term Medical Condition includes asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, chronic pain and heart disease. Most people have experienced ill health of one kind or another from time to time, but this has probably been temporary in nature. Some people, however, have long term or permanent conditions which have been present from birth or acquired during life. The effects of these depend on the person’s age, circumstances and the nature of the conditions and/or treatment.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Mental Health Difficulties

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges association with learning.


Brief description of Mental Health Difficulties

The term mental health describes a sense of well being. It implies the capacity to live in a resourceful and fulfilling manner, having the resilience to deal with the challenges and obstacles that life and studying present.

Depression, stress and anxiety are the most common types of mental illness experienced by students, and it is common for students to lack confidence and have low self-esteem despite having the same full range of intellectual abilities as the population as a whole.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Physical Disabilities

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief Description of Physical Disabilities including Neurological Disabilities

Physical disabilities affecting students can take many different forms. They can be temporary or permanent, fluctuating, stable or degenerative, and may affect parts of the body or the whole of it. Some students with physical disabilities, neurological conditions or acquired brain injury may have perceptual difficulties. Students may have experienced barriers to learning that relate to negative perceptions of their disability and low expectations. They may also have missed out on vital stages of learning during their schooling, affecting language acquisition and the development of literacy.

Consulting most modern dictionaries, the definition of the verb to dance appears almost surprisingly innocuous; to move the body and feet in rhythm, ordinarily to music, to move lightly and gaily, to bob up and down, or to be stirred into rapid movement, like leaves in the wind. Most of these phrases capture the innocent and essential aspect of a particular state of motion which is typically associated with a positive emotional mode and shared across the human species. However, these definitions hardly reveal the multitude of social functions associated with dance.

Even in our modern Western world where dance has lost much of its ancient ritualistic power and its official status, dance is nevertheless an essential, ubiquitous part of human togetherness and thereby can be a carrier of social values as well as a means to regulate social structure and heirarchy. This broad impact of dance is of course associated with the fact that dance is at once an established art form and a very generic form of social interaction. These aspects mark the ends of the broad and amazingly colourful spectrum of dance. Despite the apparent gap between dance as social activity and as a performing art, there is ample connection and exchange and that is why the emergence of disabled dancers is an important phenomenon.

Information taken from: Schmitz, Uli. (1998). Article Written for the 1998 Internet Conference on Art & Disability. National Arts and Disability Center, UCLA. http://www.axisdance.org/education/uli_essay.html

 

Dance, Drama and Performance and Visual Impairments

Challenges – this link takes you to more specific challenges associated with learning.


Brief description of Visual Impairments

The term visual impairment covers a whole spectrum of people from those who are only slightly affected to the very small proportion who are totally blind and cannot distinguish light from dark. Only a small minority or partially sighted people have no useful sight.

The principle that every student is an individual with individual needs is particularly true for students with visual impairments, as strategies which suit one student may be irrelevant, even hampering, to another. Only the visually impaired person can really say what they can, or cannot, see.

Students may have developed their own coping strategies and techniques and so it is essential for the student to be closely involved in discussion of teaching strategies appropriate to their situation.

Blind and partially sighted students are more dependent on their hearing for information gathering. People who have been blind since birth may have missed out on informal opportunities for learning to read, for example through the experience of signs and labels in everyday life. They will also have a conceptual framework for such concepts such as distance, dimensions and scale that is not drawn from visual images. They might have missed out on gathering everyday practical information about the world around them, which sighted people take for granted, and may therefore need to be introduced to new situations in a practical experimental manner before moving on to form concepts.

 

Case Study – Dance, Drama and Performance and Stamina Difficulties

Case study about a Drama student with severe asthma who finds exam time difficult.

Information taken from http://jarmin.com/demos/resource/interviews/03.html (information accessed and extracted September 2008)

Helen is a student with severe asthma on a Drama BA (Hons) course.

On the course

How have you found the approach of lecturers?

No-one would have known what to do if I had had an attack so on the first day when we were having the introductory talks I told the lecturer who was taking the sessions that we needed to tell everyone about my condition. So she said when we got back that ‘Helen is now going to tell us about her condition and what we should do if she has an attack’. So I had to announce to the whole year what would happen and what people should do. I didn’t mind too much because I am used to telling people and it is a matter of life and death and I am a confident person. Afterwards other students came up and said how brave they thought I was and they could never had done that, but I have got used to telling people.

I’d rather as many people know as possible, I go in the opposite direction and want as many people to know so that they could help me. And if people are nasty about it well I just think that’s up to them and they’re not very nice people anyway.

Assessment

Do you have any additional support in examinations?

My big problem really main problem is with exams. Because a lot of examinations are in the summer and I also have bad asthma related to stress. I was really worried about my performance in exams so we had a meeting with the disability office and my academic tutor who is also the disability coordinator for the department.

What did you think of the system for arranging this?

The biggest problem is with attitude. You don’t need people giving you a hard time and top of what you have to cope with. You’re not doing this for fun. When you’ve got people having a go at you because you haven’t handed an essay in on time. There is an assumption that the degree is the most important thing in you life and nothing else matters to you even the fact that you have been seriously ill and it’s more important than your health.

There is an attitude towards disability especially unseen ones like mine. But if you’re around me 24 hours a day you’ll see me not being able to walk to the shops not being able to go to the pub and all the medication I have to take and I have to tell friends if they say oh we’re going to such and such a place I have to think but I might get an asthma attack. If you saw all that you’d understand all the problems I face. So if they can’t see it they just seem to be saying you’re lying.

What about assignments?

It was decided that I don’t do exams because there could be so many times when I am ill and it would affect my performance on the day. So I do essays instead. So if a course requires two assignments and an exam, I have to do three assignments. Which means I often end up doing twice as much work as anyone else because even though you’re supposed to start revising about four weeks before the exams nobody does but I have to take about 5 weeks over doing an assignment. I live with a student off my course and I know how much work they’re doing or not doing for the exam.

It also led to other problems for instance, I was supposed to do an assignment but no-one had told me when the deadline was, it was confusing – was it supposed to be the same day as the exam etc? I was ill over Christmas with tonsillitis and if I get an infection of any kind then it flares up and also affects my asthma. So I was in bed most of the time. So then I was getting emails when I got back saying ‘where are my assignments’ and I had had to do about five over the holidays while I was ill.

The attitude needs to be swapped around; it should kind of be assumed that I have been ill if I have missed a deadline and how can we work around that not I have missed a deadline and it is my fault therefore how am I going to sort it out. There seems to be an attitude that I am being lazy and trying to skive. But it’s not true. For instance last year I had to do eight assignments in the summer and I was rung up and hassled. There I was sat inside because of my asthma and the assignments and everyone else was going out and having a laugh. I want to do as much as anyone else, I don’t want anyone saying she got away with not doing something and I feel that I have to do twice as much just so I can prove myself.

But I know at the end of the day if I have been ill and not been able to work on something as much as I could have done I will end up with a lower grade and a piece of paper saying I got a 2:1 instead of a first that I know I’m capable of when I’m not ill. It’s like the A-level D grade that I got when I know I could have done a lot better and I was the best student in the whole year yet I now have a piece of paper that will always say that I got a D grade.

I want to be able to overcome my problems but at the same time I face all these attitudes, it’s drawing a balance…. trying to be equal and prove you are and striving for equal treatment.

Why do you think that the tutors are being like this? Don’t you think it’s over a concern for making sure people achieve a certain academic standard and also about teaching things like time management skills?

Well to some extent but we’re not at school anymore, we’re not children. Everyone is here because they want to be, if they didn’t they would leave or not have applied in the first place. I like being here, I like having the opportunity to study this course and be at this university and I try my hardest. I do as much work as anyone else, I have got a huge pile of books to do the research from for the assignment but if I have been ill, I shouldn’t have to keep having to justify myself. They are saying that I am being lazy and I don’t need to be hassled all the time because I’m not.

Did you claim DSAs?

I got a computer which was really good because I can work at home when I am ill and I have used it in the holidays to complete assignments.

I also have a Dictaphone because sometimes I might be too ill so I send my friend in with the Dictaphone. I’d rather have it on tape than rely on a note taker. Then I can take my own notes from what is actually said.

Other issues

How much do you think that dealing with your condition/impairment/disability is the responsibility of the university or of yourself?

It’s my responsibility to inform people but it’s not my responsibility to run the course and organise that side of things. It’s their responsibility to make sure my disability doesn’t give me any less of a chance. Although I don’t think this will be entirely achieved with my condition because there are always going to be periods when I am ill and I miss out on giving my best effort or attending something.

What have been people’s attitude to you in the university? Academic staff, administrative staff, other students?

Often it’s not that people don’t do things eventually it’s that I have to make a real effort to make them aware. I have to tell people three times or have to constantly keep convincing people that I have genuinely been ill and that is because of my disability. I think that attitude makes disabled people feel like their disability is the problem. But in actual fact it’s the attitude that is the problem.

Case Study – Dance, Drama and Performance and Auditory Difficulties

Case study about a Media and Performance student with a hearing impairment

Information taken from http://jarmin.com/demos/resource/interviews/08.html (information accessed and extracted September 2008)

Lee Davis is a student with a hearing impairment on a HND Media and Performance course

Admissions

Did you audition?

Yes I did. But even so, when I went for my interview to get into university I was still being watchful that they had to take into consideration that I should get the same treatment as the other people. They weren’t giving anything easy away for me. So that was a hard task. But even so I was aware of the possibility that I might not get in – but, to my surprise, I have got in. I try to go on a BA Media Performance, but I knew I did badly because I wasn’t prepared. So I ended up doing an HND, but I’m happy.

Did you disclose on the application form? Were you worried at that stage that they might say, ‘We can’t have this guy on the course, throw that application away.

No. I was happy because I was more prepared and I have had some help and I knew exactly where I was going and what I was aiming for. I was never afraid. At some point I did doubt myself and my abilities, but I kept going forward. One particular tutor, called Jeanine Lockwood told me to go to Salford because it would be the best thing for me, and do the HND. So, here I am and doing exactly what I wanted to do.

On the course

What’s your course called again?

Media and Performance.

Explain to us what that is.

Well, firstly, media is based on getting to know the camera and how the camera works. So if you wanted to become a performer as an actor, and you are acting in front of the camera, you need to know why the camera has been there and why it is taking so long before shooting the film or TV series. And you need to get the knowledge and the background. It’s also a good advantage to explore other areas of work other than just being an actor, so it can also lead you into becoming a director if you wanted to be. It’s a great opportunity to do that, you don’t have to go on HND directing course because you can then learn about probably only one thing and it goes into detail, whereas in HND in Media Performance you learn the practical sorts of things and you get your hands dirty. Once you have learned how to use a camera, you go on to the editing suite. There are two different cameras, digital and analogue. The analogue is which two monitoring screens and one machine. You slip the tape in and you work from two machines. With digital, you work from the computer, which is straightforward. I’ve only just started learning how to use the digital computer in the editing suite. It is a little bit complex but the more time I spend on it the more I will get used to it. That’s the basic outline of the media part, but it also goes into lighting and sound and other things which you call the production side of it. But the performance side is basically training you to be an actor or a singer or a dancer.

Which do you do? Are you mainly acting?

Yes, just acting. One of my weaknesses in being partially deaf is that I’m not a very good singer. I’d like to stress that more clearly actually, I like singing but singing isn’t one of my strongest … I don’t want to be a solo artist.

What sorts of support do you need in the learning environment – or don’t you need any?

At the moment, they need to be aware about deaf people. Especially in the course I’m on, they need to be aware anyway. At the moment the course co-ordinator is really, really helpful. When he received the report he gave everything to the tutor, so that they know. Then I introduced myself and told them the same things and they are aware and became more helpful. I’ve had no problem with any of the teachers in the past, so up to now I am quite happy with their support which is given to me and their patience. After all, it depends on how hard you are prepared to work to receive what you want to get. Bearing in mind, I’m not just like any other deaf person. It is better to be graded equal to anybody else, but in certain areas like me being partially deaf, or my deafness it is difficult for me when I can’t sing and when I can’t hear whether I am in tune. That will be a bit hard so the teachers will need to be more aware, especially when I go for an interview – so that they are more understanding in what they are asking. It is on the UCAS form in the small print but it is much easier if they know in advance. They have been very supportive.

There must be a lot of technical equipment like sound recording equipment. Has any of that caused difficulties?

There will be some difficulties, again, but they must be aware and some teachers don’t tend to look at the person who needs to be looked at. When I have a note taker it is important for me to concentrate on the teacher then I know what I they’re getting at. The note taker should be clear in their writing and get the full notes of what the lesson is about.

Does the note taker come with you for the whole day? How does teaching take place on your course – is it lectures …?

For example there was a lecture this morning but it was a practical, so there was really no need for him to be there. But I kept him there in case there were some notes. In the other lecture there is nothing but a lecture – no practical and so it is good for him to be there. One thing Access Summit has offered to do is have a mini-disk and a microphone. Then I can take him in, do the practical and then I can record it and take it home and listen to it and then I am more prepared.

Are there any problems with headphones?

Do you mean in the theatre, no, no problem at all. As long as I can put it in the right place. I can get some special ones for me to wear and to plug in. I can get a loop (loud background noise here) that you wear round your neck … the only disadvantage of it is that I have to keep switching it back on to M to hear in the auditorium. But I know the auditorium is fitted with the T-loop so you can actually hear what’s going on.

You mentioned about ‘deaf awareness’, people won’t know what that is. Can you just explain a bit about it?

Basically it is broad to equip teachers who have no experience of teaching deaf students. To make them be aware that a deaf person is usually a sign-language user or a deaf person like myself who can speak. It’s to be aware that the deaf person is constantly watching you and even if that person should be taking notes, he will not be taking notes but will be constantly watching you all the time. There’s an old saying that deaf people prefer watching by visual. They also teach them about not standing in front of a window and the basics of sign language. You don’t have to be perfect in sign language but they give you a basic so that if you decide to take it up it becomes really useful.

Do you sign at all?

I can sign a little, but in my case I can understand a deaf student who can sign to me. I still need to keep it up and keep going if I am going to be in the industry.

So lecturers on your course, they haven’t had a deaf awareness session or anything?

No. But It is much easier if they have the deaf awareness before the course starts. At least, even if it is only one or two weeks. There is a special training course and they need to know how to deal with deaf people and then they get told the requirment of needs a few weeks when they will get the report. Apart from that, deaf awareness is more valuable than everything else. At least they know what to expect. If a person doesn’t know anything about deaf people then the deaf person will get frustrated and they will walk out of the room and fail the course. I don’t like to see any deaf person go that way. It’s nice if they have a deaf person there to show a demonstration while they are teaching to give them information. You can’t expect all the teachers to go on the training course, but if you can get a co-ordinator to go, to overseas the course, then that would be great.

Is there a disability co-ordinator among the staff you have been assigned to, or do you have a personal tutor at all?

I just have one personal tutor throughout the course.

Is it a he or a she?

It is a he.

Is he all right?

He’s fine. He’s been the most supportive person I’ve come across at the moment, because I have explained myself and introduced myself to him and even though the report I had was late, he did say to me that if I do have any problems I should go straight to him I don’t need to book a tutorial to go and see him and he will sort things out for me. Actually, we did that last week. I was having some difficulty on the course, but that’s been sorted out now. I spoke to him last night and he explained what is going to happen, so I am quite happy with the way things are going.

Essays, written work. Have you had any extra help for English at all?

At the moment I am trying to negotiate when that is going to happen, but I have had some study skills from through the University, which every new student always gets taught. In my case, I already know that I am going to need some help, anyway. So, again, the assessor at Access Summit is already aware and is being more helpful, and the teacher who teaches study skills has been more helpful, but not exactly to the point of understanding. They need to be aware, I’m not just talking about me as a deaf person, or any deaf people, but other deaf people who happen to have dyslexia and they need that support.

Just explain; because people are not aware, why English is a difficulty for you?

Doing English is a bit hard with the grammar and structuring the essay, and putting your thoughts on paper and making sure you are getting the work done and getting somebody to proof read it for you. If you don’t know any of this it will be a waste of paper. But it is helpful for the deaf person or anybody knowing that taking up study skills will help, but you still need that help, anyway. Whether you are doing the degree or diploma, you are still going to need it. It is the hardest things on the course to get through. It is all right if you can do the practical, which is 60%, and the academic is 40% and you need to get past that. In other courses you need to get, like, 75% to achieve the mark. Apart from that, it is helpful to have the study skills to teach you what the university is looking for, because different colleges have different ways of structuring how they read it. They give a booklet out and teach you how to do the essays. They always do provide extra support when you need it.

Assessment

Just explain the assessment procedures on your course, because it is probably quite different, isn’t it, from your average course? What do you get assessed on?

It’s not really been any different. It is different when you are being assessed in the BA. You get one big exam but you still get assessed individually. In the HND you don’t get any exams – you might get a little one, but you are being assessed right through the whole two years. You are graded according to different criteria. There is a fail, a referral, a pass, a merit distinction, sorry there’s five. It is slightly different, anyway, from different diplomas. They look for, for example in singing you need to be in time, be able to perform clearly and pitch the tune at the right level. As a deaf person I can’t do any of that. It would be a complete disaster.

This is really interesting because it is a situation where you get an assessment criteria for a course and one bit of it you can’t do. So how have you got round that?

I’m still being assessed for my singing, because I still need to complete it. They are going to assess me on a slightly lower criteria – on a slightly lower Diploma – I think that is what they are going to do. They are giving me a different song for me to do that is in my vocal range and I have to sing it. What they have also decided to do, after I complete this semester, and I go on to the second semester, they are going to put me on a different module to compensate for my singing. In the first year you have to do two voice-works and two movements works. One’s called movement and the other is called dancing. In voice-work its voice and speech and singing. In the second year I will be doing voice and speech again but on a one-to-one basis. I will be fitted in with the degree lesson. And we only do that for one semester until I go on the second year. Malcolm Machin said I won’t lose the full semester and both of them will carry on and I will still get a full credit.

So you still pass the course, but there is one element of it that you can’t complete, but you compensate by doing another bit?

When she turned round and told me that if I don’t get my tune right she will fail me and it hit me really bad and I was terrified of wasting four years having to come along to university and then hit that point blank and be told that if I can’t do that right then I’m going to fail. I can fail and do the year again, but I’m going to hit the same wall all over again. So, lucky for me having to notify the head tutor and saying we had to get it sorted, and the Equalities Office. It is also in good favour that the Access Summit put it in the report because it gives them an idea.

There is really a negotiation then.

At the moment I am only getting the feedback, so negotiation will be next week and Tuesday, for the singing and how well I am going to do. I still have to see Malcolm to see how I am going to go on from there.

It is unusual, isn’t it?

It is unusual for this to happen because any teacher doesn’t want to see a student try their best to get into university and then fail.

You can do the acting bit and all the camera work and the sound production, so why should you have to do the singing?

You have to do the singing because it is not about being a pop star; it’s about being able to sing on stage.

But you could go for an acting career without having to sing on stage, possibly.

But you still need it. Sometimes when you go for an audition they give you a song and you need to be prepared to sing at the audition. If I went for an audition they will say, ‘He can’t sing, we’ll give him a speaking part.’ So they’ll give me a speaking part and I can do that. But if they didn’t know that I had not done the singing, even though I passed, but they were notified that I can’t sing, even though I did it. I would be more prepared for the teachers so that when I come to finish, they will have a portfolio on me and they will pass it on to an agency and they will have to fill in all the details.

Three tips for lecturers

If you could give lecturers three tips which would make your life easier, what would they be?

Be more vocally clear. Prepare to accept whatever a deaf person answers whether it’s right or on a different track, or whether it is a spot on answer.

Can I just go back to that? Is that because you might misinterpret something?

Yes, the person might know what the question means and he may know what the answer is, but he may give the answer but not in the way it should have been said. The deaf person might not be totally clear. Not only that, but the deaf person can get nervous when they are answering a question. Thirdly, be more understanding about the pressures on any deaf student, or dyslexic student. Deaf people do get frustrated, especially in lectures or practicals – that’s where it hits them big time, because you’ve got all the students messing around with you and you are trying to concentrate and do the character and they are messing around. So, you really want to make sure that the other students are made aware as well. I can’t say you should teach normal students about deaf awareness, but it’s better if they could have a leaflet when they start the course, mentioning about deaf awareness and saying stuff about deaf awareness. It’s all right to display it on the wall, but who is going to read it. But if you send a leaflet out, then someone will read it. If you want some more information, there are two ways – they can go on a course or give them a booklet, and that will sort them out – the same would go for the teachers as well.

Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you might want to tell me that could be put in information to staff.

Have more tutorials for the deaf student – that’s one of the crucial things. Possibly making the assignment brief clearer as well. Even if the students may know what it means, the deaf student might be sat there puzzling as to what is going on and what the objective is. Otherwise he will come back to you, very late, asking all kinds of questions that the tutor might not want to answer, or hasn’t got time to answer. So it would be easier if the teacher who is teaching any deaf student, one or two, it’s good advice for them to have an assignment sheet aside for that particular student to read. Even though it might have the same objective, it should be explained more clearly.

I think that’s probably good for all students, do you think?

Yes, in fairness, yes.

Case Study – Dance, Drama and Performance and Mobility Difficulties

Source: “Inclusive Practice: A Perspective from Higher Education.” Coventry University. June 2004.

L is a wheelchair user in her second year of a BA (Hons) Dance and Professional Practice programme at Coventry University. This case study provides an overview of some of the key issues addressed by L and her tutors during the course of her studies and presents some examples of good practice which have been developed at Coventry University through their work with dancers who have a disability.

Prior to L commencing the course, it was recognised by the University’s disability office, that it would not be possible for staff or students to lift disabled students without undergoing the Lifting and Handling Course and then only using equipment such as a hoist. Extensive discussions ensued between students and staff on how students lift and support each other in dance classes. This led to an initial session with L who gave direction on how to help her move from the chair to the floor and back. It was acknowledged that she would take responsibility for herself during any contact work within dance classes. At the start of term a similar session was held with L and the other students in order for them to explore moving with her and to identify what her needs might be in the studio classes. Initially students were not encouraged to help L to move to and from the chair, staff and facilitators did this. As these students began to explore contact work in classes, however, this situation changed.

Students have responded very well to the practical classes with L, many have overcome their concerns over contact with her and begun to appreciate the strength and movement range that L maintains. They enjoy working with the chair and have acknowledged the skills and difficulties associated with moving with it. they are also able to see the choreographic possibilities of working with L and with a wheelchair. One of the most important aspects of these sessions has been the discussions generated and the students’ questioning of L about many aspects of her dancing. Students are also able to appreciate the extent of information to be gained through talking to L and sharing in her experiences.

Facilitator for Practical Classes

It was considered necessary to have a facilitator for all practical sessions as well as note-taking for L. An ex-student was identified and undertook some professional development in preparation for their role. This student also had previous experience of working in inclusive settings, although she has learnt a lot on the job about how best to facilitate L’s dancing. In the second year, another two ex-students have also been facilitating practical classes with L, these students also have experience working in inclusive settings and have undertaken professional development sessions.

Course Review

Having undertaken a review of the course, the learning outcomes have been scrutinised to ensure that they are achievable for all students. In particular, the wording for some of the practical modules has been altered to include the phrase as appropriate to your physique. It was also decided that an initial meeting would need to be set up with staff, facilitator and student to identify particular goals in dance classes for a disabled student, to ensure they can work within their capabilities. These goals will then be included within the learning outcomes.

Staff Development

A series of sessions has been set up to examine how L, her facilitators and the other students work together in practical dance classes. A staff member teaches the class and other lecturers and facilitators observe. The facilitators and staff rotate in order to observe and participate. Focus is on the role of the facilitator and the ways in which exercises might be translated as well as the individual learning goals for L. Following the taught session, staff, facilitators and L work intensively to look at issues, particular needs for the role, and discuss the aims and general progress. Many interesting discussions have already emerged as a result:

  • L can become over reliant on the facilitator. Stepping back after marking the exercise a few times, watching and then correcting was found to be useful.
  • L needs to move in the middle of the group more often. The development of spatial awareness by being close to others is important, both in and out of the chair.
  • The facilitator has found it useful to dance the material herself to really discover where the learning was happening before translating.
  • Difficulties for the teacher in terms of the timing of the exercises, L sometimes needs to perform the exercise with a completely different timing or with a greatly reduced vocabulary to get the most benefit. This led to material being adapted sometimes to the extent that L was doing a completely different activity but with the same focus.
  • Phrases have been made for L and then translated by the other students. This is an effective way of giving the students an experience of translating for themselves.
  • Hands-on work at the start of the class has been found to be a useful way for facilitator and student to experience each other’s bodily rhythms. Working in threes is just as effective as in partners. Issues surrounding weight and touch can be addressed with all the students on a one-to-one basis.
  • Many types of movement exercises have been translated in ways that seems to be of most benefit for L’s particular physique and these have been documented for the future.
  • Warm-ups for L need to be more comprehensive, as for many students in her year group. Issues surrounding transport have been discussed and L realises that she needs to be organised in the morning to ensure that she arrives at University on time.