Case Study – Education Studies and Information Processing

The case study provides video interviews with an Education student with dyslexia and dyspraxia. She discusses the support provided by her University and the strategies and technolgies that she finds helpful.

 

The case study is taken from the BRAIN.HE website: http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/ (information accessed and extracted July 2008)

Carol is an Education student with dyslexia and dyspraxia.  In the following video clips she describes specific issues with her studies.

Learning strategies: http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/Carol_2Learningstrategies.wmv

Assistive technologies and learning strategies: http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/Carol_3assistivetechnologyandlearningstrategies.wmv

Difficulties with being a student: http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/Carol_4difficultieswithbeingastudent.wmv

University support: http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/Carol_5Universitysupport.wmv

Case Study – History and Information Processing

Case study A: a History and Criminology student with dyslexia and asthma. Case study B: an Archaeology student who has dyslexia and depression. The university allows her to study a largely practical topic as her final year project, rather produce the traditional, long, written dissertation.

Case study A is taken from Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities  http://skillcms.ds2620.dedicated.turbodns.co.uk/page.aspx?c=150&p=252 (information extracted and accessed January 2008)

Case study B is taken from Making Reasonable Adjustments produced by University of Nottingham: Case Study 11, Identifying and supervising a dissertation topic for a dyslexic student with medical difficulties http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/academicsupport/adjustments/Making%20Reasonable%20Adjustments.pdf (information extracted and accessed January 2008)

Case Study A: Len Van Arendsen

Subject: Criminology and History

Institution: Sheffield Hallam University

I previously worked in the mental health field and wanted to take forward more study. However, I had experience of studying for a degree some years earlier and found the whole process very difficult. This time, however, from my initial enquiry about my course at Sheffield Hallam right up to the present, help and support has been available. I am dyslexic and have asthma, which has affected my mobility. I had a full assessment of my abilities to see what type of equipment would help me and my LEA paid for my equipment. I have received assistance with using computer programmes that would support my dyslexia and have access to dyslexia support for my essays. I also have additional time to do my exams and have my dyslexia recognised in examinations so the pressure is reduced.

After I was assessed by the staff at Sheffield Hallam, we agreed how, when, how often and what type of help I could have. This forms a learning contract for my three years and it can be reviewed if I feel I need additional support. We have a modern learning centre where there are dedicated computers for individuals with a learning contract. In my day-to-day study I have use of a CD recording system that allows me to record my lectures. I also receive notes prior to lectures or copies of presentations which enables me to follow the lecture and participate rather then just trying to write notes down which I cannot read.

Your confidence and abilities will increase whatever your level of disability and you can go to university. I am also now a mentor to first year disabled and mature students and I’m now also able to offer help. I would recommend to others that when you apply for a course see what support is available. Take the opportunity and embrace the challenges.

Case Study B:

Dr. Hamish Forbes, Department of Archaeology, University of Nottingham

Presenting situation

K was a mature student with dyslexia and a medical history of depression. During her final year, the depression became so acute because of the pressure of her studies that she could not complete the year. In particular, she was unable to complete more than a small amount of research on her dissertation. She was allowed to suspend studies on medical grounds. Six months later she indicated that she wished to return to complete the degree.

Staff response

As her personal tutor, and at the instigation of the Study Support Centre tutor, I attended a ‘review’ meeting with the student shortly before she was due to resume her studies. Although she was completing her final year part-time on medical grounds, she was still suffering significantly from depression, and so the issue we faced was how to organise the student’s studies so as to minimise the pressure placed upon her.

The dissertation, in particular, presented problems. It represents a major piece of sustained, autonomous work for final year students spread over two semesters (40 credits; 12,000-14,000 words). The dissertation topic initially chosen by the student was in many ways fairly "typical" of a humanities dissertation. It involved a large amount of reading, the understanding of complex and technical knowledge and data, and the employment of abstract concepts. The student felt that to undertake large amounts of reading and assimilate a mass of technical information would be too stressful for her given the combination of her dyslexia and her depression.

During the meeting we explored some of the non-academic activities which the student enjoyed and used as relaxation. Textiles emerged as a major element. I, therefore, suggested that the student consider undertaking the reconstruction of an actual version of a primitive vertical loom, of a type discussed in the archaeological literature. The project would include an element of library research into the different ways in which the archaeological evidence had been interpreted, but much of the work would involve practical skills, such as the drawing of plans for the loom derived from her understanding of the discussions in the literature.

Construction of the wooden parts ("hardware") of the loom would be undertaken by a professional woodworker, but the supervision of the construction, the complex work of setting up the threads on the loom and the actual weaving would be the student’s responsibility. The idea was that the student would describe the processes involved in each stage of the project and keep a photo journal of the progress. The dissertation’s conclusions would relate back to issues relevant to the archaeology of textiles.

Practical problems:

  • This ‘non-standard’ approach to a research project in archaeology needed validation. The case for it had to be made to the external examiner before the student could attempt it. In this case he considered it acceptable.
  • The cost implications were significant. The timber for the "hardware" of the loom had to be purchased, and payment for the joinery work involved in construction was another major cost. So, too, was the purchase of quantities of woollen yarn for the weaving. In this case the student’s partner was very supportive and quite content for family finances to be employed on the project.
  • Domestic problems, such as having a large loom taking up a considerable amount of space in a room in the student’s house were overcome by the forbearance and support of the family.
  • Supervision of a non-standard dissertation. As supervisor I was able to provide moral support and also archaeological knowledge. However, throughout the project, the support of the Study Support Centre tutor was crucial, providing a detached viewpoint to the project which I did not always have. Together we explored and resolved any emerging difficulties.

Outcome for the student

The student developed increasing confidence in her abilities as the project progressed. She completed the dissertation, and also the rest of her modules. The dissertation was awarded a clear II:i mark, and in no small part as a result of this the student gained an overall II:i degree. At the start of the year I had considered that the achievement of even a II:ii degree would have been a success. 

Thoughts on future practice

The employment of non-standard approaches to dissertations is very dependent on agencies over whom the student and supporting staff have very little control. In particular, departmental policies and external examiners need to be aware of the kinds of problems which dyslexic students can have if such an approach is to be successful. In addition, it is evident from this example that a great deal more can be achieved if students and teaching staff work in partnership with Study Support staff. The support and encouragement of such staff can be a crucial factor in encouraging academic staff who wish to explore further the approaches which enable dyslexic students to maximise their potential.

Early Years (FD) and Information Processing

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


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on early years courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. Doing this regularly 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

Learning Support (FD) and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on education courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. Doing this regularly 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

Education Studies and Information Processing

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

Case Study


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on education courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. Doing this regularly 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

 


 

Case Study

The case study provides video interviews with an Education student with dyslexia and dyspraxia.  She discusses the support provided by her University and the strategies and technolgies that she finds helpful.

History and Information Processing

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

Case Study


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on history courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

 


Specific difficulties with using English

Difficulties can include the following:

  • Poor reading comprehension skills.
  • Difficulties with structuring and organising information.
  • Difficulties with writing, phonics, spelling.
  • Difficulty holding various aspects of a written piece in mind and combining them to achieve a final conclusion.
  • Problems in sequencing information, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the relevant information and extracting it if it is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
  • Substituting names that begin with the same letter.

 

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

Reading

  • Allow extra time for the student to undertake reading activity and try not to overload them with reading as this can exacerbate any difficulties.
  • Question students about what they have read and allow them to orally relate their understanding of the text, as they may find this easier than writing about it.
  • Consider the use of role play activities where students can act out or put themselves in the position of the character in a text during discussion sessions to help them relate to the feelings of the characters.
  • Provide vocabulary lists for any new terms that are introduced or common terms that are used during the study of a particular text. Providing an explanation of common vocabulary can also help to reinforce the meaning for students.
  • Allow and encourage students to use published book summaries, synopses, and digests of major reading assignments to review (not replace) reading assignments.
Writing
  • Identify, agree and teach students the standards for acceptable written work, include factors such as format and style.
  • Ask students to close their eyes and visualise a written paragraph as a piece of writing is being read out to them.
  • Require students to proof read their work before submitting written assignments. Provide students with a list of items to focus on whilst proof reading.
  • It may be useful for some students to allow them to dictate the assignments onto tape as an alternative to writing them.

 


Case Study

Case study A: a History and Criminology student with dyslexia and asthma.  
Case study B: an Archaeology student who has dyslexia and depression. The university allows her to study a largely practical topic as her final year project, rather produce the traditional, long, written dissertation.

Manufacturing Management (FD) and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

Case Study


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.

Specific difficulties with manufacturing management can include the following:

  •  Holding various aspects of a problem in mind and combining them to achieve a final solution can be difficult.
  • Selection and application of appropriate theories and research methods.
  • In multi-step problems, students frequently lose their way or omit sections.
  • Poor arithmetical skills.
  • Mathematical procedures and sequences of operations are difficult, eg when calculating the statistics for a study of manufacturing process times.
  • Problems in sequencing complex instructions, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify a problem, especially if the problem is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
 
There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students to develop their information processing skills, and these can be summarised as follows:
 
  • Encourage students to work with their peers for problem-solving activities. This helps them to bounce their ideas and helps keep them focused on the task in hand without giving up.
  • Students may need to focus more on the context of the problem in order to solve it, so they may need to be encouraged to seek out more background and supporting information, and highlight key words which help them to organise their thinking.
  • It may help students if they are encouraged to colour code the stages of their problem solving. This helps them to focus on the various stages of the problem and will also help tutors to see at what stage of the problem the student is experiencing difficulties.
  • Students may need to use a calculator to check seemingly simple arithmetic when they possess the ability to tackle very complex equations.
  • Students may find the use of a computer helps them to focus on the task without becoming too distracted.
  • Students may need to be encouraged to create a pocket book of facts and formulas that they can carry around with them to help them remember certain sequences.
  • Large multi-step problems may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Providing the student with flow diagrams or tree diagrams for clarifying procedures can help the student to make sense of a problem.
  • Encouraging students to use mind maps to help with extended pieces of work can help them to organise their thoughts.
  • Try to go through the work at the student’s own pace. Overload can occur frequently as students may need to go over and over the problem numerous times, this can result in an inability to absorb anything.

  


Case Study

Case study about a full-time BSc Quality Management student with dyslexia. He describes the difficulties he has experienced and how his department has helped him.

International Foundation Diploma and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

 


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.

Specific difficulties with using language can include the following:

  • Poor reading comprehension skills.
  • Difficulties with structuring and organising information.
  • Difficulties with writing, phonics, spelling.
  • Difficulty holding various aspects of a written piece in mind and combining them to achieve a final conclusion.
  • Problems in sequencing information, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the relevant information and extracting it if it is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
  • Substituting names that begin with the same letter.

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

Reading
  • Allow extra time for the student to undertake reading activity and try not to overload them with reading as this can exacerbate any difficulties.
  • Question students about what they have read and allow them to orally relate their understanding of the text, as they may find this easier than writing about it.
  • Provide vocabulary lists for any new terms that are introduced or common terms that are used during the study of a particular text. Providing an explanation of common vocabulary can also help to reinforce the meaning for students.
  • Allow and encourage students to use published book summaries, synopses, and digests of major reading assignments to review (not replace) reading assignments.
Writing
  • Identify, agree and teach students the standards for acceptable written work, include factors such as format and style.
  • Ask students to close their eyes and visualise a written paragraph as a piece of writing is being read out to them.
  • Require students to proof read their work before submitting written assignments. Provide students with a list of items to focus on whilst proof reading.
  • It may be useful for some students to allow them to dictate the assignments onto tape as an alternative to writing them.

 

General Business and Management and Information Processing

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

Case Study 


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.

Specific difficulties with management can include the following:

  •  Holding various aspects of a problem in mind and combining them to achieve a final solution can be difficult.
  • Selection and application of appropriate theories and research methods.
  • In multi-step problems, students frequently lose their way or omit sections.
  • Poor arithmetical skills.
  • Mathematical procedures and sequences of operations are difficult, eg when calculating the statistics for a study of manufacturing process times.
  • Problems in sequencing complex instructions, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify a problem, especially if the problem is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
 
There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students to develop their information processing skills, and these can be summarised as follows:
 
  • Encourage students to work with their peers for problem-solving activities. This helps them to bounce their ideas and helps keep them focused on the task in hand without giving up.
  • Students may need to focus more on the context of the problem in order to solve it, so they may need to be encouraged to seek out more background and supporting information, and highlight key words which help them to organise their thinking.
  • It may help students if they are encouraged to colour code the stages of their problem solving. This helps them to focus on the various stages of the problem and will also help tutors to see at what stage of the problem the student is experiencing difficulties.
  • Students may need to use a calculator to check seemingly simple arithmetic when they possess the ability to tackle very complex equations.
  • Students may find the use of a computer helps them to focus on the task without becoming too distracted.
  • Students may need to be encouraged to create a pocket book of facts and formulas that they can carry around with them to help them remember certain sequences.
  • Large multi-step problems may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Providing the student with flow diagrams or tree diagrams for clarifying procedures can help the student to make sense of a problem.
  • Encouraging students to use mind maps to help with extended pieces of work can help them to organise their thoughts.
  • Try to go through the work at the student’s own pace. Overload can occur frequently as students may need to go over and over the problem numerous times, this can result in an inability to absorb anything.

 


Case Study

Case Study A is about a full-time BSc Quality Management student with dyslexia. He describes the difficulties he has experienced and how his department has helped him. Case Study B is about student who is a wheelchair user and has hydrocephalus. This affects her ability to undertake numerical work.

Psychology and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

Case Study

 


 

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.

 
Specific difficulties with psychology can include the following:
 
  • Holding various aspects of a problem in mind and combining them to achieve a final solution can be difficult.
  • Selection and application of appropriate psychological theories and research methods.
  • In multi-step problems, students frequently lose their way or omit sections.
  • Poor arithmetical skills.Mathematical procedures and sequences of operations are difficult, eg when calculating the statistics for a behavioural study.
  • Problems in sequencing complex instructions, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the mathematical problem, especially if the problem is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.

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

 
  • Encourage students to work with their peers for problem-solving activities. This helps them to bounce their ideas and helps keep them focused on the task in hand without giving up.
  • Students may need to focus more on the context of the problem in order to solve it, so they may need to be encouraged to seek out more background and supporting information, and highlight key words which help them to organise their thinking.
  • It may help students if they are encouraged to colour code the stages of their problem solving. This helps them to focus on the various stages of the problem and will also help tutors to see at what stage of the problem the student is experiencing difficulties.
  • Students may need to use a calculator to check seemingly simple arithmetic when they possess the ability to tackle very complex equations.
  • Students may find the use of a computer helps them to focus on the task without becoming too distracted.
  • Students may need to be encouraged to create a pocket book of facts and formulas that they can carry around with them to help them remember certain sequences.
  • Large multi-step problems may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Providing the student with flow diagrams or tree diagrams for clarifying procedures can help the student to make sense of a problem.
  • Encouraging students to use mind maps to help with extended pieces of work can help them to organise their thoughts.
  • Try to go through the work at the student’s own pace. Overload can occur frequently as students may need to go over and over the problem numerous times, this can result in an inability to absorb anything.

 


 Case Study

Two psychology students with dyslexia describe their experiences.

Sociology and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on sociology courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

 


 

Specific difficulties with using English

Difficulties can include the following:

  • Poor reading comprehension skills.
  • Difficulties with structuring and organising information.
  • Difficulties with writing, phonics, spelling.
  • Difficulty holding various aspects of a written piece in mind and combining them to achieve a final conclusion.
  • Problems in sequencing information, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the relevant information and extracting it if it is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
  • Substituting names that begin with the same letter.

 

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

Reading
  • Allow extra time for the student to undertake reading activity and try not to overload them with reading as this can exacerbate any difficulties.
  • Question students about what they have read and allow them to orally relate their understanding of the text, as they may find this easier than writing about it.
  • Consider the use of role play activities where students can act out or put themselves in the position of the character in a text during discussion sessions to help them relate to the feelings of the characters.
  • Provide vocabulary lists for any new terms that are introduced or common terms that are used during the study of a particular text. Providing an explanation of common vocabulary can also help to reinforce the meaning for students.
  • Allow and encourage students to use published book summaries, synopses, and digests of major reading assignments to review (not replace) reading assignments.
Writing
  • Identify, agree and teach students the standards for acceptable written work, include factors such as format and style.
  • Ask students to close their eyes and visualise a written paragraph as a piece of writing is being read out to them.
  • Require students to proof read their work before submitting written assignments. Provide students with a list of items to focus on whilst proof reading.
  • It may be useful for some students to allow them to dictate the assignments onto tape as an alternative to writing them.

 

Case Study – Psychology and Information Processing

Case Study A

The following case study was taken from: IPDPS – Improving Provision for Disabled Psychology Students project, HEFCE Strand Two Project, Universities of York, Middlesex and Aston, http://www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/ipdps/ipdps.asp?CurrentPageID=6 (information extracted and accessed October 2006).

 

When Jaiden first enrolled on his undergraduate psychology degree course he was unaware that he had dyslexia. However, he found that he was having great difficulty keeping up with the course. At times he had problems in expressing himself in words, and would often get confused with numbers. In addition he had problems with his visuo-spatial awareness. Just three weeks before his finals, when writing up his dissertation, his supervisor suggested that he be tested for dyslexia. He was diagnosed just in time to benefit from extra time in his final exams, something which he found extremely beneficial.

However, due to having been diagnosed so late in his degree, Jaiden felt let down by the university and feels that he has been disadvantaged: “I spent most of the three years on my course struggling with very little help”. He felt that the diagnosis was picked up relatively late because student contact between students and tutors was minimal. However, once tutors became aware of his impairment he found they were very helpful.

He found that his condition impacted negatively on his experience of studying psychology. Jaiden found that the cognitive components in psychology that focused on logic and problem-solving caused him difficulties. He struggled with report-writing, which had to be very clear and concise. In addition, expressing very complex ideas with little support was difficult. He also came across problems with research methods due to his difficulties with numbers and concepts related to them. However, Jaiden has found that studying psychology has given him an insight into why he may have this impairment, and thus perhaps a better understanding of his condition. 


 

Case Study B

The following case study is taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/caseintro.htm (information extracted and accessed September 2006)  

Chris is just coming to the end of the first year of his degree. His major subject is psychology but about one third of his time in the first year has been given to geography courses, and he hopes to continue to include geography as a minor subject in his second and third years. He was diagnosed as having dyslexia in the early years of secondary school.

Chris had some contact with the Disability Adviser before he arrived and has since used this central service to arrange an update to his statement of needs, to support his claim for Disabled Students Allowances to buy a laptop, and to arrange extra time for his exams. Although staff have been mostly very helpful, his experiences with the service have been mixed. The exam arrangements were straightforward to organise, but Chris had sent psychologists’ reports to the office which subsequently went missing; and he found the process for obtaining the laptop very longwinded.

At first tutors did not seem to be aware of Chris’s dyslexia – but the Disability Adviser wrote to departments about half way through the first term and things got easier after that. His chief problem has been with lecturers who deliver their content very quickly and run through crowded Powerpoint slides too fast to allow him to keep up with notes. The educational psychologist recommended that Chris be given lecture notes in advance, to help remedy this situation, but this has not happened. Chris is determined to follow up this issue in his second year and is confident of approaching his departments first, and the Disability Adviser afterwards for extra support if necessary, to ensure that the psychologist’s recommendations are implemented.

Chris finds the library a very daunting place. ‘I often find myself disorientated, frustrated and confused.’ It is very large, and he says he has difficulty focusing on the specific task he is there to do because of feeling bombarded by information from all the written sources around him. The fact that books are not always in just the right place on the shelf compounds his difficulty. A successful solution has been for him to have a helper with him in the library to locate the texts he needs. At the moment he is using a friend from his course for this support; their time is being paid for from Disabled Students Allowances. He finds route finding around the library moderately difficult – the colour coding of different sections helps a bit but is not a complete solution as colours are repeated on different floors. Chris wasn’t aware at the start of the course that individual introductions to the library were offered to disabled students by a library assistant with particular responsibility for disability services. He reckons he would have made use of this service if he had known about it – as well as doing the regular tour with other students.

He was offered additional learning support but hasn’t taken this up. He is happy and confident with strategies developed during school and college from supportive parents who are teachers, from a private tutor – and his own trial and error. So far, he has not used the system of attaching yellow stickers to his essays, reminding tutors about his dyslexia. He may use these in his second year but is determined not to fall back on them as an excuse for poor work. He does, though, find invaluable the extra time allocated in exams. He uses it to plan out his answers more than would have been possible; and to avoid the problem of overload when lots of ideas crowd in at once and risk getting lost.

Chris advises other students with dyslexia to make sure staff know about their difficulties, to be clear about how it affects their studies, and to use the help available in the department and around the university.

 

 

Case Study – Geography and Information Processing

The following case studies are taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/caseintro.htm (information extracted and accessed September 2006

 

Case A

 

Chris is just coming to the end of the first year of his degree. His major subject is psychology but about one third of his time in the first year has been given to geography courses, and he hopes to continue to include geography as a minor subject in his second and third years. He was diagnosed as having dyslexia in the early years of secondary school.

Chris had some contact with the Disability Adviser before he arrived and has since used this central service to arrange an update to his statement of needs, to support his claim for Disabled Students Allowances to buy a laptop, and to arrange extra time for his exams. Although staff have been mostly very helpful, his experiences with the service have been mixed. The exam arrangements were straightforward to organise, but Chris had sent psychologists’ reports to the office which subsequently went missing; and he found the process for obtaining the laptop very longwinded.

At first tutors did not seem to be aware of Chris’s dyslexia – but the Disability Adviser wrote to departments about half way through the first term and things got easier after that. His chief problem has been with lecturers who deliver their content very quickly and run through crowded Powerpoint slides too fast to allow him to keep up with notes. The educational psychologist recommended that Chris be given lecture notes in advance, to help remedy this situation, but this has not happened. Chris is determined to follow up this issue in his second year and is confident of approaching his departments first, and the Disability Adviser afterwards for extra support if necessary, to ensure that the psychologist’s recommendations are implemented.

Chris finds the library a very daunting place. ‘I often find myself disorientated, frustrated and confused.’ It is very large, and he says he has difficulty focusing on the specific task he is there to do because of feeling bombarded by information from all the written sources around him. The fact that books are not always in just the right place on the shelf compounds his difficulty. A successful solution has been for him to have a helper with him in the library to locate the texts he needs. At the moment he is using a friend from his course for this support; their time is being paid for from Disabled Students Allowances. He finds route finding around the library moderately difficult – the colour coding of different sections helps a bit but is not a complete solution as colours are repeated on different floors. Chris wasn’t aware at the start of the course that individual introductions to the library were offered to disabled students by a library assistant with particular responsibility for disability services. He reckons he would have made use of this service if he had known about it – as well as doing the regular tour with other students.

He was offered additional learning support but hasn’t taken this up. He is happy and confident with strategies developed during school and college from supportive parents who are teachers, from a private tutor – and his own trial and error. So far, he has not used the system of attaching yellow stickers to his essays, reminding tutors about his dyslexia. He may use these in his second year but is determined not to fall back on them as an excuse for poor work. He does, though, find invaluable the extra time allocated in exams. He uses it to plan out his answers more than would have been possible; and to avoid the problem of overload when lots of ideas crowd in at once and risk getting lost.

Chris advises other students with dyslexia to make sure staff know about their difficulties, to be clear about how it affects their studies, and to use the help available in the department and around the university.

 

Case B

 

Felicity is a level two student studying Physical Geography and Heritage Management. She has a specific learning difficulty, dyspraxia.

Felicity doesn’t feel that her dyspraxia had an impact upon her choice of degree course, but does feel that the support offered by the University was a factor in her choice of where to go; "after coming to a Visitor’s Day I was thoroughly impressed with what the University had to offer people like me, and the information I was given was helpful."

Felicity thinks that her dyspraxia has the most impact at exam times. She gets additional time for examinations and thinks that this definitely helps. "I can think about the answer more instead of writing the first thing that comes into my head." She finds she uses the additional time to plan her answers, but still rarely has time to re-read her answers. Concerning the different types of exams, Felicity prefers multiple choice questions as she is reassured that the correct answer is there, but sometimes has difficulties understanding what the question is asking.

Felicity finds that in her practical lab-based work, her dyspraxia sometimes has an effect upon her studies; "I couldn’t see things under the microscope that others could see." She finds that learning from experience is one of the most effective ways of learning for her; "We’re actually doing it, not just listening to instructions." For these reasons, Felicity enjoys fieldtrips, but sometimes find the pace of work that is expected when out in the field restrictive; "It all goes quite quickly, we don’t get enough time before we have to move on." She tends to find she needs to copy missed information from friends.

She finds similar difficulties taking notes in lectures, and she is more enthused by modules she finds interesting. One of her favourite modules was based around theory, but looking at things from different perspectives. Learning about issues using a holistic approach motivated Felicity as she found she was better suited to this way of working. She acknowledges that having approachable tutors makes the learning easier. She identifies a tutor who is aware of her difficulties and has a good understanding of the impacts upon her studies, and comments that she enjoys his classes most. "He seems to know when I need more time to copy a slide down, and it feels like he leaves it there just for me."

Felicity finds it quite difficult to plan essays and order her thoughts. She uses mind mapping software to help get her ideas down and give structure to the things she wishes to write about. "If I type it in straight away I’m not losing any information." She does find that she has to re-write essays a number of times before she’s happy with them but doesn’t feel this takes an inordinate amount of time. In fact, it often helps her to get a better idea of what information she really wants in the piece of work, and to identify which sections are not that relevant.

Felicity is quite comfortable telling people she has dyspraxia. When working in peer groups she often states her specific learning difficulty, recognising that "most people are alright with it", but she states she found it an initial surprise to find out that other students had specific learning difficulties too. Felicity is aware of her strengths and promotes those to the students she works with so that the task management reflects her strongest areas. She recognises that presentation skills are not her best area, but "it’s not so bad when it’s a little group of you rather than a whole lecture hall."

When accessing material for her studies, Felicity was initially confused by the Learning Centre systems and classifications. Initially, she couldn’t find the books she was looking for. Although staff at the desk were helpful when approached, Felicity would prefer to be as independent as possible, and wishes greater emphasis had been placed on learning these skills when she first started at university.

 

Case Study – Biosciences and Information Processing

Case Study A: A Biology student has difficulties with the Maths courses and seeks support. Case Study B: A biology student has dyslexia and seeks extra time and computer access during exams. Case Study C: A marine biology student has dyslexa and hearing difficulties. She describes how this impacts on her studies including laboratory and fieldwork. Case Study D: A biological science student has acquired dyslexia and memory loss. Case Study E: A biology student with dyslexia and dyspraxia. Case Study F: A biosciences professor describes setting an alternative – non-written – assessment for a severely dyslexic student.

 

Case Study A is taken from the University of Washington DO-IT website  http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/articles?207 

Case Study B is taken from the University of Washington DO-IT website  http://www.washington.edu/doit/Stem/articles?217 

Case Study C is taken from the Geography Discipline Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire,  http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/case17.htm

Case Study D and E are taken from the http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/

Case Study F is taken from the HEFCE ADSS Project, Herrington, M.(ed), (June 2002) "Making reasonable adjustments – with Disabled Students in Higher Education, Staff Development Materials: Case Studies and Exercises. Case Study 12. Amending Assessment for a Dyslexic Student ", Univeristy of Nottingham, http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/academicsupport/adjustments/Making%20Reasonable%20Adjustments.pdf 

(All information extracted and accessed November 2007)

 

Case Study A

My name is Kim. I am a nineteen-year-old senior majoring in biology and I’m determined to get my master’s in genetics counseling. I want to be a genetics counselor in a large medical center.

Access Issues

Biology majors are required to complete three upper-division math courses and two statistics courses. I have a learning disability, Dyscalculia, which affects my ability to do some forms of mathematics. I documented my disability with the disability services office, and I spoke to my academic advisor regarding my concerns about completing the math and statistics courses. He advised me that these courses are critical because of the need to do and understand research and to understand information in biology courses involving math and because the Graduate Record Examinations (GREs) are required for graduate school applications in genetics counseling. These requirements and the implications of not doing well in math courses concerned me greatly, so I also spoke to the learning disabilities specialist in the disability services office.

Solution

The learning disabilities specialist closely reviewed my documentation, especially my strengths and limitations with math. After consulting with the biology department, she also advised that completing the math requirements would be critical for successful completion of the biology course sequence and for admission to graduate school. Course substitutions for the math and statistics courses did not seem helpful or appropriate in my case. The learning disabilities specialist suggested that we devise a practical plan for me to prepare to take the math and statistics courses. We then met with the math specialist in the campus learning skills center. After many meetings, we developed and followed this plan:

  • I worked closely with my adviser and the math specialist to plan my course schedule for each semester in order to reduce my course load the semesters that I took math courses.
  • I carefully identified math instructors whom I thought would be willing to spend more time meeting with me.
  • The learning skills center recruited an advanced math tutor who worked with me in each course, went to some classes with me to better understand the instructor, and met with me at least twice per week.
  • My parents helped to pay the tutor.
  • Each semester that I took math courses, I enrolled part-time to increase my study time for the math classes; disability services also requested that the housing office grant a policy exception that allowed me to remain in the residence hall those semesters.
  • Often the math tutor went to my meetings with the math specialist and the course instructor. The math specialist taught me some learning strategies and helped to reduce my anxiety. She and the math instructors also suggested some math tutorial software. The disability services office and instructors provided testing accommodations (extended time) and note-taking services for these classes as disability accommodations. I completed the mathematics courses with average to above-average grades. These action steps resulted in success toward meeting my career goal.

Conclusion

This case study demonstrates the following:

  • Seeking or advocating for course substitutions may not always be the most appropriate or best long-term solution for students with certain academic or career goals. Case-by-case planning is important.
  • Active student participation and responsibility and disability management are key elements of a plan to meet academic and career goals.
  • It may take several student services staff and faculty and other support staff (such as tutors) for students to secure the necessary assistance.
  • Students with Dyscalculia can sometimes succeed in math-intensive fields, with adequate planning and motivation.
  • Academic requirements are valid in many cases and may not need to be modified for a particular student with a disability.
  • Short-term compromises (taking a reduced course load and hence extending the time until graduation; having to study harder for certain courses) often have beneficial long-term consequences.
  • Parents can play a key role in helping their children succeed in college studies (e.g., funding special assistance).

 

Case Study B

My name is Rajiv and I’m a biology major. I have severe Dyslexia, a learning disability that affects my reading and writing skills.

Access Issue

I receive testing accommodations (extended time and computer access) through the disability services office. My biology course exams include several essays. I requested to use a computer software program that highlights words while it reads them out loud for my exams as well as other reading and writing assignments. My biology professor was concerned that this or other software programs (like word prediction programs) might give me an unfair advantage.

Solution

The professor went to the disability services office to meet with me, the learning disabilities specialist, and the assistive technology specialist. We demonstrated the highlighting program in the assistive technology lab so he could see what it does and how it helps me. He agreed to allow me to use the highlighting software, but he did not want me to have access to any other software or assistive technology during exams. He also specified that the networking capabilities of the system be shut down so I could not access information on my home computer system or on the Internet. He was very concerned about cheating and academic dishonesty and wanted to be sure that I was monitored while taking exams. I took my exams for the course in the assistive technology lab, as agreed, with a test proctor in the room.

Conclusion

This case study illustrates the following:

  • Computer access and software programs can accommodate students with disabilities in the test-taking process.
  • When the student, professor, and specialists communicate and share concerns or resources, there are practical solutions to accommodating the student and meeting the instructor’s requirements.
  • It is sometimes helpful for the professor or teaching assistant to see the technology and meet the support service staff to gain understanding of technology solutions.

 

Case Study C

Rosie is a Marine Biology student who has dyslexia, Mearles Irlen syndrome and has a hearing impairment.

‘I’m partially deaf in my left ear so in very loud environments with about 50 people I pick up say about 50% of what you say, I lip-read about 25% and then I make the rest up! 

Staff are very helpful. With regard to my dyslexia, I take longer to write things down, notes for example – if I ask, either a slide will be left up for longer or they are quite happy to give me the powerpoint presentation, and I can take my own notes from that. With regard to the hearing impairment, none of the staff have a problem with either wearing or walking near a recording device.

It’s much harder in a lab environment because I can only hear 50% of what is being said – it’s harder to fill in the gaps because they are not your common words – they’re complex chemical words. If there’s hydrochloric acid and you mistake it for hydrocarbon there’s a bit of a difference if you put the wrong one in the jar! It can slow me down a bit, but luckily most of my friends know that I’m a bit slow on the uptake so they help. What would help would be a very precise written instruction sheet. A lot of staff do do instruction sheets but they’re not always very precise. Being able to record the lab session would also help but then having the time to go back and listen to it while I’m doing it isn’t really feasible. I don’t bother taking the recording equipment into the labs – I rely on my friends in those circumstances.

With lectures and tutorials I don’t have a problem as such, it’s just that some people talk too fast or have a really strong accent – getting past the language barriers is sometimes a problem but that’s probably the same for everyone.

I’ve got Meare’s Irlen Syndrome as well and a lot of tutors provide handouts on coloured paper now, which makes it much easier for the flow of reading. A few still use white paper which means it takes a bit longer, – it’s harder because you tend to have to re-read passages. Going back to the lab situation, if staff prepare a handout, you spend a lot of time working on the chemicals and studying the handout, so it is helpful to have it on coloured paper. I’ve got coloured lenses as well which do help to a degree – if I didn’t have them I’d start getting a headache after about 25-30 minutes but with them I can prolong it to 1 ½ – 2 hours, but I still have to have a good break after that. It would be really good if the Student Union Shop stocked notepads which had coloured paper. With Powerpoint presentations, coloured backgrounds are easier on the eye.

I have to manage my fieldwork trips as they’re a lot different to a two hour practical. There’s no rush to do anything, most of the time with Marine Biology you’re sat waiting for the tide to come in or out! So there’s more than enough time to go back to the tutors and ask them specific questions about anything I may have missed. I also rely on my peers, but a lot of it is observation – sitting and waiting and watching. The tutors were very good; any material that we had to memorise was out from day one. The tutors were very good; any material that we had to memorise was out from day one. Unfortunately all handouts were done on white paper, there was no coloured paper on the field course.

I had a problem being near the sea as waves tend to make a lot of noise, so with my hearing impairment, it made it harder to hear what someone was saying. But the tutors were more than happy to repeat anything.

With written exams, for the most part it’s not a problem – the information is in there somewhere, it’s just a matter of finding it. But there are a few questions where you have to sit down for maybe a quarter of an hour just to understand the question because the wording doesn’t quite flow properly so you have to re-read and re-read. I get 10 minutes extra per hour which is quite good but you start getting panicky if on the first question you’ve wasted ten minutes just reading it. Everyone else has read it and done it straight away and I’m still trying to make sense of it – that can be very panicky because you know you’ve got eight more questions and you’re going to waste what could be ten minutes on each one. It can get unnerving.

With regards to alternative assessments – I honestly don’t have any idea of what could be better. If you told me I could do a project with my mates on my course instead of an exam, that to me would be a lot easier. For example, I’ve got this really good friend who’s one of these people who is really good at everything. Say you wrote down a paragraph which I found hard to understand, he would read it and translate it into words that I could understand without being too taxing and then I could go ahead and do it. But is it right that I should be assessed on someone else’s ability to understand a problem?

In class, tests tend to be multiple choice. Just being able to identify the words – like I said earlier – [is problematic.] If the word hydrochloric is written down, I may read it as hydrocarbon as the first few letters are very similar. Many a time I’ve looked at something, I’ve studied it and thought ‘right – that’s absolutely the right answer’ and then I’ve looked back up to see what numbered answer it is and I’ve marked the letter I thought I was looking for but it was the wrong numbered answer. Not being able instantly to identify similar aspects of sentences, words etc. is a problem because it’s a key thing in the multiple choice test. I’d definitely go for a written examination instead of a multiple choice because I can put it in my own words. On a written examination it’s harder to get the good marks but the marks you do get are more representative of the student. For someone who can just glance at a word and pick up the wrong meaning, multiple choice can be quite scary.

I don’t find written work a major problem but obviously there are barriers there. You’ve got essays and reports which don’t need to be done in an hour so I have time to plan them and ask someone to look over my work which is easier. There are barriers there but they are easier to overcome.

From the DSA, I got a PC with Texthelp and Inspiration which I find really helpful – I use it all the time. I like the mind-maps – I’ve just done a report on the field trip and I started off with one word and then came back to it – I don’t have to sit there for hours planning the report. If something pops into my head I’ll go and put an extra leg onto the mind map. I find it very good, it’s an extension of my memory because I’ve got a terrible memory. It was one of the most useful things that came through the DSA. I also got a Dictaphone which works as a very good paperweight at the moment, it’s not that good – it came with a sky-mike – it didn’t come with any instructions so I’ve never been able to work out how to use it. The Dictaphone is good for this environment – quiet 1:1 – but in a lecture, you can’t pick up the lecturer if he moves away from it. With the sky-mike it’s supposed to pick up the lecture wherever the lecturer moves but I haven’t sussed out how to work it.

I also got a talking dictionary which is quite good but I tend to use the software dictionary instead of the Oxford talking dictionary. I really only use the talking dictionary for pronunciation of words. Luckily my subject being Biology most of it’s in Latin – it sounds strange but Latin is actually a very simple language – the construction of words is easy to pick up. The computer also helps because I’m able to sit at home at my leisure and work and I can download any helpful software onto it.

With oral presentations, I find memorising the talk hard because I’ve got a very bad memory. Trying to keep the presentation fluent – keeping it going without stuttering is difficult, so to combat that I generally keep an A4 sheet with bullet points on it but it’s all about multi-tasking which I’m not good at. Having to talk while looking down at my notes and reading the next sentence is hard because I can’t take it in; I have to stop talking to read the next bit which gives a pause – and a prolonged pause in a talk isn’t good. Once I know I’ve done something wrong it’s a snowball effect it all goes downhill from there. The hearing is not so much a problem during the presentation but when it comes to questions at the end it’s a problem when I encounter people who have very high pitched voices.

I tell people beforehand that I have a hearing problem and ask them to talk to my good ear. In a formal lecture I’d make a joke of it and say ‘speak up I’m deaf’! My deafness is actually high-tone deafness – it’s a certain frequency band that I’m deaf at – generally men are not a problem because they have lower voices but some women have very squeaky voices and it’s like sitting listening to a guinea pig, I can’t hear it at all. For me personally it’s very tone dependent – this ear picks up both tones and the other ear only picks up low tones so in lectures I can only pick up maybe the beginning of a sentence where people start off quite low but lose the end of it.

The bane of my life is tutors that go too fast – with both handouts and verbally. It’s difficult enough to listen to what they’re saying while writing – that in itself is really hard, so when they’re talking at a fair rate of knots you come away with a quarter of what you should. There’s one tutor who has a very strong Hindi accent and I can’t hear anything he says because the pitch of his voice is too high. I have tried recording him but he speaks too fast for that as well.’

 

Case Study D

Abi is a Biological Science student who has acquired dyslexia and memory loss. In the following audio clips she discusses the way this affects her studies.

Lecture problems and difficulties: http://www.brainhe.com/streaming_audio_Video/ABI_3.wma

Recommendations for university support: http://www.brainhe.com/streaming_audio_Video/ABI_5.wma

Summary of university support: http://www.brainhe.com/streaming_audio_Video/ABI_6.wma

 

Case Study E

Anne is a Biology student with dyslexia and dyspraxia.  In the following video clips she describes specific issues with her studies.

Essay writing: http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/Anne_2Essaywriting.wmv

Reading and revision: http://www.brainhe.com/gallery/Anne_4ReadingandRevision.wmv

 

Case Study F

This case study is written by Professor C R Black, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham

Presenting situation

Last year it was brought to my attention that a second year student taking a five credit (37.5 hours of study time) Semester 4 dissertation was so severely dyslexic that she needed to have a note-taker in lectures and would also need to have examination papers prepared as tape-recordings. The usual form of assessment for the dissertation module is an extended essay. I was asked if I would be prepared to set an alternative assessment.

Staff response

I consulted various people to establish whether this was possible and what form the assessment should take. These included:

  • the vice-dean responsible for teaching to check that an alternative assessment was permissible; it was, as the Module Catalogue stated that the exact form of assessment was at the module convener’s discretion.
  • the chair of the Student Disabilities Committee to seek his opinion; he was totally supportive.
  • my wife, who is also an experienced university teacher, to see whether we could devise an alternative assessment that was equally challenging but did not involve an extended essay; she suggested the student be asked to prepare a 10 minute radio broadcast with an associated support pack for listeners to the "BBC University Radio World About Us" programme. The student would be asked to choose an area of environmental plant biology relevant to the parent taught module she was taking and prepare an interesting and newsy report.
  • Margaret Herrington in the University’s Study Support Centre, who has responsibility for ongoing support for students with disabilities, to confirm that this proposal was acceptable and fair to the student; she was enthusiastic and offered studio support to help prepare the recording.
  • the student to ensure she was happy with the proposed alternative assessment; she was, although slightly apprehensive about whether she could rise to the challenge. She was given approximately 8 weeks to complete the assignment.

Outcomes

The student submitted the completed radio broadcast and listeners’ support package on time and said she enjoyed the assignment. Her work was assessed independently by two academic staff and awarded a high 2/1 mark. The tape, though clearly made in several instalments, showed evidence not only of wide reading and good understanding, but also the ability to present the material effectively to meet the needs of the target audience.

Feelings and observations

My feelings are that both the student and I enjoyed the assignment as something different from more conventional assessments, even though I was initially reticent about setting this student a different type of assessment from others, in case I discriminated against them, either positively or negatively. Once it was decided that I could set this type of assessment, no additional workload was involved in supervising or marking the work. I personally find it interesting and stimulating to set students a range of coursework that helps to develop additional skills, and believe they enjoy and benefit from the challenges provided.

An important point for me was that the exercise reinforced the view that, although some students may have difficulty in expressing themselves in extended prose or under examination conditions, they may nevertheless be able to show their full potential when set alternative challenges in areas requiring different communication skills. I am happy to continue to offer students advanced level coursework assignments that are tailored to meet their needs and requirements as I feel they and their teaching staff both gain additional benefit and satisfaction from assignments that are of mutual interest.

Postscript

After the success of the ‘reasonable adjustment’ described above, the idea was extended and offered to more students the following academic year.

"We have set a similar exercise for a second year group of about 80 students for the first time this year. We have divided them up into groups of 5 and asked them to prepare a 5 minute "TV" clip on any topics related to the impact of environmental stresses on plants. Each group elects a team leader and decide how to structure their presentation – e.g. have an anchorman back in the studio, roving reporters and interviewees. They can use visual aids if they wish. One or two groups are even planning to video themselves. It should be interesting to see how things turn out!

The assessment criteria include: Originality (10); Knowledge of topic (10); Clarity of presentation (10); Communication skills (10); and ability to enthuse/inform audience (10)"

 

 

Geography and Information Processing

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

Case Studies


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.

Specific difficulties with geography can include the following:

  • Poor arithmetical skills.
  • Mathematical procedures and sequences of operations are difficult.
  • In multi-step problems, students frequently lose their way or omit sections.
  • Holding various aspects of a problem in mind and combining them to achieve a final solution can be difficult.
  • Problems in sequencing complex instructions, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the mathematical problem, especially if the problem is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.

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

  • Encourage students to work with their peers for problem-solving activities. This helps them to bounce their ideas and helps keep them focused on the task in hand without giving up.
  • Students may need to focus more on the context of the problem in order to solve it, so they may need to be encouraged to seek out more background and supporting information, and highlight key words which help them to organise their thinking.
  • It may help students if they are encouraged to colour code the stages of their problem solving. This helps them to focus on the various stages of the problem and will also help tutors to see at what stage of the problem the student is experiencing difficulties.
  • Students may need to use a calculator to check seemingly simple arithmetic when they possess the ability to tackle very complex equations.
  • Students may find the use of a computer helps them to focus on the task without becoming too distracted.
  • Students may need to be encouraged to create a pocket book of facts and formulas that they can carry around with them to help them remember certain sequences.
  • Large multi-step problems may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Providing the student with flow diagrams or tree diagrams for clarifying procedures can help the student to make sense of a problem.
  • Encouraging students to use mind maps to help with extended pieces of work can help them to organise their thoughts.
  • Try to go through the work at the student’s own pace. Overload can occur frequently as students may need to go over and over the problem numerous times, this can result in an inability to absorb anything.

The following strategies were taken from: Waterfield, J., West, B. and Chalkley, B. (2006), Developing an inclusive curriculum for students with dyslexia and hidden disabilities, The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP), HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire, http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/idyslexia.pdf (information accessed March 2008).

 
Course Component
Organisational Challenges
Inclusive Strategies and Reasonable Adjustments
Verbal Communications
Processing auditory information.
Developing reliable short term memory and recall.
Sequencing information.
o       Ensure that the overall discourse allows for reiteration, clarification of new terms and regular pauses for reflection and to catch up
o       Temper overall speed of delivery
o       Provide clear examples and explanations
o       Supply handouts and explanatory lists of new concepts and unfamiliar terms
o       Utilise other media (DVD, OHP, PowerPoint, etc.) as dynamic means of reiteration
Verbal Communications
Multi-tasking (especially note taking).
Processing information under time constraints.
o       Be aware of the difficulties posed by multi-sensory tasking
o       Encourage students to audio record instructions and to audio record sessions (equipment may be funded through the DSAs).
o       Liaise with disability support service for a suitable note taker (funded, where appropriate, through the DSA Non-Medical Helper Allowance).
o       Supplement verbal information with written or E-learning versions as introductions, summaries and aide mémoires. (See the guidance below entitled On-line Learning.)
o       Arrange study skills sessions on taking accurate notes (funded through the DSAs).
o       Use blue marker on a white board instead of black.
o       Where guest lecturers are delivering sessions, ensure that they are aware of the needs of students with dyslexia.
 
Mathematics, statistics and symbols
 
Confusions with mental arithmetic, calculations, symbol recognition and ordering.
Recalling previous stages of calculations and losing the minutiae in a complex problem.
Difficulties recording accurate data.
Accurately scanning graphs for information.
o       Present problems in different ways to help those with different learning styles.
o       Assistive technologies such as talking calculators and text-to-speech software such as SpeakOut or TextHelp Read and Write (for reading and writing accuracy) may be purchased through the DSAs.
 
 
Misplacing and misreading decimal point.
Missing out and misreading questions and worded problems.
Confusion of symbols such as + and x, < and >
Mistakes in copying from line to line.
Inversion of fractions.
o       Allow time, offer clear guidance and present problems plainly to reduce student anxiety and errors.
o       Investigate assistive software for concept or mind mapping that can accommodate mathematical formulae, e.g., Mindmanager.
o       Ensure that photocopying of timetables is clear.
o       Encourage highlighting of key information.
o       Allow extra time for proof reading and checking work.
 
Fieldwork
Short term memory, information processing and sequencing problems.
Adopting a successful time management and organisation regime.
o       Arrangements for travel, clothing/equipment and accommodation should be transparent.
o       Information can be available in a variety of formats (verbal, written and electronic).
o       Give information reminders prior to departure.
o       Students may use electronic organisers or personal digital assistants (PDAs) purchased through the DSAs.
o       Study skills support can be used to improve time management and recall skills (purchased through the DSAs.)
 
Fieldwork
Accurately comprehending written material.
Scanning for information.
Reading, analysing and summarising.
Reading freely without distractions and discomfort from visual perceptual distortions in the text.
o       Allow additional time for slow reading and processing.
o       Inform students of pre-fieldtrip reading lists well in advance to allow for difficulties with short-term library loans.
o       Distribute course handbooks early
o       Explain place-names and fieldtrip specific terms through word lists and glossaries.
o       Handouts must comply with the guidelines above.
 
 
Listening, observing and writing (especially note taking) in the field.
o       Arrange study skills sessions on taking accurate notes in the field, organised through the DSAs.
o       Use blue marker on a white board, not black.
 
Fieldwork- During the fieldtrip
Reading for meaning in a distracting environment.
Difficulty writing accurately at speed on location and the risk of making illegible notes.
Pressures to record information leading to poor quality field observations and “sense of place”.
Verbalising experience from field notes which are an incomplete record.
o       Provide pre-fieldtrip handouts of place-names and glossaries of terms.
o       Negotiate with students on the need for a field notebook being kept in the field.
o       Use of an audio recording device or amanuensis purchased through the DSAs.
o       Use of personal digital assistant (PDAs) with a cut down version of Office or a portable keyboard such as a Dana with Palm software, purchased through the DSAs.
o       A laptop/tablet PC with text-to-speech and mind mapping software, although suitable, may not be robust enough in the field.
o       Electronic thesaurus for use at base to improve the quality of field notes.
o       Encourage work between peers to share information and ideas.
o       Allow students time to improve notes.
 
On-line learning
Accurately comprehending written material.
Scanning for information.
Reading, analysing and summarising.
Making accurate notes.
Reading accurately at a competent rate.
o       Avoid large blocks of text and keep text page content to a minimum.
o       Use bullet points and summaries rather than dense prose.
o       Style of writing should be clear and concise
o       Utilise minimum 12 point font size
o       Use Arial or other Sans Serif font
o       Don’t mix fonts
o       Avoid too much underlining, capitals and italics
o       Leave wide spaces
o       Left justify text
o       Give users the interactive option to change font, text size and background colour.
o       Ensure that text based learning content can be read by text-to-speech programs or are speech enabled through browser technology such as BrowseAloud or ReadSpeaker.
o       Design PDF files that are accessible with no encryption or security locks to allow students to make use of PDFAloud or Acrobat Reader version 6 with accessibility elements downloaded to include the built in text reader.
o       Develop PowerPoint presentations that have been saved to the web using the Accessible Web Publishing Wizard for Microsoft Office offered by University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign http://cita.rehab.uiuc.edu/software/office/
o       This facilitates reading by a text-to-speech programme. Accurate results can be achieved by always using the templates for slides offered by Microsoft and tagging or labelling graphics.
 
On-line learning
Reading freely without distractions and discomfort from visual perceptual distortions in the text.
o       Text interspersed with visuals must be sensitively displayed.
o       Avoid visual clutter, text overlaid on graphics or “ghosting”
o       Navigational icons are valuable but cannot be read by on-line browsers (text alternatives must be provided).
o       Website links located within the text can be confusing – make a separate display list
o       Having defined a successful layout, apply it to all pages.
 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Case Studies

 

This link contains two case studies taken from: The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP) Case Studies, HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire , http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/caseintro.htm.

Case A: A first year student with dyslexia, studying geography as a minor subject, finds it difficult to keep up with fast delivery in lectures, and finds the library a daunting place.

Case B: A second year student finds her dyspraxia affects her mostly at exam times and in her practical lab-based work. She uses mind mapping software to help plan her essays and give structure to her writing.

 

Biosciences and Information Processing

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

Case Studies


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.

Specific difficulties with biosciences can include the following:

  • Poor arithmetical skills.
  • Mathematical procedures and sequences of operations are difficult.
  • In multi-step problems, students frequently lose their way or omit sections.
  • Holding various aspects of a problem in mind and combining them to achieve a final solution can be difficult.
  • Problems in sequencing complex instructions, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the mathematical problem, especially if the problem is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.

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

  • Encourage students to work with their peers for problem-solving activities. This helps them to bounce their ideas and helps keep them focused on the task in hand without giving up.
  • Students may need to focus more on the context of the problem in order to solve it, so they may need to be encouraged to seek out more background and supporting information, and highlight key words which help them to organise their thinking.
  • It may help students if they are encouraged to colour code the stages of their problem solving. This helps them to focus on the various stages of the problem and will also help tutors to see at what stage of the problem the student is experiencing difficulties.
  • Students may need to use a calculator to check seemingly simple arithmetic when they possess the ability to tackle very complex equations.
  • Students may find the use of a computer helps them to focus on the task without becoming too distracted.
  • Students may need to be encouraged to create a pocket book of facts and formulas that they can carry around with them to help them remember certain sequences.
  • Large multi-step problems may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Providing the student with flow diagrams or tree diagrams for clarifying procedures can help the student to make sense of a problem.
  • Encouraging students to use mind maps to help with extended pieces of work can help them to organise their thoughts.
  • Try to go through the work at the student’s own pace. Overload can occur frequently as students may need to go over and over the problem numerous times, this can result in an inability to absorb anything.

The following strategies were taken from: Waterfield, J., West, B. and Chalkley, B. (2006), Developing an inclusive curriculum for students with dyslexia and hidden disabilities. The Geography Disciplines Network (GDN) Inclusive Curriculum Project (ICP), HEFCE Project, University of Gloucestershire, http://www2.glos.ac.uk/gdn/icp/idyslexia.pdf (information accessed March 2008). These strategies are also relevant to biosciences.

Course Component
Organisational Challenges
Inclusive Strategies and Reasonable Adjustments
Verbal Communications
Processing auditory information.
Developing reliable short term memory and recall.
Sequencing information.
  • Ensure that the overall discourse allows for reiteration, clarification of new terms and regular pauses for reflection and to catch up
  • Temper overall speed of delivery
  • Provide clear examples and explanations
  • Supply handouts and explanatory lists of new concepts and unfamiliar terms 
  • Utilise other media (DVD, OHP, PowerPoint, etc.) as dynamic means of reiteration
Verbal Communications
Multi-tasking (especially note taking).
Processing information under time constraints.
  •  Be aware of the difficulties posed by multi-sensory tasking
  • Encourage students to audio record instructions and to audio record sessions (equipment may be funded through the DSAs).
  • Liaise with disability support service for a suitable note taker (funded, where appropriate, through the DSA Non-Medical Helper Allowance).
  • Supplement verbal information with written or E-learning versions as introductions, summaries and aide mémoires. (See the guidance below entitled On-line Learning.)
  • Arrange study skills sessions on taking accurate notes (funded through the DSAs).
  • Use blue marker on a white board instead of black.
  • Where guest lecturers are delivering sessions, ensure that they are aware of the needs of students with dyslexia.
Mathematics, statistics and symbols
 
Confusions with mental arithmetic, calculations, symbol recognition and ordering.
Recalling previous stages of calculations and losing the minutiae in a complex problem.
Difficulties recording accurate data.
Accurately scanning graphs for information.
 

  • Present problems in different ways to help those with different learning styles.
  • Assistive technologies such as talking calculators and text-to-speech software such as SpeakOut or TextHelp Read and Write (for reading and writing accuracy) may be purchased through the DSAs.
 
Misplacing and misreading decimal point.
Missing out and misreading questions and worded problems.
Confusion of symbols such as + and x, < and >
Mistakes in copying from line to line.
Inversion of fractions.
  • Allow time, offer clear guidance and present problems plainly to reduce student anxiety and errors.
  • Investigate assistive software for concept or mind mapping that can accommodate mathematical formulae, e.g., Mindmanager.
  • Ensure that photocopying of timetables is clear.
  • Encourage highlighting of key information.
  • Allow extra time for proof reading and checking work.
Fieldwork
Short term memory, information processing and sequencing problems.
Adopting a successful time management and organisation regime.
  • Arrangements for travel, clothing/equipment and accommodation should be transparent.
  • Information can be available in a variety of formats (verbal, written and electronic).
  • Give information reminders prior to departure.
  • Students may use electronic organisers or personal digital assistants (PDAs) purchased through the DSAs.
  • Study skills support can be used to improve time management and recall skills (purchased through the DSAs.) 
Fieldwork
Accurately comprehending written material.
Scanning for information.
Reading, analysing and summarising.
Reading freely without distractions and discomfort from visual perceptual distortions in the text.
  •  Allow additional time for slow reading and processing.
  • Inform students of pre-fieldtrip reading lists well in advance to allow for difficulties with short-term library loans.
  • Distribute course handbooks early
  • Explain place-names and fieldtrip specific terms through word lists and glossaries.
  • Handouts must comply with the guidelines above.
 
 
Listening, observing and writing (especially note taking) in the field.
  • Arrange study skills sessions on taking accurate notes in the field, organised through the DSAs.
  • Use blue marker on a white board, not black.
 
Fieldwork- During the fieldtrip
Reading for meaning in a distracting environment.
Difficulty writing accurately at speed on location and the risk of making illegible notes.
Pressures to record information leading to poor quality field observations and “sense of place”.
Verbalising experience from field notes which are an incomplete record.
  • Provide pre-fieldtrip handouts of place-names and glossaries of terms.
  • Negotiate with students on the need for a field notebook being kept in the field.
  • Use of an audio recording device or amanuensis purchased through the DSAs.
  • Use of personal digital assistant (PDAs) with a cut down version of Office or a portable keyboard such as a Dana with Palm software, purchased through the DSAs.
  • A laptop/tablet PC with text-to-speech and mind mapping software, although suitable, may not be robust enough in the field.
  • Electronic thesaurus for use at base to improve the quality of field notes.
  • Encourage work between peers to share information and ideas.
  • Allow students time to improve notes.
On-line learning
Accurately comprehending written material.
Scanning for information.
Reading, analysing and summarising.
Making accurate notes.
Reading accurately at a competent rate.
  • Avoid large blocks of text and keep text page content to a minimum.
  • Use bullet points and summaries rather than dense prose.
  • Style of writing should be clear and concise
  • Utilise minimum 12 point font size
  • Use Arial or other Sans Serif font
  • Don’t mix fonts
  • Avoid too much underlining, capitals and italics
  • Leave wide spaces
  • Left justify text
  • Give users the interactive option to change font, text size and background colour.
  • Ensure that text based learning content can be read by text-to-speech programs or are speech enabled through browser technology such as BrowseAloud or ReadSpeaker.
  • Design PDF files that are accessible with no encryption or security locks to allow students to make use of PDFAloud or Acrobat Reader version 6 with accessibility elements downloaded to include the built in text reader.
  • Develop PowerPoint presentations that have been saved to the web using the Accessible Web Publishing Wizard for Microsoft Office offered by University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign http://cita.rehab.uiuc.edu/software/office/
  •  This facilitates reading by a text-to-speech programme. Accurate results can be achieved by always using the templates for slides offered by Microsoft and tagging or labelling graphics.  
On-line learning
Reading freely without distractions and discomfort from visual perceptual distortions in the text.
  • Text interspersed with visuals must be sensitively displayed.
  • Avoid visual clutter, text overlaid on graphics or “ghosting”
  • Navigational icons are valuable but cannot be read by on-line browsers (text alternatives must be provided).
  • Website links located within the text can be confusing – make a separate display list
  • Having defined a successful layout, apply it to all pages. 

 Case Studies

Case Study A: A Biology student has difficulties with the Maths courses and seeks support. 
Case Study B: A biology student has dyslexia and seeks extra time and computer access during exams.
Case Study C: A marine biology student has dyslexa and hearing difficulties. She describes how this impacts on her studies including laboratory and fieldwork.
Case Study D: A biological science student has acquired dyslexia and memory loss.
Case Study E: A biology student with dyslexia and dyspraxia.
Case Study F: A biosciences professor describes setting an alternative – non-written – assessment for a severely dyslexic student.

Veterinary Science and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on veterinary science courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

Computing and Information Processing

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


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.

Specific difficulties with computing can include the following:

  • Computational procedures and sequences of operations are difficult.
  • Learning programming sequences and language is problematic.
  • In multi-step programming, students frequently lose their way or omit sections.
  • Holding various aspects of a program in mind and combining them to achieve a final solution can be difficult.
  • Problems in sequencing complex instructions, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the problem, especially if it is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
  • Substituting names that begin with the same letter, e.g. integer/integral.

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

  • Encourage students to work with their peers for problem-solving activities. This helps them to bounce their ideas and helps keep them focused on the task in hand without giving up.
  • Students may need to focus more on the context of the problem in order to solve it, so they may need to be encouraged to seek out more background and supporting information, and highlight key words which help them to organise their thinking.
  • It may help students if they are encouraged to colour code the stages of their programming. This helps them to focus on the various stages and will also help tutors to see at what stage of the program the student is experiencing difficulties.
  • Students may need to use a calculator to check seemingly simple arithmetic when they possess the ability to tackle very complex equations.
  • Students may need to be encouraged to create a pocket book of terminology and factual information that they can carry around with them to help them remember certain sequences.
  • Large multi-step programming may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Providing the student with flow diagrams or tree diagrams for clarifying procedures can help the student to make sense of a problem, and help them work towards translating it into a solution.
  • Encouraging students to use mind maps to help with extended pieces of work can help them to organise their thoughts.
  • Students usually find it helpful to see the functions they are considering. Try to encourage them to sketch functions on the calculator or screen, obtaining an immediate visual image.
  • Try to go through the work at the student’s own pace. Overload can occur frequently as students may need to go over and over things numerous times, this can result in an inability to absorb anything.

Dance, Drama and Performance and Information Processing

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


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.

English and Information Processing

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


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.

Specific difficulties with English can include the following:

  • Poor reading comprehension skills.
  • Difficulties with structuring and organising information.
  • Difficulties with writing, phonics, spelling.
  • Difficulty holding various aspects of a written piece in mind and combining them to achieve a final conclusion.
  • Problems in sequencing information, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the relevant information and extracting it if it is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
  • Substituting names that begin with the same letter.

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

Reading
  • Allow extra time for the student to undertake reading activity and try not to overload them with reading as this can exacerbate any difficulties.
  • Question students about what they have read and allow them to orally relate their understanding of the text, as they may find this easier than writing about it.
  • Consider the use of role play activities where students can act out or put themselves in the position of the character in a text during discussion sessions to help them relate to the feelings of the characters.
  • Provide vocabulary lists for any new terms that are introduced or common terms that are used during the study of a particular text. Providing an explanation of common vocabulary can also help to reinforce the meaning for students.
  • Allow and encourage students to use published book summaries, synopses, and digests of major reading assignments to review (not replace) reading assignments.
Writing
  • Identify, agree and teach students the standards for acceptable written work, include factors such as format and style.
  • Ask students to close their eyes and visualise a written paragraph as a piece of writing is being read out to them.
  • Require students to proof read their work before submitting written assignments. Provide students with a list of items to focus on whilst proof reading.
  • It may be useful for some students to allow them to dictate the assignments onto tape as an alternative to writing them.

Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism and Information Processing

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


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on hospitality, leisure, sport and tourism courses to 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 relevant books and/or equipment and become familiar with them prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 when directing reading – highlight key words or instructions that help students to focus on specific directions or instructions.
  • 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.

Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


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.

Specific difficulties with mathematics can include the following:

  • Poor arithmetical skills.
  • Mathematical procedures and sequences of operations are difficult.
  • Learning theorems and formulae is difficult.
  • In multi-step problems, students frequently lose their way or omit sections.
  • Holding various aspects of a problem in mind and combining them to achieve a final solution can be difficult.
  • Problems in sequencing complex instructions, and past/future events.
  • Failing to equate the question wording with their knowledge of the subject.
  • Difficulties reading the words that specify the mathematical problem, especially if the problem is embedded in large amounts of text.
  • Slow reading, mis-reading or not understanding what has been read.
  • Substituting names that begin with the same letter, e.g. integer/integral, diameter/diagram, classify/calculate.

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

  • Encourage students to work with their peers for problem-solving activities. This helps them to bounce their ideas and helps keep them focused on the task in hand without giving up.
  • Students may need to focus more on the context of the problem in order to solve it, so they may need to be encouraged to seek out more background and supporting information, and highlight key words which help them to organise their thinking.
  • It may help students if they are encouraged to colour code the stages of their problem solving. This helps them to focus on the various stages of the problem and will also help tutors to see at what stage of the problem the student is experiencing difficulties.
  • Students may need to use a calculator to check seemingly simple arithmetic when they possess the ability to tackle very complex equations.
  • Students may find the use of a computer helps them to focus on the task without becoming too distracted.
  • Students may need to be encouraged to create a pocket book of facts and formulas that they can carry around with them to help them remember certain sequences.
  • Large multi-step problems may need to be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps.
  • Providing the student with flow diagrams or tree diagrams for clarifying procedures can help the student to make sense of a problem, e.g. a tree diagram could be used to demonstrate partial differentiation, using one branch for each derivative.
  • Encouraging students to use mind maps to help with extended pieces of work can help them to organise their thoughts.
  • Students usually find it helpful to see the functions they are considering. Try to encourage them to sketch functions on the calculator or screen, obtaining an immediate visual image.
  • It may help to consider providing a gallery of graphs to show various functions, transformations or plots. Students can then use this to match their function to one in the gallery.
  • Try to go through the work at the student’s own pace. Overload can occur frequently as students may need to go over and over the problem numerous times, this can result in an inability to absorb anything.

Music and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


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.

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

  • Provide an advance organiser – prepare students for a learning session by quickly 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 required materials well in advance of a teaching session – allow students plenty of time to obtain 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 session. 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 mastery of the instrument or musical score. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 musical scores.
  • 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.

Nursing and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on nursing courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

Physiotherapy and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk


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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on physiotherapy courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

Social Work and Information Processing

If you would like to recommend any strategies to be added to this page please email z.morton-jones@worc.ac.uk

Case Study 


 

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.

There are a number of instructional practices that can be used to help students on social work courses to 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 reading material and/or equipment and become familiar with these prior to the learning session.
  • Vary the use of learning materials – e.g. use audiovisual material to present learning sessions. 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. 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 in their practical sessions.
  • 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 and instructions.
  • 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.

 


 

Case Study

Case study is an extract from a longer interview with a social work student with dyslexia.

Case Study – Social Work and Information Processing

Source http://jarmin.com/demos/resource/interviews/02.html.  This is an extract from a longer interview with a student with dyslexia.

What is the specialist software on the computer?

With Inspirations if you want to plan an assignment you can make spider graphs with your main topic and this in and that. So you can have a visual prompt if you like. Instead of just words you can put a cat in there that prompts you that that is a certain thing. Or another object that prompts you that this is something else. It’s supposed to be easier to associate objects more than words. To tell you the truth I’m still not out of the old fashioned way of writing it down on paper and then going to the computer and actually doing it that way. So I’m still surrounded by piles of paper on the floor. If I had the time I do think that if you know what you are doing on them it would be beneficial. So maybe when I’ve got a bit of time over the holidays … But I’ve got no time over the holidays because I’ve got a 5,000 word assignment to write over the holidays. It’s getting the time to play about on the computer. When I go to the computer I’m either going on the Internet to look up websites that I need for my assignment or I am actually writing the assignment. I very rarely use it for anything else because I haven’t got the time to go and explore and find out how things work. But I think if you do know what you are doing with the programs on there they will benefit you.

In lectures, you touched on the tape-recorder, how do you get on in those? Do you take notes, do you tape it or…?

In the first year I think the tape-recorder would have been really, really beneficial. We had structured lectures in the morning and then seminar groups in the afternoon on the subject that you had just covered in the morning. It was quite straightforward really. It was known to us that the lecturers didn’t mind if we took tape-recorders in to the lectures and put on the front table. I didn’t have one then because I was still going through the process.

This year we are all in rooms and we all sit round. There’s no lecture theatre where the lecturer is at the front giving the lecture. Now they are all in groups and we discuss the issue and say what our perspective is on it. So that means you can have a few people talking at the same time. So I don’t think it would be beneficial to take the tape cassette in. It would take me so long to decipher.

When I found out I was dyslexic I wasn’t confident with it. To tell you the truth it has, and still is, taking me a long time to get my head round that I have got a learning disability. I still don’t really understand it or believe it myself. Have I got a learning disability? Everybody is saying I have, so I am in that sort of phase of it at the moment. So for me to go down in front and say to him, ‘I have a learning disability,’ would have been really difficult to do. I don’t know what the answers are to it.

It’s difficult for lecturers to get it right?

Yes, I know. There were 150 people in the lectures. Obviously that was another reason why I didn’t want to go down.

…and they don’t want 150 tape-recorders!

Exactly, I can see it from that point of view as well. Even if you didn’t had a learning disability, the thought would have occurred to me that it was a pretty good way of keeping all the information from the lecture. You don’t have to sit and write it all down. So, like you say, you could end up with 150 tape-recorders down there. Maybe they should tape them and give them out to the students. Wouldn’t that save a lot of money?

It wouldn’t save money for the department because they would have to pay for the cassettes.

Yes, that’s true – unless they could get the LEA to fund them. They could use one tape-recorder that the lecturer uses and then multiple copies of the tape. Obviously they would have to be aware of who had a learning disability that way plus, it would save the embarrassment of the person with the learning disability, if they do feel going down there is like pointing them out to everybody else; putting a cassette on the table. They could go to the reception or the lecturer’s room and say, ‘Have you got a tape from that lecture because I have got a learning disability?’

Even now, this year, I’ve had to talk to a lecturer because she wouldn’t give the handouts out at the start of the lecture. I could understand her point of view, but on a social work course that promotes anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory ethos. I thought, ‘Hang on a minute.’ She said, ‘I’m not giving these handouts out because you just won’t listen to me and what I want to do is to make you think.’ I could understand her reasoning.

If it’s the structure of the lecture to give you a guideline of what it’s going through, and maybe aims and objectives, then I can’t see the point in not handing that out. If it’s a paper or a research article that she’s photocopied and wants to give it to you at the end to go away with for further reading, I can understand that. But if it is something to help you to structure your notes, then…

I think this was the handout from the overheads. In the end I ended up going up to her and I said, ‘I’ve got a specific learning disability, can I have the handouts?’ She was really apologetic, but I’m in second year now and why does nobody on that course realise that there are people with learning disabilities in there? I would have thought that went without somebody having to point it out. But there again, like you say, she could just wave them about and say, ‘Anybody with learning disabilities want to come and get one of these, you can now.’ You just can’t win, can you?

So how do people record information in those seminars? Is it just a case of listening and then going away and reading?

Basically, yes, that’s it. They do use the overhead projector and they have handouts. I find the handouts beneficial if they give them to us first because then I can write the notes. If they stick to the handouts, or around the handouts, and the overheads and they are going through it as it is in the handouts, you can actually write notes against what is in the handouts. So that is quite clear and it is easy. You need to come back to it in a couple of weeks because you need to do something with it that you have covered in your assignment. It is quite straightforward and I always put the date of the session and the lecturers name so I can remember it. It’s a sort of recall for me as I can visually remember the lecture. So I find it helps when I am trying to remember what was said and done. So they are quite helpful.

Basically, because it is social work, we get a lot of exercises to do where we are given a lot of case studies and we split into smaller groups. In my specialism at the moment there are forty four people. We are all split into specialisms at the moment. I am doing Children & Families and we are split into groups of five or six and we get a case study and that’s what we have to discuss. So, really, obviously now I am in my second year I have made quite a few friends and people know about my disability – I’m not embarrassed to say anything about it. If I’ve missed any information they will actually let me see their notes and any main point I can pick out. Most of the time I’ve got quite adept at picking the main points up anyway. You’ve got to do it yourself; you can’t expect everybody else to do it. So I make the effort to read the books so at least I’ve got some forward knowledge. So when I go in there I’ve got the main idea of what I’m looking for. If we’re doing about legislation, the main legislation for children and families is the Children Acts, so I know what I am supposed to be making notes on. I only need to be looking at section 17, and what does section this do and that … As I said, I write down what it is. But a lot of it is self-directed learning. You are given the outline of it and then you go away and find out the rest for yourself. This was nothing I didn’t expect; I expected that from university anyway. I didn’t expect them to fill you in on everything you need to know. What I’m finding now is there’s never any books at the library. So you might get the books just a week before the assignment is due in which means unless you can read really fast you’re defeating the object.

Do you find that you need the book for longer to get the information out of it?

Yeah, but they do give you books for longer as long as you take proof of your disability and a letter from the Disability Office. You’re allowed an extra week, overnight books are allowed out for 2 days say instead of overnight. You end up having to reserve them. It’s always at the most inconvenient time when you get the books, for example it’s my daughter’s birthday this weekend and I’ll get that book I’ve been after for 4 weeks. If I don’t find the time to read I have got to give it back by next week. There’s obviously photocopying.

Do you have study support now with a dyslexia tutor?

Yes. I’ve only had my new tutor for four weeks. It’s working out quite well. What she can do for me is that I tend to have a long winded way of saying things and what she can do is break it down for me. She can say the same thing, but in half a page where it will take me a page to say it. I spend most of my time trying to think how I’m going to say something that sounds understandable to somebody else on paper. She’ll come along and say, ‘Yes, I can see what you are trying to say, but if you are somebody that has never read it before it sounds a bit confusing.’ But this goes back to time limits and everything else as well; and the reading. At the moment I am extracting information out of books and finding it difficult to digest it and understand it thoroughly so I can write it in a concise way. So I extract it and think, ‘Oh, I think it means that,’ so it’s being reflected in my work how much I am getting my head round what I’m reading.

Now in the second year I find there is not a lot of support, apart from if you have got a disability. I feel quite lucky in a way that I have got a disability because I know I will get a hell of a lot more support than people on my course who haven’t got a disability. So I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones because I’ve got people there supporting me; tutors encouraging me and stuff like that, that gives me the confidence that I need to go on.

Assessment

Can you explain how they assesssed you in the first year and what the second year entails? What’s the split between exams and assignments and when do you do them?

In the first year we had the exams in January. But to be fair it was indicated what you would need for each exam. It was an open book exam anyway and they were giving us handouts and you could take the handouts and books in. I couldn’t really see what people’s problems were with it. I couldn’t understand why people failed the exam, myself. They gave us all the information you needed.You’ve got a handout in front of you, so how can you go wrong? That’s my own personal opinion. Obviously there is performance in exams; some people just go to pieces, don’t they?

Did you get any extra time? I suppose you wouldn’t have last year.

I didn’t, no. The Disability Office did say that they would notify the faculty or the school and say that I had been initially assessed as having dyslexia and it looked like I might have some sort of learning disability, so could I have this extra time. I don’t know if it was agreed or not, because it was so close to the exams when they were asking, anyway, it is quite an intimidating atmosphere – there were about 200 people, because it was people from the year before who had failed it and were re-taking it as well. You are in a big sports hall and you are allocated a desk and it’s very formal. I just felt very small and didn’t want to put my hand up now in front of all these people and say, ‘Can I have extra time?’ They’d want to throttle you wouldn’t they? ‘Why is she getting extra time and I’m not?’ So I just kept quiet and didn’t even ask. I did the exam in the allocated time. I got a really good mark because, as far as I was concerned, it was all outlined for you. With an extra 45 minutes I don’t know what I would have got – probably 100%. I got 76% so I was really, really pleased with that. Like I said, it was all there, the information if you knew where to find it. This year might be different.

If it is an open book exam, I guess there is quite a bit of reading to do. So if you are struggling with your reading maybe you should be given that extra time. It’s up to you, at the end of the day, whether you want to take it or not.

If they hadn’t have been so good to us in the way that if you listened in the lectures you heard the indications to tell you what was needed in the exam, and I just highlighted right on the front in green on the handout what was necessary for the exam. Obviously, in the handout you know what you need to find in the books then. So I found it quite straightforward. But this year it is more of a prepared exam. You get the question, don’t you, and you have to read around the question and then you go into the exam and have to write about what you’ve found out. So that might be a bit more difficult because it demands a bit more of you this time. They are not pointing you in the right direction.

You said your memory is pretty good for regurgitating material, but it’s that researching and reading around the topic that is the trouble.

Yes, this is where I have the trouble. I’m having trouble with these assignments now and this is what is worrying me about not being able to get these books. If I get them too late I’m not going to get the full benefit of what’s in them. I’ll be trying to extract information at such a rate that I’m bound to miss something. Plus you are at a level now where you have got to think about it. But if you can’t read it properly, how can you analyse it properly – it’s just a vicious circle.

Do you get extra time for assignments?

No. It’s got to be in at the same time as everybody else. I think last year, because none of this support network was in place and I was doing it on my own, I got through it but I think with the expense that by the end of the year I was really, really mentally tired. At the end of the year I had to write 11,000 words. It was a lot for your first year. Some of it was my fault because I got an assignment in January/February time, but I had my exams then so I was concentrating on them. I had a placement in March and I had to do a portfolio and an assignment for this placement. So that was 8,000 words, the portfolio and the assignment, and it was all legislation and ‘haths’ and ‘thus’ and it takes a million years to decipher what some legislation is saying. Then I still had this other 3,000 word assignment to do. So I ended up with 11,000 words to write and I ended up in the space of two months on three different things and I was just totally wiped out at the end of it. I was really, really tired mentally. I never wanted to see another book in my life. That was it. I had a couple of months off over the summer when I had finished my placement, and I thought that was a rest. I couldn’t even read a magazine. I couldn’t even do any light reading.

I came back to university and for the first month it was not working, nothing was happening. I was just reading and they were asking us to ‘analyse this.’ I was saying, ‘OK well, can I have about a week to read it then?’ The time is really like extensions. A lot of people might think it’s unfair. A lot of my friends say to me, ‘How can you have a disability? You are dead good at what you do.’ Yes, but I’m up till 2.00 in the morning reading a book I started reading at 11.00. You might read it and it might take you an hour to digest what you have read and extract the information that you need out of it. It’s taking me three hours to do the same amount. If I don’t put in that amount of commitment, I know that, basically, I’m going to fail. So that’s why I do it but it really tires you out. After last year it seems like I don’t want to be dealing with it. It’s coming round now. But it’s like you just get so mentally tired with the reading and everything that you have got to do. Obviously you are panicking all the time too because you are getting more work piled on and there are deadlines to meet, and you don’t get any extra time. I’m not 18; I don’t go home and I’ve got no responsibilities. I’ve got a house to run and two children to sort out and stuff like that. I can’t do work when I go home. I pick my children up and I have to concentrate on them until 9 or 10 o’clock at night and then I’m getting books out then. It all sort of builds up and by the end of the year you are just completely and utterly worn out with it all. Next year I’ve got a dissertation as well. Then again it might be good practice. I’m not doing bad, I mean my marks are OK. I want to do as well as I can possibly do.

Placements

Just tell me about the placement; how did you get on in that? I suppose you didn’t know anything about your dyslexia at the time.

Yes, because this was by March and I had my Educational Psychologist report in the January, so, basically, I had had my assessment of need done by then as well. So I was just waiting then, really, for the LEA to either agree to fund it or not.

Was there a lot of paperwork and so on in the placement?

I had a 5,000 word portfolio, two case studies and two people that were at the placement and I had this other 3,000 word assignment to do as well. A 5,000 word portfolio, a 3,000 word assignment on legislation to go with it, and then another 3,000 word assignment that just got pushed to the back burner because of the exams and everything else that was going on. That had to be finished by June as well.

Do you think it will affect you in any way in the work situation? Will you have to come up with strategies for the reading problems – if there’s tons and tons of paperwork, will that cause difficulties?

Yes. If they dropped a load of paperwork in front of me and said, ‘Read all that,’ well, the first thing I’d say is, ‘How long have I got?’ That has a bearing on if I am going to be able to read it all or not. If you say to me, ‘Read it by the end of the month,’ and if there is a big pile, I’d be thinking that there is no way I’m going to get that read by the end of the month. I’ll be lucky if I get half of it read. Not because I don’t want to read it; it’s just that’s the rate I go. I’ve learnt a lot of skills since I’ve been at university, and I’ve read lots of study skills books and things like that. I’ve got quite adept now at realising that a lot of stuff that you find there you can disregard and just highlight what you need in it. Usually I have quite good study skills. The beginning of a paragraph usually tells you what the thing is about, so highlight that and the end of the paragraph leads on. So I’ve picked up some good strategies as I go on.

Three tips for lecturers

Three tips that you would give to a lecturer to help students with specific learning difficulties – if you can think of three. 

1.  Give students handouts so they can make notes on the handouts. 

If they are already disadvantaged anyway, I’ve got to go home and write four pages of notes when with a handout at the beginning of a lecture I could just put the relevant notes next to the points on the handout. When I come to re-read that and think about it and think about the assignment it is just a hell of a lot easier than trying to find four pages of notes that went with it. By then I’ve had fifteen other lectures as well and there are, like, a hundred million pages everywhere and I’m thinking, ‘God, where’s that one!’ I don’t know whether it’s asking too much. Other people say that I’m at university now and I should be able to sort all this out myself. I don’t know if you should or you shouldn’t. 

2.  Structure your lectures.

The way you structure a lecture can either have a positive impact or a negative impact on people with learning disabilities.

So there needs to be a clear structure to whatever you are doing; whether it is a seminar a group workshop, and a clear learning outcome so you know where you are headings, because I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out what workshops are about. That sound’s bit stupid, but I don’t need to be spending time trying to work out what you are going to teach me. I need you to say, ‘You need to know that,’ and, ‘You need to know this.’ I’m not telling you to hand me all the information on it. Just give it to me clear and precise and tell me what I need to go and find out about and I’ll do the rest. I’ll go and find out about it. I’m not asking to be spoon-fed or anything.

I might spend a week. The majority of people, in fact nearly all of them on our course are mature students. We have other lives outside university and we are trying to fit this in as well. We’re not 18 and we can’t ring mum up and say I’ve got a few financial problems. We’re sorting all that out as well. So, it would just make things a lot easier if it was clear and concise what the aims and outcomes were supposed to be and what we were supposed to be learning. Then we would all traipse off to the libraries or wherever we’ve to go and we’d find out the information. To me, that’s a better way of learning. I can’t see how I’m learning if I’m confused about something. If I’m confused about something and picking up the wrong information up in the library, then how am I learning? I’m wasting my time. 

3.  Be aware of who is dyslexic in your group. At least have some idea.

Little things like the acceptability of the lecturers that there are people with learning disabilities on their course. I found it really encouraging last year when I said that some of the lecturers said, ‘I know we have people with learning disabilities and if you need to come down here and stick a tape-recorder in front of me while I am teaching this lecture, I have no problem with that.’ It’s really intimidating and embarrassing to have to go up to a … You are forever having to explain yourself … ‘I’ve got this learning disability.’ You just get sick of this because people should know this anyway. To tell you the truth if I hadn’t got a learning disability I would have taken a tape-recorder in anyway.

That would be the ideal thing for them to say that they know some people like to tape lectures so they can bring them down, rather than, ‘I know you have a learning disability so you can come and put them down on the desk.’