Supporting the dyslexic law student
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Supporting the dyslexic law student

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Slides for the presentation by Jackie Lane (University of Huddersfield) at the Learning in Law Annual Conference 2011.

Slides for the presentation by Jackie Lane (University of Huddersfield) at the Learning in Law Annual Conference 2011.

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  • Colleges of Further and Higher Education have policies for disability awareness and support, including dyslexics. It is hoped that dyslexic individuals will contact the college Disability Officer and will discuss their individual situations with department staff. However, some dyslexic students may not have been identified or may not want to declare their disability, so staff need to have some general awareness. Changes to accommodate the dyslexic student will improve the learning environment for all students. Dyslexia has not prevented students from achieving excellent results, at all levels.
  • A marked discrepancy between ability and the standard of work being produced. A persistent or severe problem with spelling, even with easy or common words. Difficulties with comprehension as a result of slow reading speed. Poor short term memory, especially for language based information, which results in the inefficient processing into long term memory. Difficulties with organisation, classification and categorisation.
  • Note-taking may present problems due to spelling difficulties, poor short term memory and poor listening skills. Handwriting may be poor and unformed, especially when writing under pressure. Students often show a lack of fluency in expressing their ideas, or show difficulties with vocabulary. Some students may have continuing pronunciation or word finding difficulties, which may inhibit them when talking or discussing in large groups.
  • The pressures of studying can lead to a high level of anxiety. Dyslexia can accentuate this and create even more stress. A new course of study may highlight difficulties that have previously gone unnoticed.Dyslexic people are often excellent problem solvers. However, they do need to be given the 'space' in which to do this.Dyslexic minds think differently so the learning environment may add pressure and create anxiety, especially to students who have struggled with their earlier education. It is stressful and frustrating to face a lack of understanding and some students may appear hostile. It is easy to misinterpret any display of anger at the system as a student being difficult or being particularly awkward.The pressures of studying can lead to a high level of anxiety. Dyslexia can accentuate this and create even more stress. A new course of study may highlight difficulties that have previously gone unnoticed.Dyslexic people are often excellent problem solvers. However, they do need to be given the 'space' in which to do this.Dyslexic minds think differently so the learning environment may add pressure and create anxiety, especially to students who have struggled with their earlier education. It is stressful and frustrating to face a lack of understanding and some students may appear hostile. It is easy to misinterpret any display of anger at the system as a student being difficult or being particularly awkward.
  • The student needs a sensitive approach; a chance to talk, to know you are listening and understand.Some students do not reveal their difficulties and dread them coming out into the open. Understanding their dyslexia is likely to offer them the best way forward but they may need help to do this. Signpost towards a specialist dyslexia tutor.Some of your students will not know they are dyslexic, particularly those returning to education, e.g. on Access courses. Discuss your concerns with a specialist dyslexia tutor or the learning support unit in your college.
  • In lectures. Be aware of your language. Vary your speed of delivery. Introduce new ideas and concepts explicitly. Provide an overview of your topic so students know what to expect. Allow time for questions and give concrete examples. Help with note taking by providing handouts. Give the spelling of new or difficult vocabulary. Encourage students to find 'buddies' who will share notes. (See Dyslexia Friendly Text.) Provide handouts and summaries before lectures for pre-reading.
  • Do not expect dyslexics to answer questions or talk in large groups. Use clear overhead projections or slides. Keep the content limited. Encourage the use of ICT if students wish, e.g. tape recorders or laptops. Create a multi-sensory learning environment, e.g. videos, pictures, diagrams, practical and experiential activities. Allow time for reinforcement and over-learning by frequent revision. The dyslexic student may be the best person to know what is most helpful.
  • Dyslexic students in Higher Education, who have been assessed as dyslexic, can apply to their funder (e.g. Student finance England, NHS Student Grants Unit, Open University) for a DSA. Part time students and post-graduate students are now eligible for this allowance.Students at Higher Education with dyslexic difficulties can apply for the Disabled Students Allowance. The application should be supported by a diagnostic assessment report post 16 years from either an Educational Psychologist or a specialist dyslexia teacher with a Practising Certificate.
  • Font and background - again, if materials are made available electronically in advance, students may choose their own personal preference (N.B. do not mark materials ‘Read only’ )
  • Although the Joint Academic Stage Board does require the Foundations of Legal Knowledge to be examined by at least 50%, the guidance does not specify that this has to be entirely time constrained. Bell and James offer some alternatives that could be offered to some students such as an oral examination or a take-away paper that needs to be completed within a given time e.g. a day, week or even term.
  • However, there is a duty in relation to the process of determining whether a student meets the competence standard. Thus, the mark required to meet a competence standard should not be adjusted, but a disabled person may be given longer in an exam, for example, to be able to demonstrate that he can achieve that standard.
  • The QAA Code of Practice reminds institutions that the anticipatory duty identified in the Disability Equality Duty requires them to be able to show that they have taken the entitlements of disabled students into account when designing and reviewing programmes of study. The validation and review processes should “ include an evaluation of the programme aims, teaching and learning methods, intended learning outcomes, and assessment strategies in order to identify potential barriers to the participation of disabled students.” The CoP recommends that the institution seeks to “involve disabled students in the design and review of inclusive provision.”“The assessment methods to be used on programmes should be sufficiently flexible to enable all students to demonstrate that they have met the learning outcomes, that is, they should allow for appropriate and reasonable adjustments. There may be more than one way of a student demonstrating that they have achieved a particular outcome and these methods should be explored prior to the start of the programme following disclosure by the student of a particular impairment.” “Staff should be aware of their responsibility to design inclusive programmes and should seek training and ongoing support where necessary. Staff should be given access to sources of advice both from within the institution and externally.” QAA Code of Practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education, Section 3: Disabled Students - March 2010, Section 10 

Supporting the dyslexic law student Supporting the dyslexic law student Presentation Transcript