Tracey was a 19 year-old student with a hearing impairment who was undertaking study in an education faculty. She could speak but others found her a little hard to understand. She both lip-read and used Auslan. She used an interpreter in on-campus lectures but not in the practicum.
Tracey was provided with a support person in the first practicum. In subsequent practicums she did not use additional resources.
A modelled lesson was observed by students during the first practicum and one of the requirements was that students wrote comments on the right hand side of the page, in response to questions on the left hand page, as they observed. Tracey had difficulty with this because she could not lip-read and write at the same time. Consequently the support person made notes herself during the session and afterwards she discussed the session with Tracey who then answered the questions on the page.
The coordinator encouraged Tracey to develop the use of her eyes in class to convey messages and express her feelings.
For the four-week practicum Tracey was placed within the broad suburban area as she had requested. The school proved to be in a ‘difficult’ subsection of that area. Due to a communication breakdown the class teacher was not aware of Tracey’s disability until Tracey appeared in the classroom. The teacher was totally unprepared, but during the practicum she was able to work with Tracey and the university-based teacher-educator to assist development, provide feedback and assess development.
Tracey was failed for this practicum because it was judged that she was not engaging the students in quality learning interactions and relied frequently on an instructor mode of teaching. A supplementary practicum was prescribed and it was agreed that Tracey would teach in in a school with hearing impaired students, where there was an awareness of this disability. This arrangement worked well and Tracey passed the practicum.
Due to her disability Tracey had not developed the same linguistic and conceptual framework as hearing students. Her written work was judged to be borderline; her capacity to record her ideas was poor. Whilst it was considered possible that this was not an accurate reflection of her ability, it posed a serious problem to her successful completion of the course. The coordinator commented that specialised support in teaching and tutoring was not available and was being sought by deaf students and staff to compensate for this common difficulty of hearing impaired students.
During the course, students with disabilities who had worked with a support person in the practicum were asked to list the qualities needed in a support person. Tracey noted that of great importance is a sense of humour. She praised her own support person in the first practicum, who she felt acted like a friend and was someone who could understand her needs and observe things that she could not.
Tracey experienced a crisis of confidence on the Monday morning of the last week of the supplementary practicum after she had reviewed her work, considered supervisors’ feedback and planned for the week. She told the coordinator that she had suddenly felt that she could not do what she believed was required. The coordinator noted that many students register feelings of this kind, not only students with a disability.
Documentation of strategies
A record was kept of the strategies used in accommodating Tracey. The documentation consisted of:
- informal notes made by the coordinator in discussions with the student about placement needs;
- notes of the needs identified with the student during discussions of developmental guidelines and assessment frameworks;
- communications with the student, principal, and class teacher outlining program adjustments, and providing for negotiation and further discussion during the practicum;
- university-based supervisor’s notes from observation and discussion with the student regarding class placement, including references to developing teaching skills and strategies, e.g. class arrangements and strategies for visual monitoring which may compensate for the reduction in aural cues;
- university-based supervisor’s advice and encouragement to the student to discuss her knowledge with the class teacher and to discuss any strategies which she considers may assist her teaching;
- records of interviews with the student conducted during her research project which focussed on working with the support person in the first practicum;
records of attitudes of other students and of professionals in school settings as perceived by students with disabilities.