5. Reflection and Analysis… Interview with Disability Service

Transcription.

I decided to use Google Docs to transcribe my interview. I used the ‘voice typing’ tool, this works best to a human voice rather than a recording, so I listened to the recording off my phone with headphones and spoke in to google docs everything the participant and I said. Although it did take 6 hours for a 40-minute interview and involve a lot of going back over the recording. I believe it was an effective method. I then removed it from google docs onto a secure memory stick. When I was transcribing and listening to the recording it gave me time to reflect and really listen to the answers, which is difficult to do when in the actual interview.

The main aspects that I learned from this interview are:

Training –

  1. They provide a range of training to staff.
  2. DET (Disability Equality Training) is done by an external provider.
  3. This is their baseline training and they encourage as many staff members as possible to do.
  4. Various other training that included ISA storage and management, inclusive assessment and brief inclusive training.
  5. This training is normally more specifically directed at academic staff, but anyone can attend.
  6. Sometimes they can be devised to respond to a particular situation with a student or barrier that has been highlighted.
  7. It is not compulsory.
  8. They are involved in the inclusive unit on the teaching and learning PG Cert course.
  9. A new type of training is coming to December about Mental Health and Inclusive practice

From the participant responses, I felt that the focus of the training currently provided is toward the academic staff. I would be interested to see if technicians or support workers feel they could be better supported through additional training that was focused on their areas of practice.

For example, it could be helpful for study assistants to know how to make a brief inclusive. My role as a study assistant can often involve breaking down and re-writing a brief to help a student understand it. The inclusive brief training is aimed at academics to make all briefs inclusive, meaning the support workers role of helping a student would not be required. In theory, this makes sense but as this is not yet the case until all briefs given to students are completely inclusive to all students I believe it could be useful for a support worker to attend this type of training.

It was clear from the interview that UAL is aware of the importance of training its staff about disability and inclusive practice. With new courses being developed they are showing their willingness to provide students with a safe and inclusive environment. My only question about this is, are enough or the right teachers getting access to this training and do they feel it can be transferred into their teaching practice?

 

ISA –

  1. The document is devised between the student and their disability adviser.
  2. The student agrees that the content will be shown to course leaders and staff.
  3. The teaching staff is invited to come back and ask questions about the ISA.
  4. It does not include their diagnostic information, since September 2018 the disability service and GDRP guidance believes that it is not necessary for the teacher to know this to put the requirements in place.
  5. It does not include any extra support the student might getting ie one to one specialist study support tuition or mentoring.
  6. It is the responsibility of the course leader to disseminate the ISA to everyone who is going to be teaching that student.
  7. Support workers will be shown the ISA if they request it, not automatically

I found it interesting to know that it is the responsibility of the course or program leader ‘to make sure that [the ISA] is shared with everyone who is going to be teaching that students.’ (DS)

I would be interested to see if this is happening effectively across the institution? And if technicians know where to ask for this information if they have not been shown it? From my experience, students can have a large amount of contact time with technicians and other non-academic staff.  I believe it is just as important they are prepared to know the need of specific students as the student tutors.

For a member of staff who are teaching disabled students, this document is the only form of information they receive that will help them to meet the needs of the student. Is it being circulated properly and who’s responsible is that? Another question that has come out of this interview is do staff members feel the information on the ISA is sufficient to support them with meeting the student’s needs? From my experience with ISA’s they can be quite generic and vague, I would be interested in finding out if this is the case with other staff members?  if it is what could the disability service do to give more information that will help staff meet the needs of their students?

I understand and agree that is it not necessary for a student’s diagnostic information to be known by the teaching staff. It is important that the student is not defined by their impairment. Perhaps there is a way of providing staff with more information to teach this specific student, to help the student be understood by their teachers so they can gain a sense of belonging and reach their full potential on the course. Perhaps by finding out from staff members the type of information they feel they would need, we can suggest a recommendation on how things can be achieved.

 

 

Social Model-

  1. UAL is Social Model focused and all training is given to staff is social model focused.
  2. The participant believes that you should not be critical of the language that someone uses but you should encourage the willingness to learn.
  3. The DS (disability service) do this first through the DE Training. They believe they can create an understanding and a willingness to understand by teaching through example.
  4. The DS has leaflets and newsletters that inform staff about the preferred language
  5. The DE Training can help the teachers to understand language and ‘take the scariness out of it to some extent’

I believe that when both DET training and teaching though the example is used to encourage staff to understand and use the preferred language around disability it can be successful. My two questions from this would be. How many of staff members (full and part time) have been to this training? And did they find the training helped them to understand the social models massage and use of language?

 

Communication –

  1. Disability adviser is assigned to specific program areas, long term to build a relationship with the staff and to understand the course requirements.
  2. The adviser is there to support the teachers to support their students.
  3. To advise the staff on how to implement the ISA or change aspects of their course to make it inclusive.
  4. There is always more to be done to enhance such relationships.

The question that this information has sparked for me is: do the staff feel supported by the advisers connected to their course?

The participant went on to talk about inclusive practice principles. This is a teaching idea that I totally agree with. If you implicate certain teaching practices for one student, they can have a benefit to many other students. This is the message that the training seeks to do but the participant acknowledges that there is always more to be done. I would ask what are these? What are the inclusive practice principles that they would like to be seen put in place?

 

 

DSA Funding –

  1. In 2016 the government no longer funds support workers. It is now the responsibility of the university to fund this support.
  2. The training is not directly affected by the funding change but it does mean the resources that was spent on training now covers the support workers as well.
  3. The change has had a positive effect because it has boosted the effort to train staff so less support workers are required because the classrooms are more inclusive to more students.

Although the answers the participant gave me were formal and directed by the university policies, I found them interesting. They start to show how ‘resources’ can have an effect on the support provided to the students. If they do not have the funding to pay part time staff to go on the training, they will have less members of staff trained to meet the requirements of disabled students. The university has a very high number of part time staff, this could mean students with specific learning requirements are being misunderstood or their needs are not being met.

I requested from the DS the number on current members of staff that have attended the DET training. The figure I was given at 697 staff members since 2012, but this number is said to have limitations on accuracy because of lack of robust record keeping.  This number also does not acknowledge what percentage of these staff members are still working at UAL. I will have to use my questionnaire to find out if the participants have had training and use this to give an idea of the percentage of full or part time staff that have attended the training.

 

Equipped –

  1. Big university always more to be done.
  2. One barrier staff face is lack of time and recourses. Example, documents online 24 before the lesson.
  3. The DS job is to support the staff to overcome this barrier. Example, make their point to the dean for more resources.
  4. Course teams see the things they are required to do to become an inclusive environment as an extra.
  5. The academic strategies review has included additional recourses to create more fulltime teaching roles to help allow time for staff to meet these requirements.
  6. Restriction on training part-time staff is that UAL may not be the resources to pay them to do the training outside of teaching hours.

The key information I took from these comments was that staff may not be fully equipped because of the lack of time and recourses available to them. Although there is the promise of extra teaching staff, the DS still has the big challenge of getting staff with little spar time to alter and change the way they teach to be inclusive. My question from to the staff would be to see if the teaching staff feel they have the support and resources from the university to create an inclusive environment and to meet the needs of their students?

 

Aims and Challenges –

  1. Challenge is to become an inclusive teaching and learning environment.
  2. Making all campuses assessable and inclusive.
  3. Getting everyone to start understanding the context of inclusive teaching and learning.
  4. Resourced enough to feel that it can become part of our day to day life.
  5. The aim is to have all taught sessions captured on video, but they are nowhere near that.

These challenges and aims mentioned above are the role of what the disability service has been put in place to do. I believe that there is always room for improvement and development. I hope that by asking the teaching staff about their experience I can provide some recommendations from the staff to UAL to reach the goal of becoming an inclusive teaching and learning environment.

 

The Interview.

This was the first time I had conducted an official face to face interview and I found I got pretty nervous. When reflecting on the interview and doing the transcription I become aware that there are definitely areas that I could have questioned the participant on further. This could have given a more in-depth insight into the Disability Service. The participant tended to go off on a tangent to explain the subject of my question in depth before giving her response or views.

To overcome these issues, I have decided to follow up the interview with extra questions, which I will be asking over email. I will be sending these questions with the transcriptions for their approval. I believe that an email interview will be a good method to follow up as it will allow the participant the time to reflect on their answers before responding. The participant will also have the transcription to read and add anything they may feel they missed out.

 

How will I use this information?

From this interview, I plan to develop the highlight question in orange into a questionnaire to the staff members at UAL.

 

 

4.Reflection… Writing the interview questions.

I developed the questions for this interview by focusing on my aims of the project and the context of information that I hope to get from the participant.

My preliminary aims for this project were to ‘investigate how the institution prepares its staff to teach students with specific learning requirements. I wanted to use the information I gather from this interview to inform my questionnaire to the staff members at UAL which will be used to achieve the second two aims of the project.

This will help the questionnaire writer to determine which questions to ask and the type of language to use in order to carry out the ‘conversation’ with respondents in a way that they will understand and will help them to provide the information that is sought. (Bruce, I. 2008 p.8)

 

The questions I developed came from 6 areas of investigation:

  1. The training that is provided to its staff to support them in teaching disabled students.
  2. The individual support agreement (ISA) To help understand what information teachers are receiving about their students and how it is intended to be used.
  3. The Social Model of Disability and how it relates to the universities policies and training.
  4. The relationship between the disability service and UAL staff
  5. The implications of DSA funding changes on the training of staff.
  6. The future aims and challenges of the disability service at UAL and how the teaching staff could be better supported by the university.

When writing the question, I was aware that I needed to keep them open and without bias or assumption. This was especially apparent with the questions about the social model of disability and the language associated with it. My bias was that I believe it should be more considered within the teaching environment and staff should be encouraged to be aware of it and highlight the preferred language to their students.

Also, when writing the question, I found that I often incorporated two questions in one, after doing the interview I understood how important it is to present one at a time as the interviewee often forgets the second part of the question and only focus on the first.

 

These are my final question for the interview:

I have added orange notes that will help promote me and examples to provide further explanation if needed.

Questions:

  1. What specialist training is given to staff to help them teach students with specific learning requirements? Ask for examples
    Is this training mandatory or optional?
    Are staff required to ‘top-up’ their training, and if so how often? If new legislation is passed are staff automatically informed/trained
  2. What is the purpose of the ISA report and how is it used?
  3. How do you decide how much of the ISA report is relevant and should be disclosed to staff?
  4. In the Social Model of Disability much is written about the preferred language and terminology. What is your view on this within the higher education environment?

These examples I have are taken from ‘Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Learning guide to the language.
Avoid/ offensive                                            Preferred
A person with a disability                         Disabled person

The disabled                                                   Disabled person
Special Needs                                                 Individual needs

  1. How is awareness and understanding of language and terminology around disability promoted to teaching staff? For example, lecturers, technicians, support workers?
  2. How are communication and collaboration built between teaching or technical staff and The Disability Service?
  3. Could more be done to enhance such relationships to provide a consistent teaching experience?
  4. What implications do funding changes have on the disability training provided to teaching and technical staff?
  5. In your view are the teaching and technical staff of UAL adequately equipped to provide an inclusive and supportive environment for all students?
  6. What additional ways could staff be supported by UAL to provide a more inclusive environment for their students?
  7. What are the future aims and challenges of the disability service at UAL?

 

3. Methodology Activity Theory

What Activity Theory is and how it relates to my research project.

‘Activity Theory is a practical framework which can be used to understand the complex and dynamic problems of human research and practice.’ (Hashim & Jones p6)

The aim of my research project is to better understand the experience that teachers have when teaching students with specific learning requirements. The focus is on how teachers can provide a more inclusive environment to disabled students.

Activity theory is a methodology of analysing human interaction through the use of tools.  The idea behind this theory is that things happen through people doing things. Activity is broken down into five parts, subject, tool, object, rules, community, and division of labor which will result in an outcome.

 

In the research project, the subject is the staff members at UAL, the tool is the research methods ie questionnaire to the staff experience, the object of this project is the teaching of disabled students. These factors will be influenced by the rules of ethics and disability policy, the community of the institution of UAL and finally, the division of labor is the disability service. The desired outcome of this project is a more inclusive environment and disabled student’s needs being met.

This is the activity system for my research project:

Activity Theory

Activity theory sees the introduction of a tool, in my project the questionnaire to create an action of recommendations to meet the needs of disabled students. The interaction between the staff (subject) and the institution (community) is effected by the ethics and disability policy of UAL (rules) and the interactions between the teaching of disabled students (object) and the institution (community) will be affected by the disability service (a division of labor). This highlights that to achieve the best understanding of the activity you must look at the whole picture. I must look at all the elements to make the analysis of the project and each element will have an effect on the other. Hashim and Jones sate ‘it is only when viewing the larger activity that individual actions are comprehensible.’ (Hashim & Jones p.4)

It is through the tool of interviews and questionnaires with the staff at UAL and the disability service that I will reveal the experiences of teaching and meeting the need of disabled students. The tool in action will provide methods to improve and show the benefits of learning more about how to provide an inclusive environment.

By observing and analysing the experiences of the teachers through the questionnaire I can observe the patterns of positive and negative experience to create awareness and to influence the tool or outcome I may create as a result. The outcome for the project could become a tool to be observed and analysed again in a cycle to continue improving the goals of meeting the needs of our disabled students.

Activity Theory can be used to clarify the way disabled students needs are met and indicate to the staff through participation and the outcome of how they could provide better support for their students.

I believe Activity Theory will help me to push my project further and perhaps to provide a suggested solution. Although this was not the intention of my project I feel it will help me to focus on the project. I agree with the way Hashim and Jones describe ‘activity as hierarchical’ (Hashim p.18), this model is for ‘decomposing activities into actions and operation’ (Hashim p.18) with contextual and historical background.  If I can provide staff at UAL with a list of recommendation to help them meet the needs of their students I will feel this project has a purpose. My role as a support worker is focused on removing barriers and supporting students, I would like this to influence the outcome for this project.

Hashim, N and Jones, ML, (2007) Activity theory: a framework for qualitative analysis, in 4th International Qualitative Research Convention (QRC), Malaysia, PJ Hilton