What did you do to create inclusive practice and how did you do it?
Recent research has shown an increasing number of students coming to Higher Education with a learning disability. In the Institute of Policing (IOP), we have introduced a referral system for students with a Learning Support Statement (LSS) – or those who suspect they may need one – who are connected with an experienced lecturer with lived experience or expertise in this area. The lecturer then meets with them and provides advice and direction about available options to aid their transition into university life. This can involve links to sites and aids such as Alternate Formats or practical advice on how to decipher learning outcomes. This has proved invaluable to students, especially those who have recently been diagnosed and are coping with the demands of a new job on top of their academic studies. In these cases, university support has been integrated with work with students’ employers, so that there is a clear connection between the latter’s support and that provided by the IOP. Work-based education officers also identify possible candidates and internally refer via our new referral system. This work is overseen by a senior lecturer who provides the strategic overview and direct link to the four police services. Initial feedback from students has been very positive.
Why did you implement your example of inclusive practice? ?
I am the parent of a child with autism and learning difficulties and, as such, have a great empathy with neurodiversity issues. I initially gained an interest in students with Learning Support Statements as a result of contact with one student who was struggling with dyslexia and the lack of support provided by the University support service and the Institute of Policing. I realised that there was no direct point of contact for students and the LSS was a standard document that did not really detail how to address some of their specific requirements. I then undertook a research project as part of my Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Professional Education (PgCHPE) to look at the perceptions of students with LSSs regarding the support they received, and carried out an analysis which showed that these students’ marks in initial modules were significantly lower than their peers without LSSs.
What was the impact of your case study?
My evidence in this area is quite informal but initial research as part of my PgCHPE qualification showed that students with an LSS seemed to perform less well in initial module assessments that their peers without LSSs. The major impact of my study is that students now have a point of reference to ask questions, and receive initial direction as to what is already in place to support them and towards some of the aspects of Blackboard that can assist them, such as Alternative Formats. I am also starting to introduce neurodiversity-compliant PowerPoints which will become a requirement for all modules in due course, as well as advice for students on how to amend PowerPoints in the interim in terms of background and fonts. As an example, one student who approached me for support and advice regarding his frustration with poor grades recently scored 70 and 82 on assignments, with excellent feedback.
What were the lessons learned?
Early contact with students with an LSS is key as this enables a positive start and reduces the potential for feelings of abandonment. Practical advice and support are often required as well as support that is bespoke to each student’s needs. This is a ‘standalone’ position as some students will require considerable help to enable them to level the playing field. All staff have a role to play in assisting with early identification, so having a SharePoint folder with useful information can prevent staff feeling it is outside of their own skill set. A review of module content is also important, as this is where a lot of students are finding difficulty in our programmes.