I discussed my high-stake activity project on Social Self and the plan for its implementation here .
Within my D4A pilot research I focused on exploring how collaborative learning can increase accessibility to learning and students’ engagement, and integrating disability into curriculum and teaching.
I designed this project with several goals in mind, including that the project would (a) be relevant to students’ lived experiences; (b) position them as authors of scientific knowledge; (c) through engagement of students in collaborative activities; (d) thus promoting accessibility and engagement of learning.
In overall, the assignment worked well, including the in-class presentation of students’ work-in progress projects. Initially, it took some modeling from my part and warming up for students to engage in constructive discussion and providing feedback to their peers, including suggestions for further improvement and elaboration of their projects, but gradually students took the full ownership of the discussion as it became truly a student-led conversation. I believe it was also due to the fact that the project was designed to address topics relevant to their lived experiences and positioned them as authors of knowledge produced in the process of the project. I was also pleased to see how students were able to use the concept of disability and the material we discussed in class and relate it to other topics and social categories they researched.
However, despite the fact that the discussions were very lively, quite sophisticated, and on several occasions had to be ended due to time limitations, there were still students who chose to remain quiet if not disengaged during the post presentation discussions.
I would like to continue using this assignment in the next semester in a very similar format. Although students had an opportunity during the class activity to practice analyzing data (both, individually and collectively) using concepts of dominant and counter discourses, I believe students would benefit from additional time and/or further experience of practicing analysis of their narratives.
I observed that the faculty commonly question what accessibility to learning looks like and frequently hesitate implementing accessible practices in teaching as they are concerned that the expectations would be lowered and overall quality of learning compromised. Based on my experience with this project, providing students with additional instructional support in the form of project instructions and incorporating collaborative activities throughout the semester led to higher quality of work and more sophisticated analysis and conclusions.
In the next semester I am planning to focus on students’ contribution to developing learning community that promotes accessibility of learning. Although it might sound as very obvious, the role of students’ contribution to learning accessibility is probably one of the most important realizations from my D4A project. Drawing on the notion of learning as collaborative practice and experiences from the last two semesters, I understand that accessibility can not be simply delivered to students by the faculty, but also has to be collaboratively constructed within the learning community of the classroom by students and faculty. I believe that accessibility is not a thing that can be simply added to teaching as a new ingredient into a recipe. Rather, it is a process that has to be developed through revising existing teaching/learning practices and developing new anti-ableist pedagogy that includes students as its co-constructors.