Home Discussions Educators Pedagogy Striving for an accommodations-free classroom to support all learners

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    Jessica Murray

      When I was a teacher, I kept notes on things I wanted to revise or try differently the next time around. Sometimes that meant tweaking discussion questions or swapping out an uninspiring lecture for more dynamic content. Not too long ago a comment from Travis Zimmerman, who works in engineering, got my attention on a LinkedIn post. I reached out to him about writing something for STS, which is how I often seek out potential guest posters–by encountering people who are working and commenting in the same space as us. 

      Although our exchange didn’t result in a formal post, I did want to share an idea that Travis communicated: striving for accommodations-free classrooms would serve all students because we’d be offering materials and information in enough different modes that all students could access them, regardless of disability or not, and all students would benefit. This reminded me of a recent post from Patrick Dwyer on his blog Autistic Scholar: “Pathology and Motivation to Access Supports.” Sometimes we educators can forget the vulnerability that is part of accessing accommodations and support for students.

      During our recent session at the Advanced Technical Education conference, one educator offered a great idea: she asks students a couple of times throughout the semester whether her information is accessible and then seeks to respond to student need. For example, if she presented info in a powerpoint and a student indicated that it was a difficult way for them to access the information, she then seeks another way to deliver it. I thought this was a terrific idea, in part because educators get feedback on materials and can strategically seek out or create more resources as necessary.

      So, springboarding from Travis’s comments, what do you think? Is thinking about or aiming for an “accommodations-free classroom” useful? Could it help you as an educator with classroom strategy?

      Jessica Murray

        Readers, apologies, I misspelled Travis’s name. It is Zimmermann, not Zimmerman.

        Laura Gilmour

          Interesting topic. In educational psychology (the graduate department I’m a student in), the department tends to be reasonable about this rather than making it a formal process for minor accommodations. For instance, in many classes all students have the option to choose to write exams on computer, a lot of essay exams are take-home as it is less on memorization of material than the ability to apply it so less risk of “cheating” as it is expected you go to databases and add reference articles. Also, for statistics courses, my instructor was very open about me using a Microsoft word add-in math-type to write equations on assignments and exams. The only thing I had to make a formal request to the disability office for in graduate school was extra time on in-class exams involving a math component. However, in large classes of hundreds of students, this would be more difficult to implement and would likely have only to provide these to students with documented need.

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