Faculty Awareness and Training in the Post-Secondary Community: An Annotated Bibliography

Best Practices: Faculty Awareness and Training in the Colleges

The college experience is typically of a short duration, as many students will attend college for a one or two year program, whereas students at the university level often spend three or more years in post-secondary education. This extra time in academic studies allows the university student more time to get involved in the campus community as an advocate. Therefore, due to time constraints, college students are not as likely to become involved in developing programs or materials for faculty awareness and training. Faculty awareness/training that is taking place at the college level is happening primarily as a result of initiatives from disability service providers.

Service providers in college disability centres across Canada are working with limited hours and tight budgets, with an increasing population of students with disabilities to serve. Some colleges are not addressing faculty awareness and training at all. Other schools have taken the initiative to address this issue and have received government funding for some of their innovative faculty awareness projects. A proactive approach to raising the awareness of faculty as to appropriate disability accommodations in the classroom, will result in a better chance for disabled students to realize higher academic achievement and successful completion of post-secondary education.

As materials from colleges across Canada were reviewed and assessed over the past several months, a number of "Best Practices" for faculty awareness and training became apparent. The following is a summary of these practices:

  • Create materials that are clear and concise. Professors and teachers are very busy and often have limited time to read faculty awareness materials; materials that are clear and concise are more likely to be read and have a positive impact on accommodations.
  • Faculty is most receptive to awareness-raising or training initiatives when there is an immediate need for the information. In that respect, materials should be developed to address the day-to-day need for accommodations in the classroom and created to show that a regular, cooperative approach is required to ensure that services and supports are provided.
  • Service providers should write to faculty members informing them of services that centres for students with disabilities provide.
  • At the beginning of the school year, the president of the college should write a letter to faculty members reminding staff of their legal obligation to accommodate disabled students in the classroom.
  • Faculty members are most receptive to tips and advice regarding special needs when other faculty members who have worked with students with disabilities present them. Professors and teachers should be encouraged to share their experiences in workshops/orientation sessions and other forums involving their colleagues. They can also share written information in faculty awareness manuals and other publications.
  • Incorporate disability concerns and accommodation techniques with general in-service training conducted during staff orientation for full- and part-time faculty.
  • Create workshops for professors and teachers that use overhead slides. After the presentation, allow faculty the chance to exchange ideas in small groups and discuss disability issues.
  • Have a service provider develop a confidential student profile for professors - in consultation with the student - at the beginning of the year to reveal the student's strengths, weaknesses and suggested accommodations. A short, one-page outline of accommodations specific to that type of disability should be attached to the student's profile. This will serve to create an understanding amongst faculty as to the variety of accommodations required in different settings and make teaching staff aware that each student with disabilities has unique requirements to ensure success in a learning environment.
  • Many colleges with small operating budgets for student services create partnerships with universities with larger budgets in order to share their effective publications and initiatives. The sharing of information on the subject of faculty awareness and training should be encouraged.
  • Appropriate networks should be formed between students, administrators, professors, service providers, and tutors early in the school year. Each group will contribute to the success of disabled students on campus and in the classroom.
  • Format faculty guidebooks and manuals in a way that is learning-disability friendly. Use lots of bullets, font sizes, illustrations, charts and graphs. This will provide the instructor with an example of how to best teach the student.
  • Create pamphlets aimed at addressing commonly asked questions with direct answers.
  • Produce guidebooks that demonstrate different teaching strategies such as tactile, visual, auditory and kinesthetic methods to ensure that all learning types have a chance to succeed.
  • Publish handbooks that address not only the student's learning responsibilities, but the professor's as well.
  • Always approach disability issues on a one-to-one basis. Students' disabilities are unique and therefore adaptive equipment and training techniques must be designed to match each situation.