Essential components of an academic course

Contributed by Jeanne Lindell, Head of Disability Services:

Identifying the essential components of a course or program plays a critical role in determining whether or not an individual meets all the necessary objectives and whether or not a disability related accommodation fundamentally alters a course or program.

Disability Services (DS) staff have begun talking more to faculty about essential components. So you’re looking for more information about what essential components are or how to determine them, look no further! Well, actually, please do continue reading.

Important questions to ask when assessing a course or program’s essential objectives and components include:

  • What is the purpose of the program or course?
  • What outcome variables are absolutely required of all participants?

 

Specifically for a course:

  • What academic skills must be demonstrated?
  • What percentage of the subject-area knowledge must be mastered?
  • What specific knowledge, principles, or concepts must be mastered?

 

Specifically for a program:

  • What skills or competencies will be needed in the field after                        graduation?
  • What are the requirements for licensing or professional accreditation?
  • What methods of instruction are non-negotiable, and why?
  • What methods of assessing outcome variables are absolutely necessary, and why?
  • What are acceptable levels of performance for these measures?

Essential components must be met with or without reasonable accommodations. Non-essential components are those for which alternate methods or products may be substituted. In discerning appropriate accommodations, DS staff rely on faculty to know their course’s essential components. DS staff may discuss alternate methods or products with faculty that would equally assess students’ mastery of the essential components but will allow them to demonstrate what they know. An example would be allowing an oral instead of written assessment (unless writing is itself an essential component of the course).

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This information has been adapted from Brown University’s Accessibility websitehttp://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/accessibility-services/.

“How To” at the Academic Success Center (ASC)

All ASC services are free of charge.

Apply for Peer Partnership Learning (PPL) in General Biology and General Chemistry using the following links:

BIOL 105

CHEM 125

Request tutoring in a 100 or 200 level course:

  1. Complete an application for tutoring, available on the ASC website or in 261 Van Zoeren, and turn it into the ASC with a printed copy of your schedule. Applications are being accepted starting Wednesday, September 6 and can be turned in until November 17.
  2. After your application is processed, you will meet with an ASC intern for your tutor match. You can schedule this follow-up appointment at least two days after you turn in the completed application.
  3. Contact and meet with your tutor, decide on a schedule for tutoring, and complete the Tutor/Tutee Agreement form, which you will return to the ASC.

 

Request accommodations needed for a disability:

  1. Complete a Request for Accommodations form.
  2. Meet with staff to discuss your accommodation request.
  3. Provide requested documentation that supports your request.

 

Request peer academic coaching:

  1. Complete an application for academic coaching, available on the ASC website or at the ASC, Van Zoeren 261, and turn it in at the ASC with a printed copy of your schedule.
  2. Schedule and attend an appointment with the coordinator for your coaching pair-up.
  3. Contact your coach to get started.

 

Request study-strategies assistance:

  1. Call 616-395-7830 or stop in at the ASC, VanZoeren 261, to make an appointment.
  2. Meet with staff to discuss your needs.

Americans with Disabilities Act – Fast Facts for Faculty

I have procrastinated writing this post about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) , not because the information does not need to be shared, but because there is already great information available. Therefore, I have decided not to duplicate:

  • What is the ADA? The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. You can find general information at the ADA National Network.
  • What does the ADA mean for Hope? Title III of the ADA covers private institutions and ensures equal access to post-secondary education. This includes all aspects of college, including academics, programs, services, housing, and student life.
  • What should we know about the rights, responsibilities, and roles of institutions and students? The ADA Coordinator’s office at Ohio State University has a lot of great information about the ADA and the accommodation process for faculty as well as students. If you click on the link above to browse, also check out the Rights and Responsibilities.
  • You may not already know that faculty have the right to request verification that a student needs an accommodation for a disability. This verification can only be done through the Disability Services office, and students can register by completing a Request for Accommodations form.
  • The American Psychological Association has developed Toolkits of valuable information for both students with disabilities and faculty. While the information is geared toward those in the social sciences, Toolkit II and Toolkit III provide information relevant to all disciplines.

Differences between high school and college – Disability

Prior to working at Hope, I was a vocational rehabilitation counselor for seven years with Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS). Many of the transition-age students I worked with planned to attend college after high school. We spent a fair amount of time discussing the disability-related differences between high school and college, many of which were surprising to students. Transitioning to college includes major changes for any student, but students with disabilities have additional considerations.

If you have needed accommodations for a disability in high school, please review the information below. We want you to feel confident in your transition to Hope, so please feel free to contact us if you have additional questions.

IN HIGH SCHOOL       AT HOPE
Parents are advocates for their children. YOU will be your best advocate. It will be your responsibility to share your learning and living needs with faculty and staff.
The school identifies and evaluates a student with adisability. You will need to identify yourself as a student needing accommodations for a disability.
The school automatically incorporates accommodations into the student’s daily schedule once a disability is documented. You will need to register with Disability Services and request needed accommodations. Approved accommodations will be implemented in collaboration with the responsible campus party (faculty, housing, etc.). Each semester you will need to meet with professors to discuss your learning needs and share information regarding approved accommodations. We will be here to help, but ultimately you will be in the driver’s seat.
The school modifies the educational programs as appropriate. The college will make reasonable adjustments in instructional programs. These adjustments will not alter the essential content or requirements of a course or program.
Special classes and placement must be available for the student. You must meet admission criteria for the college as well as specific classes, majors, and programs.
An IEP meeting is held to determine placement and appropriate services. You will work with Disability Services to determine what services may be appropriate.

Disability Services

Disability Services has reorganized and is now a part of the Academic Success Center (ASC) located in Van Zoeren 261. The ASC’s Jeanne Lindell and Carrie Dattels approve reasonable accommodations and provide disability related supports for the entire campus community. The following information is being shared as a resource for faculty, staff, and anyone who may find it useful:

Reasonable accommodations may be identified in:

  • Academics
  • Dining
  • Housing
  • Transportation

 

The roles of Disability Services:

  • To verify a disability and review the need for the requested accommodation. This interactive process may include reviewing third-party medical or psycho-educational documentation. All records will be considered confidential and housed in Disability Services.
  • To identify resources and various ways students can seek access to campus programs, services, and academics.
  • To approve reasonable accommodations and facilitate with appropriate campus partners.

 

When to refer to Disability Services:

  • If a student has self-identified as a person with a disability and is experiencing barriers.
  • If a student would like to seek reasonable accommodations proactively.
  • If a student has a temporary disability and is experiencing barriers.

Social model of disability

Historically, disability has been defined and theorized using medical/psychological models, often without taking into account the actual experience of individuals with disabilities. The medical model assumes that the problem lies within the individual and, therefore, the individual must adapt to fit the environment. The social model of disability, however, focuses on removing societal barriers to ensure equal access and opportunities for choice and control. It’s not that simple, of course, but it is in stark contrast to the medical model 1.

To fully understand the social model of disability, it may be helpful to define some key terms:

  • Impairment is any abnormal or loss of function in the body or mind.
  • Functional limitation refers to a difficulty in completing tasks or activities.
  • Disability occurs when a functional limitation prevents an individual from carrying out an action, such as going to work or school.

 

Using these definitions, disability then becomes an experience between a person who has an impairment and the social environment. As an example, let’s think about this in terms of an individual who has paraplegia, or paralysis of the lower limbs of the body often the result of a spinal cord injury 2. Many people would say that paraplegia is the disability. But let’s rethink that a moment…

The impairment is the actual damage to the spinal cord, and the resulting functional limitations may include paralysis, or a loss of motor functioning. Disability, however, occurs when there is a negative interaction between the paralysis and the environment. Therefore, a paralyzed person who cannot use a stair entry into a building is disabled, but what if that person never encountered stair entries, only ramps or working elevators? Would we still consider that person disabled?

Please click on the video below to learn more about the social model of disability.

What are your thoughts? If you were to view disability through the social model of disability, rather than the medical model, how might it impact the way you:

  • Design your courses?
  • Administer an exam?
  • Make plans with friends?
  • Contribute to strategic or master plans?
  • Prepare for employment?

 

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4596173/?report=reader
  2. http://www.spinal-injury.net/paraplegia.htm

So what’s the big deal? Working Memory

So what’s the big deal? posts are intended to provide information regarding aspects of our body that affect daily life. The medical and educational world might label some of these things as disabilities. I prefer to think of them differently: it’s about understanding the way we are wired.

I want to provide a simple example of 1) recognizing a struggle and 2) compensating for it. Now, I’m not talking about struggles that result from societal barriers, which is another post altogether, but rather a struggle that you experience because of how you are wired. Ideally, compensating for these types of struggles will result in greater efficiency and effectiveness. Here’s mine:

My desk is littered with piles of random papers and sticky squares of neon paper with handwritten notes. I keep lists on my phone, in Word documents on my computer, and on a pad of paper next to my bed. I know that if I want to remember something, I must write it down. The information will not otherwise stay in my head long enough for me to do something with it. Even when I do write it down, I have to be intentional about looking at what I wrote. It’s just the way that I’m wired.

My struggle may be familiar to you.  It has to do with my working memory, which directly correlates with IQ and attention 1Working memory is the cognitive function responsible for keeping information in your mind long enough to manipulate and use it. It is how you juggle things you encounter and move them to the parts of your brain that can take action. You use your working memory constantly in daily life and most certainly in academics and social settings 2.

If you know you have below average working memory, the strategies below may help. Even if you have good working memory but are overwhelmed by the amount of information you are responsible for each day, you may still find these strategies useful:

  • Break up or chunk information. Focus on one or two pieces of information before moving on to the next.
  • Use checklists for tasks with multiple steps. Complete one step before moving on to the next.
  • Develop rituals and routines, like putting your cell phone in the same place each day to be sure not to misplace it.
  • Experiment with multiple ways of remembering information. Some students may remember things more easily if they make up a rhyme, song, or acronym. Others may use visualization to remember multiple pieces of information. Still others may study while walking around their dorm room or throwing a ball against a wall.
  • Use technology: keep lists in your phone, use your phone calendar to keep track of events and create reminders, even try working memory apps.

If we were talking in person, at this point I’d ask you to share your thoughts:

  • What sounds helpful?
  • What doesn’t sound helpful?
  • What has worked well for you in the past?
  • What is one thing you might try in the next day or two?

 

 

 

 

 

Course Syllabus Statement

The ASC encourages faculty to include a statement on their class syllabi about the procedures for obtaining disability-related accommodations. Some example statements that you can tailor to meet your needs appear below:

Hope College strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers due to a disability (including mental health and chronic or temporary medical conditions), please let me know immediately so that we can privately discuss options. To establish reasonable accommodations, I may request that you first register with Disability Services within the Academic Success Center and then arrange with me to discuss approved accommodations so that we can implement them as soon as possible. You can schedule an appointment with Disability Services in VanZoeren 261 or by calling x7830.

Hope College values diversity, inclusion, mutual respect, and full participation, and our goal is to create welcoming, inclusive, and equitable learning environments. If aspects of the instruction or design of this course create barriers to your inclusion, accurate assessment, or achievement, please notify me as soon as possible. You may also contact Disability Services within the Academic Success Center in VanZoeren 261 to discuss a range of options for removing barriers, including accommodations.

Questions or feedback can be directed to disabilityservices@hope.edu.

Academic Success Center

 

Orange Hope anchor with the word HOPE written in blue below.

Meet the staff of the Academic Success Center (ASC), in alphabetical order. We are located in VanZoeren 261 and all services offered are free to current students.

Carrie Dattels is the Coordinator of Disability Services. After thirteen years in various vocational rehabilitation roles she returned to Hope in 2016, having been a student and RA during her undergrad years.  Carrie spends the majority of her time interacting with students to determine and implement accommodations across campus. She also collaborates with faculty and staff to ensure students’ access to academics, programs, and services; supports and educates faculty and staff on disability and the legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act; supports students’ self-advocacy; identifies necessary resources for their overall success; and assists with proctoring exams for students with disabilities.

Lisa Eding has been the Office Manager for the Academic Success Center and the Sociology and Social Work Department for seventeen years.  Her responsibilities include hiring and training front-desk staff, setting up and processing student-staff payroll, and assisting with the various needs of two very busy departments.

David James is the Coordinator of Academic Coaching and Study Skills Tutoring and has worked 30 of his 32 years at Hope College in the ASC.  He coordinates the peer academic coaching program, which involves hiring, training and pairing experienced, successful students with students seeking help on setting goals and mastering skills to improve their academic lives. He coaches, too, but also meets one-on-one with any Hope student seeking help on a specific academic skill, such as time management or test taking.  He is also an academic advisor, both through his role as a professor in the First Year Seminar program every fall and as an advisor in the fall FOCUS and spring SOAR programs for students on or nearing academic probation. All this occupies around half of his time, while in the other half he is an adjunct associate professor of English, mainly teaching composition but also world literature.

Jeanne Lindell serves as Head of Disability Services and Assistant Director of the Academic Success Center.  She has been employed at Hope for 26 years, first working sixteen years in Counseling and Psychological Services and then ten years as the ASC’s Coordinator of Academic Support Services for Students with Disabilities. She promotes equal access and inclusion for students with disabilities in all aspects of college life.  Jeanne is also a First Year Seminar instructor and an academic adviser.

Janet Pinkham is the Director of the ASC, now in her 28th year with Hope, having previously served as the ASC’s Tutoring Coordinator and Hope’s Alumni Director. In her current role, Janet oversees the ASC, directs the Peer Partnership Learning (PPL) program, teaches First Year Seminar, is an academic advisor, and serves on multiple campus committees.

Suzette Staal has been the Coordinator of Tutoring Services and ASC help sessions for three years. Her responsibilities predominantly include hiring and training peer tutors and help-session leaders. She makes all tutoring matches for most 100- and 200-level courses, for which applications can be printed from the website but must be delivered in person.  Suzette also oversees the daily operations of the ASC-sponsored help sessions for courses with highly requested tutoring, such as the Sunday-through-Thursday-evening Math Lab available for most Math courses. Suzette also is a First Year Seminar instructor and an academic adviser.