Student Accommodations: A Question & Answer Session

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Sally Greenough defines Reasonable Accommodation

Sally Greenough defines Reasonable Accommodation

On October 30th, 2013, Sally Greenough, Laurie Carcia and Kim MacKinnon, Educational Psychologists, Student Development discussed the Reasonable Accommodations Policy G-3.5 at SIAST and answered questions that faculty had regarding how the policy and accommodation strategies translate into the classroom, clinical and workplace.

It was noted that the Reasonable Accommodations Policy is a requirement of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.  Sally stated that it was a legal duty for SIAST to accommodate to the point of “undue hardship” and that this applies to both SIAST students and employees.  The definitions of discrimination, reasonable accommodation, the duty to accommodate and undue hardship were discussed as well as the limits on the duty to accommodate.


Kim MacKinnon speaks to the Program Admission Requirements.

Kim MacKinnon speaks to the Program Admission Requirements.

Students come to SIAST either with an assessment already done (that is they bring their medical documents or psychologist report from High School) or the psychologists at SIAST do the educational tests to confirm the diagnosis.  The Psychologist report is only valid for five years and then another one is required.  There was a discussion on admission requirements and that perhaps programs needed to review their admission requirements if there are work-related requirements that are not noted in the program admission requirements i.e. lifting heavy loads.

SIAST Psychologists and instructors discuss recording devices.

SIAST Psychologists and Instructors discuss recording devices in the classroom.

The discussion on recording devices in the classroom was engaging as the development of the SMART pen and other assistive technologies has mushroomed. These technologies are being used by a variety of users including those who have a learning disability. Many instructors were not aware of the Smart Pen and that the pen can record the lecture and is used on pixelated paper so that the recorder will automatically go back to the section of the recording that the person wants to hear again.  The student who has a Smart Pen as an accommodation signs a waiver so that the information is only for their use in learning and is not to be shared.  It was noted that the student is not only recording the instructor but also other students  and in some courses there might be personal information that is shared.  Sally noted that the instructor would instruct everyone to shut off any recording devices during any personal or confidential discussions.  Instructors need to be aware that they will be informed of any student who requires recording as an accommodation however all students have access to this technology and they are not likely to be informing the instructor that they are recording the session.

While instructors are informed by the Program Head of any accommodations that a student requires they are not informed of the learning issue or disability: this is a confidentiality issue and unless the student agrees the information may not share.   In this sense, many instructors noted that they are not educated on how to help the student learn.  This was a major discussion point with instructors underlining their frustration with the current system.

The question regarding students being weaned off of accommodations was discussed.  Sally stated that in most cases a disability is permanent: that is the person would live with it all of their lives however they may develop better coping skills as they deal with their disability.

You may wish to listen to the Student Accommodation Podcast.


Diversity in the Student Population

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Margaret Campbell speaks about Diversity in the Student Population

Margaret Campbell speaks about Diversity in the Student Population

On September 26, 2013 Margaret Campbell, Instructor, Learning Services, Student Development spoke to SIAST Instructors about Student Diversity. The session gave an introduction to intercultural awareness and strategies.  Margaret spoke about pragmatics which is defined as, “The ability to use appropriate language in a given communicative situation.” (Canadian Language Benchmarks, 2012) or “The ability to use language to carry out everyday functions in culturally appropriate ways” (LCastro, as cited by Louw, Derving & Abbott, 2010).

Changing Language for Needs of Listener or Situation

Changing Language for Needs of Listener or Situation

Margaret gave examples of following ‘unwritten’ rules such as: taking turns in conversation, staying on topic, adding new topics, clarifying if misunderstood, verbal and nonverbal cues, personal space and facial expressions, eye contact and gestures.  She also discussed what types of problems that we might experience due to pragmatics and steriotypes and generalizations. Culture was also discussed as being more than food and traditions: ‘Culture is the way we do things around here.” (NorQuest College, 2010, p. 15) It is important to note that people who speak two languages may not be bi-cultural that is they speak two languages however they are not culturally aware.

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity

The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (Benett, M.J., 1993) was reviewed with the two major mindsets discussed: Monocultural and Intercultural.  There were examples given for each stage from denial to adaption. The session ended with Margaret giving a number of tips regarding dealing with people from another culture.

Listen to the podcast here.

Communications: Classroom Talk

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Communications 1                    Tracy Wilson facilitates a Communication Activity using the Star Quilt template

On October 23rd, Deanna Speidel, Tracy Wilson and Margaret Campbell spoke about Communication and how it is used in the classroom.  Deanna Speidel, Aboriginal Services Instructor went over the seven Cs of Communication with the other facilitators providing examples of the types of communication: clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete and courteous.

Communications 2                                   Instructors are discussing different types of communication

The four communication styles were also discussed: passive, aggressive, passive aggressive and assertive.  Tracy explained that many cultures, including indigenous come from a passive communication style.   Which means that as instructors we need to be aware that students may not have the skills yet to ask for what they need.  Tracy also explained that it is very rare that a person comes a family with assertive communication which is where we all want to be.  In assertive communication a person is clear when stating their feelings, needs and opinions. In fact this type of communication is taught.

Communications 3                                                   Tracy and Deanna in front of the Star Quilt Communication Activity

You can listen to the podcast here.

Work and Life Balance

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IMG_2307On May 15, 2013, Donna Bowyer , Provincial Director for the Friends for Life Program, Saskatchewan Mental Health Association spoke to SIAST instructors and staff regarding Work and Life Balance.

If you would like to watch the video at your desk, please contact Pat Tymchatyn, ILDC Facilitator, Kelsey Campus.

You can listen to the Work and Life Balance Podcast.

Images Workshop:Find, Fix and Use Images using Flickr, Pixlr and Powerpoint

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On May 7th, Wayne Udey, Supervisor, Learning Systems Support, Learning Technologies presented a workshop to Kelsey instructors on how to find, fix and use images.

To find images, instructors went into Flickr and searched for an image, then Wayne had people go to the bottom of the screen where it talks about Creative Commons.  The terms were explained as it is important to use an image that is free to use or not copyright protected.  After finding a number of images and downloading them, people moved on the Pixlr program in order to edit their image (cropping, fixing contrast, putting in words). 

The last program that people worked on was PowerPoint to put in their images and to learn custom animation.  A special search was done using Microsoft Clip Art to find animated images.

Wayne Udey is available to provide you with an overview of any of the software programs on an individual basis.

Stress in the Workplace

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Safe workplace

On January 30, 2013, Donna Bowyer, Canadian Mental Health Association, SK Branch spoke to faulty and staff about the effects of stress on one’s health.  She noted that if you do not have mental health you do not have health.  As well, she emphasized that a person needs to consider, “Am I in control of stress or is stress controlling me?”

She noted that overall mental health issues (direct and hidden) are now costing Canadians $51 million dollars and that the health system is spending less money on the issue today than they did in the 1960’s.  She also stated the 500 000 people a day are entering medical facilities with mental health related issues.

Donna Bowyer discussed what was causing people stress including a lack of assertiveness, unrealistic expectations (home, work and other people at work); negative self-talk, pessimism, and the inability to accept uncertainty.  She underlined that it was important when feeling stress to STOP, take a breath and to re-evaluate what was happening or causing the stress.  It is important for us to be present – in the moment- rather that focused on what has happened or what might happen in the future.  She noted that children when they play are here in the now.  Stay present!

Toxic vs. Safe Workplace

The presentation discussed what caused a toxic workplace and Donna gave examples such as an employer who placed employees together on one floor while renovations were taking place and then decided to keep them all on one floor.  The employees had no personal space which impacted negatively on them and their mental health.  She also noted that employers need to include adequate training before introducing new things.

As for stress Donna noted that one time something might happen to you and you deal with it fine but the next time it could be a major stressor.  The individual needs to consider that between the stress and the stress in the individual and the key factor is, “How do you (the individual) process the information (or view the stressor)?

Donna outlined how to reduce stress in your life by focusing on four key factors: 1) take charge of your thoughts, 2) take charge of your emotions, 3) use your schedule to help you not hinder you and 4) consider the way you deal with problems.  She also used the analogy of an elastic that when we have a problem that the solution will change depending on who you are dealing with but you can only stretch the elastic so far until it breaks.

Awareness was brought to the fact that a phobia was not a disorder unless it interferes with your life.  She said that her phobia is birds flying loose in buildings but she is quite capable of functioning with this phobia. We learned that anxiety is 100% treatable and arise from wanting to control ones environment whereas depression results in having no energy to do anything.  In most cases women will pull in whereas men will push away.  In the area of diagnosis women will stop enjoying what they enjoyed whereas if a man liked hockey he will still like hockey -hence while he may have depression the doctor will misdiagnose based on asking “Do you still enjoy what you liked before?”

Peer support in the workplace is very important to reduce stress.  You need someone you can trust to vent your frustration and know that they will hold your information in confidence.

The session ended with Donna talking about how it is important to support coworkers with mental health issues whether it is going out with coffee with them,  including them in activities when they are off work and it is most important to listen.  Stay connected. There are accommodations to bring people back into the workplace after traditional illnesses but when a person comes back after stress leave they are expected to hit the floor running at 100%.

Listen to the session podcast.

Beyond Coverage: Backward Design for Disciplinary Thinking

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Beyond Coverage

On January 23 faculty at Kelsey were able to participate in the webinar, “Beyond Coverage: Backward Design for Disciplinary Thinking” which was offered by Magna Publication facilitated by  Joel Sipress, Ph.D, University of Wisconsin-Superior and David Voelker, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

The Seminar went through what is Backward Design and also gave useful examples of how to get started in this process.  The process is useful for instructors who are developing or revising a course.  It also highlighted the importance of thinking about ways of thinking and what type of disciplinary thinking is necessary in your area.

The one nugget that I thought was worth considering is how much is subject coverage worth or is in-depth knowledge more important: Are you into coverage of material?

If you would like to view the recording of this webinar, please contact the ILDC Facilitator at your campus.

Pat Tymchatyn, Kelsey; Deb Mervold, Woodland; Ron Smallwood, Palliser and Karen Wrightman, Wascana

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