“I can see what you mean”: Encouraging higher education educators to seek support from “outside agencies” to aid their work with visually impaired learners.
Keywords:Higher Education, Inclusive Practice, Disability, Blind/Vision Impaired
This article seeks to take the positive learning from the challenges faced by students with disabilities engaged in higher education - in particular those who are blind and visually impaired – and use it to shape practice for educators who seek to engage positively in their pedagogies with these very students and their peers. The article begins by citing some of the factors that have influenced the changes in the student demography within education since the turn of the century. The challenges faced by students with disabilities are well researched and the move from add-on supports to a more inclusive approach is afoot. This however now presents challenges to the professional educator and ‘begs’ the question – ‘Do I, as an educator, need to change my practice?’ Such questioning can realign the focus of education and further prompt us to ask ‘Is the learner the only learner in the education relationship?’
While the result may be more questions than answers – the authors seek to position the learning so that educators ‘will be able to see’ where to position their professional development now and in the future.
This article is not setting out to tell any educator how to do their job better.
Rather it is reflecting and combining the experiences of three very different but engaged professionals. Mary Quirke is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Education Trinity College Dublin (TCD). Her primary research interest is professional practice development focusing on student inclusion and engagement in both transition and education. Dr Patricia McCarthy on the other hand brings the personal experience of a registered blind student. Dr McCarthy has also undertaken life-history research with blind and visually impaired people exploring their educational and transition opportunities. Finally Dr Conor Mc Guckin, an Assistant Professor in Educational Psychology at TCD, with special interests in Education, Inclusive Education, Social Media and Professionalism among Educators and allied professionals lends the voice of the professional academic. Dr Mc Guckin states ‘I am the average HE lecturer trying to learn how I can get better at my job ... because, like most HE lecturers, I have no teaching qualification. That is, there is an assumption that because you are a good researcher you can teach’.
Each bring their own philosophy in the hope that they can convince others to consider how they engage in teaching practice.
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