In all state schools, a compulsory staff development session needs to be held every term. In the school where I used to teach, one of these sessions focused on dyslexia. The presenter lectured through a powerpoint on how a dyslexic student could be identified and what measures should be taken in class to include such students.
This compulsory session (like many such sessions) was quiet boring as it was the norm that every term, the head of school invited a speaker for this three hour session. Although many times the speakers were experts in their field, such sessions boiled down in the speaker giving out knowledge to the about 100 teachers attending.
Seale (206, p.113) notes that both lecturers and support staff seem to want specific disability awareness training which focuses/specialises on a specific issue. Through such training, the staff may acquire recognised accreditation/qualification.
A staff-centred model of staff development (Seale, 2006 p. 124) as training may focus on the development by staff of ‘their own services and must ‘own’ their own changes’ (p.124). The training needs to help each stakeholder in becoming proactive rather than reactive so that staff may ‘work with others to meet the challenges head-on and develop appropriate solutions and options of which they are in control and of which they can claim ownership’ (Seale, 2006 p.124). For staff development to be successful, it is important that such ownership is embedded in the training sessions. An important factor in elliciting interest and participation is by limiting numbers of attendees and rather than lecturing, practical/ hands on sessions should be delivered. As pointed out by Seale (2006), a hybrid approach consisting of both face-to-face workshops and online help, may enable staff to keep updated with accessibility issues.
Accessibility-related staff development need to be made compulsory as all staff need to be made aware of accessibility issues. As Deborah points out, making such training compulsory will allow for the allocation of ‘adequate time and funding’. Still when such training is made compulsory, the problem may be the interest, motivation and ownership of the attendees. From my experience of attending staff development training and also in desiging and delivering such training, many times staff come in just to sign the attendance sheet rather than to participate. Thus it is very important that practical, hand-on training is developed and delivered. Although such training may need to be compulsory, it is imperative that ways and means are found where staff are made to own the development sessions.
Pros and cons of making accessibility-related staff development compulsory?
- Raise the awareness of disability and accessibility issues for all the staff. ‘Disability expertise is shared and embedded throughout the institution (O’Connor, 2000).
- Awareness of guidelines and standards, assistive tools, use of appropriate evaluation tools, design of accessible resources, curriculum design,
- Develop staff’s skills in accessibility issues.
- Keeping staff up-to-date
- Each individual staff may understand their role in the design, delivery, maintaining or support of accessible learning.
- Acquire relevant qualifications
- Lack of ownership by stakeholders