Posted by: MandyS | December 12, 2011

Activity 28.1 – Staff development

The only training I have undertaken in relation to disability is ‘equality and diversity’ training. Both were online courses which entailed reading information and then completing an online questionnaire to check knowledge and understanding. When I first joined the OU I attended a course induction event during which a representative of student services gave us a short talk on what to do if one had students with additional requirements.

Overall, my own development in this area has been rather generic and probably less than effective. In some respects this lack of formal training is probably because accessibility and disability were not significant issues in relation to my previous role as a Prosecutor. However, it is a significant issue in relation to my current role, but not one I had really given any consideration to prior to embarking on this course. In fact, had I not decided pursue the MAODE, I would not have considered taking this course and, although I thought H810 would be interesting, taking it was governed mainly by the fact that it ran September to January. I know from experience that there are always some topics which fail to generate interest. W201 students are less inclined towards public law than criminal law, usually on the basis that it is dull and of no relevance to their own situations. They couldn’t be more wrong, but persuading them is quite a different matter. Disability training perhaps falls into a similar category. Until now, my own view has been that I have a general understanding of disability issues and would only consider specific issues if and when the need arises, probably using online resources. On the basis of what Seale is saying, I doubt I am alone with this view.

In considering ‘how staff developer’s promote accessible e-learning practice’ (p. 120), I have thought back to my own experiences in delivering training courses for the CPS. Prosecutors need to be kept up-to-date with developments in the law and as such, training is compulsory. This meant courses were well attended but often under sufferance. The majority of lawyers would tell you they ‘know it, don’t need to be taught it and don’t have the time.’ Such apathy ultimately has a knock-on effect for the effectiveness of the training simply because the engagement is lacking; Seale says (p. 121) ‘such an approach will not encourage understanding and meaningful learning.’ For me, it was the lawyers who relished an hour out of the office and a ‘free lunch’ who engaged effectively; but they were in the minority.

The best training courses I have been involved in have been those where there has been joint training e.g. with the Police, social services etc, or input from those directly affected by the Criminal Justice System e.g. victims, witnesses etc. Trainers are not the font of all knowledge and being able to gain the perspective of others involved in an investigation is invaluable to understanding each other’s roles, responsibilities and viewpoints. Unfortunately, with the advent of online training for the CPS, this valuable interaction is now lost.

Having input from disability support and even disabled students can only benefit staff development in this area. Yes, there may be resource implications and elements of bias (pp. 122 -123), but ultimately, as with everything, it is a balancing act and the importance of raising accessibility awareness must far outweigh any cost implication of getting the training right in the first place.

References:

Seale, J. (2006) E-Learning and Disability in Higher Education: Accessibility Research and Practice, Abingdon, Routledge; also available online at http://learn.open.ac.uk/ mod/ resourcepage/ view.php?id=569013&direct=1 (accessed 12 December 2011).

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