November 12, 2021 0 By Allison Preble

Now that I’m fully finished with my interviews, I’m realizing just how much I have learned from my peers. From my initial research I thought student interviews would highlight the need for learning tools in classrooms. But the interview process really changed that perspective. For example, I wrote a blog post about assistive technology before conducting my survey. After collecting the student perspective, I now understand that DA students need something much different. In virtually every interview I conducted students indicated the need for better communication between teachers and students. Because communication was at the heart of these student interviews, I’ve decided that my toolkit on Veracross will largely focus on “right sized” communication. I’ve divided this “right sized” communication into four sub-themes.

Self advocacy: How can teachers communicate to students that they’re open to hearing student’s feedback? Through my interviews, I learned that the way teachers act towards students in class effects how willing students are to self-advocate for themselves when they’re having issues in class.

Student/teacher collaboration: How can teachers and students work together to create a comfortable learning environment for the student? Several students mentioned how beneficial it was to their learning when they worked together with a teacher regularly to fulfill the student’s needs. When a student self-advocates for themselves to a teacher about their learning needs, it’s helpful when teachers set up more than one meeting with them. A struggle in class can often take more than one conversation to resolve. Teachers can communicate care and interest for a student by dedicating time outside of class.

Classroom/Public interactions: How should teachers communicate to a student in front of their classmates? If you want to hear more about this subtopic, go look at my blog post from last week titled “Interviews.”

Elevating Strengths: How can teachers elevate the strengths students have from learning differently, rather than work around their different learning style? Several students mentioned that the most receptive teachers have been the ones that really value their diversity of thought. Students who have learning differences think about concepts differently than their peers. It would be great if teachers could highlight their students’ differences rather than disregard them. For example, one teacher asked a student: “How can you help the class get to a different perspective.”

For Durham Academy students who learn differently it is all about communication. Teacher-student interactions appear to be a real factor of success or struggle in a classroom. At first glance, improving communication seems simple, but from my conversations, I am beginning to understand how challenging it is to “right size” communication to each individual student. What works for one, may not work for another. Building rapport does start with listening. I am glad I had the opportunity to listen to and learn from my peers, now I’ll begin to build tools to help all of us communicate with empathy and understanding.