Angela demonstrates understanding of the broad range of formal and informal assessment tools that may be used to develop an overall picture of students’ visual functioning and support needs. During this practicum, she completed a Learning Media Assessment of focus student MF as part of her course requirements and also conducted a running record to assess MF’s reading speed and fluency, comprising part of the data that is being gathered to inform and support the application for MF’s HSC special provisions.
In NSW Public Schools, the ISTV does not ‘design’ or write the IEP; but, contributes to IEP goals as an integral part of a transdisciplinary team. The Learning Support Team Coordinator, who oversees the IEP process, is a nominated member of staff at the student’s school; typically the LAST or an executive teacher. The IEP may include goals specific to a student’s visual access and functioning, or the Expanded Core Curriculum for students who are vision impaired. In this case, explicit teaching and direct support to meet the vision specific goals is reasonably required and the ISTV is noted in the IEP as having principal responsibility to oversee implementation of these goals. However, there is also expectation that specific adjustments and strategies identified in any student’s IEP will, regardless of origin, be implemented consistently by all professionals providing the student with direct support.
During her practicum, Angela referenced MF’s IEP and identified smart goals for ‘lessons’ as best she could, given the limited opportunities for an ISTV to directly teach a highly independent and academically able Year 11 student, who is blind. Angela understands that the ‘hard yards’ were done in the past, with a substantial allocation of ISTV support and vision-specific teaching provided to MF at primary school, and her early secondary school years, in order that she has developed her skillset and competency to the high level of independence now demonstrated.
The classroom teacher is responsible and ultimately accountable for curriculum delivery, student learning and classroom management. As a rule of thumb, a high school student is not withdrawn from classes by ISTV; much less so a highly focused, self-motivated and independent student like MF. The ISTV role in regard to MF’s needs is principally that of advocate, collaborator and problem-solver: advocating when MF has already made reasonable endeavour to self-advocate, without success; collaborating with teaching staff to facilitate timely provision of content in MF’s preferred format(s); and, problem-solving in response to specific needs identified by MF in context, e.g. how to create and read annotations in MS Word documents.
In supporting MF during her practicum, Angela demonstrated understanding of the advance planning and preparation necessary to achieve inclusive participation and engagement in lessons by a student, who is blind. She provided MF with opportunities to preview embossed Braille, PIAFs and other materials in advance of in-class access.
Angela extended her personal skillset via ‘hands on’ experience at preparing PIAF graphics and then collating the graphics, along with embossed Braille content, into bound booklets that MF subsequently accessed during lessons in which Angela supported her. Angela observed first-hand how the provision of the Mathematics subject teacher’s board notes (PowerPoint presentations) in embossed Braille and PIAF format empowered MF to engage with the lesson, where she might otherwise have been excluded and disadvantaged. Angela was able to identify and discuss how the ISTV role fits into the teaching and learning cycle, or progression. She understands that close liaison and collaboration with teachers is essential for ISTVs to forward plan the resources, materials and equipment a blind student may require for their inclusion and equitable access to curriculum.
Angela had opportunity to directly support MF when she conducted a running record assessment, recorded on video as part of the RIDBC course requirement. Angela demonstrated initiative to research contemporary journals and enhance her knowledge about the running record process ahead of the lesson. She also researched the approximate read aloud speed achieved by same-age sighted peers for the purposes of comparison and analysis.
Angela prepared three excerpts of suitable reading difficulty along with some questions to check MF’s recall and comprehension of the texts. She reflected thoughtfully about the assessment process and how the information obtained might be used to support an application for special provisions. In doing so, she questioned the validity of the ‘read aloud’ running record method given that MF’s silent reading speed will arguably be very much faster. This led to a discussion about the reliability and utility of data obtained by having a silent reader indicate the point they have reached at the end of the allotted time, with no measurable data about error rate, number of self-corrections or overall accuracy available for silent reading. The question is whether the comparison of Braille and print users’ read-aloud speeds translates to a similar outcome or ratio for silent reading.
Observing that MF is considered to demonstrate a highly efficient Braille-reading technique, Angela was surprised that MF’s averaged result, when compared to the researched reading speed of sighted peers, suggests that the standard HSC special provisions allowance of 10 minutes per half hour additional time permitted for blind students in literacy examinations is quite possibly inadequate. Immediately following the session, Angela reflected on the way that her running record was conducted and what things she could potentially change to improve the quality and usefulness of the data obtained.
During this practicum Angela has demonstrated flexibility and initiative to respond to departures from anticipated classroom routine, or observed student need, by making appropriate adjustments ‘on the fly’ when and as required. She extended her knowledge about the broad range of materials, equipment and technology utilised to make curriculum content accessible for a blind student, e.g. tactile ruler, protractor and compass; scientific talking calculator; drawing kit; embossed graph paper; corkboards, pushpins and rubberbands; 3D models; WikkiStix; JAWS screen reader, Braille Music Editor application, etc.
Throughout her practicum, Angela has actively sought feedback, evaluated her own performance and reflected on things that she can improve. She makes astute observations about student learning and support needs, and demonstrates a commitment to achieving the best possible learning opportunities and outcomes for students.
In the role of AP Vision, one thing I regularly remind my team is that ISTVs are visitors into another teacher’s classroom and not every teacher is comfortable having somebody encroaching on their workspace. ISTVs are also reminded to keep within the scope of their role,
In the context of Angela’s course requirements, the observations and critical analysis she makes of other teachers’ performance in her post-lesson reflections and comments remain private and have a valid role in the overall learning process. In reality, I would hope Angela understands that the ‘holier than thou’ or ‘you must do this’ approach is confronting and more likely to yield defensiveness and an alienating resentment on the part of teachers than it is to effect any intended change. Teachers generally do not respond well to criticism or advice that could be perceived as a challenge of their teaching methodology and professionalism; change is better brought about through tact and by close collaboration with the classroom teachers in a climate of mutual support, respect and trust.
Angela has worked as a casual ISTV for the Newcastle Vision Team for the past three years and during this time has established a good rapport with the parents/caregivers of students she supports, through communications books, emails or informal contact at school events. She has cc’d me as appropriate into email communications with parents.
During this practicum, the only real communication with parents required of Angela, was to make contact and introduce herself as a practicum student and request parent permission to film MF.
Angela has gained experience this practicum of supporting a very able and independent student, who requires minimal direct ISTV teaching or intervention to support her learning. Angela learned to step back and have a more ‘hands off’ role, providing MF with ‘at arm’s length’ support for the mostpart, and intervening only when absolutely necessary or if MF specifically requested support.
Angela also gained an appreciation of the enormity of the behind-the-scenes preparation required to produce curriculum content for a highly academic course load. It is a mammoth task, involving not only the Department of Education’s State Braille and Large Print Unit, and regional Braille Outposts; but, external agencies and individuals who have been preparing Music 2 content, or who are providing technical support and/or tuition to MF.
During this practicum, Angela has experienced that everything is not always smooth sailing, and things do sometimes go awry that are outside of ISTV control. She is learning the importance to remain calm in such situations and set about making interim adjustments ‘on the fly’ or negotiating an alternate activity for the student as appropriate. Students, who are vision impaired, seem to tap into the feelings and mood of ISTVs with whom they work closely; if the ISTV presents as frustrated or panicked, this will potentially feed a student’s anxiety and response to a situation.
Angela has expanded her awareness and knowledge about the broad range of technology available to a student, who is blind. This practicum she has supported a student who independently accesses a Windows laptop using JAWS screenreader and without refreshable Braille display; listens to audio format at ‘chipmunk’ speed; has an iPad and iPhone; uses a talking scientific calculator; accesses Perkins brailler and Mountbatten braillewriter for Mathemetics and Physics; and has learned to use Braille Music Editor with distance support from RIDBC tutor. Angela has also participated in in-house training sessions at vision team meetings re: reformatting of large print Exam papers and graphic content using Microsoft Publisher (including Braille font).
Technology changes so rapidly that it behoves the ISTV to research and seek solutions best suited for students at the time of their need. Angela demonstrates commitment to providing the best possible learning opportunities for students; she actively researches, seeks advice from and sounds out ideas with more experienced colleagues. I have every confidence in her ability to source appropriate technology for student’s needs and she will continue to develop her knowledge of what is available whe working in the field.
Angela provided MF with opportunities to preview Braille, PIAF and any other support materials prior to the lessons in which she provided ISTV support. Angela also talked with MF about the ‘smart goals’ for the lessons. At the end of each session, Angela sought response from MF about what she had learned and anything she might have found difficult; in turn, Angela offered MF positive feedback about her participation and performance.
For the purposes of her practicum, Angela needed only report through verbal feedback and via her lesson evaluations and reflection. As an ISTV, she may be asked to evaluate her ISTV program at least half-yearly, if not every term; provide a half-yearly or annual report to parents, or alternatively contribute her comments to the classroom teacher’s report; provide a report about student progress to LST review meetings; as well as keep parents and teacher updated via informal methods of reporting.
Angela is able to interpret information in vision assessments and discuss the potential implications for teaching and learning, and the adjusments that may be required.
During our post-lesson discussions, Angela offered insightful commentary about what she thought worked well, what could potentially be improved, and where her knowledge and experience in the ISTV role may require further development. Angela has developed genuine empathy with the day-to-day challenges faced by a student, who is blind, and she is learning to think ‘outside of the square’ in terms of ways that she may assist a student who is blind to fill in the blanks they need in order to fully connect and engage equitably with a highly visual-oriented curricula.
Angela is faultlessly professional in her engagement with students, parents and the many people who have a vested interest in the student’s education and personal development.
This practicum allowed me to step back and observe Angela more closely in the ISTV role. It is very reassuring that Angela does not presume to know everything and will actively sound out her ideas, and seek advice and feedback from ISTV colleagues. Angela established an excellent rapport with MF and, while always maintaining a professional distance, proved able to connect and interact with MF at a personal level, where MF was comfortable to accept Angela’s support and feedback, respond openly and honestly to her questions, and share her sense of humour.
In addition to consulting professional journals and doing her own reading to inform her support for MF during this practicum, Angela has attended Vision Team meetings, where the recent focus has been on in-house training to reformat exam papers and use MS Publisher for preparation of tactile graphics, including Braille font. The sessions are being presented by an experienced and technologically ‘savvy’ ISTV on the team. The purpose is to upskill casual and untrained ISTVs, as well as provide revision for the trained ISTVs, who may also learn something new.
Do you consider that the Student is at risk of failing to achieve “Graduate level” by the end of their overall Practicum experience? No
Angela has met the requirements of this practicum, which I imagine has been quite unique for a practicum placement in that the focus student is a focused, academically able and highly independent student in Year 11, who is blind, and aiming for a tertiary qualification in commercial law. There wasn't an option to place her with the other student we have on our team, who is also blind (but, much less independent and requiring more 'hands on' support), due to having an experienced ISTV absent on long service leave and unavailable during the timeframe of this practicum. Angela, I am sure, has nevertheless gained a lot from the experience; in particular, the immense workload involved to keep preferred format (Braille, tactile and/or auditory) content up to a student who is blind and pursuing a highly academic course. Angela will no doubt appreciate the importance, in this instance, to make great use of the State Braille and Large Print Unit and Braille Outposts, a resource that heaven forbid we should ever lose.
Angela has worked for the Newcastle Vision Team in a temporary part-time capacity for two years and I think it is a real pity that she isn't able to include in her practicum requirement some of the excellent work she has been doing with her students in both mainstream and Special Education settings.