This month’s blog comes from Josie Hervey who is studying at Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research for the Mandatory Qualification for Teachers of Children with Visual Impairments.
As part of the course, Josie conducted a short piece of research in which she asked young adults with visual impairment to reflect back on their experience in education, by asking four key questions:
- What was helpful?
- What wasn’t helpful?
- What do you wish your teachers had known?
- What do you wish you had known?
The conversations that resulted led to Josie reflecting on her own practice as a specialist teacher working with young people with visual impairment.
“We know how important it is to listen to young people, and that ignoring their voices can lead to a whole range of negative outcomes. They are the experts when it comes to their own vision, and must take centre stage in their own lives. At the same time, though, young people don’t always have the understanding to make informed decisions about their needs, because their life experience is limited. This means that their views may be only one of several factors we take into consideration when planning provision, and this can lead to tension.
Equally, sighted school teachers (like me) are not always as well-equipped to make decisions about provision as we would like to be. In the rush of the school day, long-term aims can get lost; and we may have almost no real idea what life is like for an adult with VI in further education or in the workplace.
Within the framework of the research unit on the QTVI course I was able to talk to adults with VIs about their time at school and to collect first-hand insights which could be valuable for young people and their teachers. I asked them what had gone well for them at school, what had not gone well, and what advice they would give to schools and to young people. As I expected, they had a unique perspective on provision for young people – being able to combine their personal experiences with broader life experience, and to place their school education in a wider context.
The interviews helped me rethink some of my priorities and assumptions. I learned how common it is for adults to look back and wish they had worked more on mobility and independent life skills while at school. The importance of learning self-advocacy came through clearly, as did the need to improve the balance between academic lessons and social/emotional skills. I also realised how important it is to ensure that young people are able to use a wide range of different skills, strategies and technologies so they can pick and choose when they find themselves in new situations. I wished that my students were there to hear the adults’ reflections, opinions and advice for themselves.”
This research has led to Josie collaborating with Rachel Hewett and staff from RNIB to develop a series of videos which can be used by professionals working with young people with visual impairment.
“Our video series is designed for use with school pupils and their teachers as part of the Transitions project. We want to create a resource to help decision-making about provision become a more genuine dialogue between young people and their teachers – and to help make school a better preparation for transition to the wider world.
The video resource aims to bring the insights of adults with VIs to a wider audience, including young people and their teachers. The videos will show young people with VIs in conversation with adults about their school days and the skills they are using now. We hope that teachers can improve their practice in the light of these narratives – and that young people can gain a wider perspective so that when we listen to their voices, they are better informed about what their needs and wishes are likely to be once they leave the familiar world of the classroom.”
These videos are being co-funded by VIEW, RNIB and University of Birmingham and form part of our dissemination for the Longitudinal Transitions Study.
Josie Hervey and Rachel Hewett