Kate: At what stage in these conversations would issues of impact or confidentiality be raised or discussed with the student?
Barbara Taylor, Academic Support: Sometimes right at the very beginning they’ll come in and they’ll say “This is what I want to discuss, who do I need to tell?” Other times you’re not really raising that with them until you then get to the end of the screening, and you start to think “Well, where next?”, because one of the places where next is is starting then to tell people.
For example, if you get to the end of the screening and it looks very clear that the student is dyslexic and you’re coming up to a set of exams, you may say “Well, if we tell people that we think so, you can then have temporary exam recommendations at this point.” Some students don’t want that, they want to know officially. So you’re starting to ask questions about who you want to tell and how confidential you want to keep it quite early on.
Anna Kidd, MBA student: Telling people up front that you have a problem I think is quite key. I personally have the opportunity to type my exams onto a laptop, and that is a big advantage to me because my writing speed has been tested and it’s very slow, plus the fact my writing speed has probably slowed down because I’ve actually been out of academia for ten years, so I’ve done everything on the computer.
I type considerably faster than I write, so it gives me that extra thinking time. It also means that the exam is actually legible for my markers, which I think must be quite key for them, so that’s good.
Kate: So, I was going to ask you about what might inhibit, in your experience, students from wanting to make it official, as it were.
Christine Carter, Academic Support: I think sometimes it is, for some, the labeling they don’t like. But I think more it’s probably to do with “Will I have to declare it when I apply for jobs and what would be the implications of that.” I think in some professions, possibly more than others, they want to think very carefully about that and the implications of it in the future and how they would deal with it, for example, if they’re going to be applying for jobs that have aptitude tests, they would have the opportunity to have extra time if they had the official recognition.
So they have to weigh up “Is that likely to be a good thing, or would I rather just leave it as it is and manage the best I can?” It’s quite a difficult decision and sometimes they’ll want to go away. A few will say “Yes” straight away and they will be quite happy with that, others will want to go and talk to parents and friends and tutors before they finally decide.
Produced: June 2007, in collaboration with the University's Promoting Enhanced Student Learning (PESL) initiative.