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CFLC Offers Services For Students With Learning Disabilities

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


The Connors Family Learning Center (CFLC) may have a full time staff of only four employees, but it makes an impact on thousands of people at Boston College. Undergraduates, graduate students, and professors will all benefit from services provided by the center this year, as they have since the center’s opening in September 1991.

“The CFLC still offers the same services, but it has grown bigger and better,” said Sue Barrett, director of the CFLC.

The CFLC provides three different types of services: instructional support for graduate students and faculty, support for students with learning disabilities, and tutoring. Members of all colleges within the University are eligible to utilize these services.

Though the CFLC has not changed the major types of services it offers since its inception, each category of services has experienced evolution and growth. 2012 marks the second year of a new program within the instructional support sphere called the Apprenticeship in College Teaching. The goal of this program is to prepare graduate students for teaching at BC.

“Graduate students come to workshops on grading, how to write a syllabus, how to manage a classroom, and how to make a teaching portfolio,” Barrett said. “Then they actually write a syllabus, get observed in the classroom, and make a portfolio. If they do all of this they can get a certificate in teaching.”

This program successfully fills a need identified on campus.

“Lots of graduate students are teaching assistants and teaching fellows and many of them haven’t had any formal training in teaching,” Barrett said.

The CFLC also hosts workshops for fulltime faculty. Workshop topics include grading, classroom management, and how to interpret student evaluations. Other interactions between the CFLC and professors include mid-semester evaluations and class observations.

“Faculty like to know how things are going before the end of the semester,” Barrett said. “For an evaluation, I will go in during the last five minutes of class and ask the students a few questions: What is the teacher doing that is helping you? What is the teacher doing that is not helping you? I also ask that they make one or two concrete suggestions that would help them get more out of the class.” Barrett then types up the students’ answers to preserve anonymity and gives the results to the professor.

Students with learning disabilities can receive a variety of accommodations from the CFLC. A student with the proper documentation will meet with Kathy Duggan, associate director for Support Services and Students with ADHD, and discuss a personal plan to get the most out of academic life at BC.

“We really look at a student’s individual needs,” Duggan said. “We have real data to support what their learning style is, what their strengths are, what their weakness is, and where their disability lies, and then based on that information we can figure out what they should be entitled to.”

The most common accommodations a student with learning disabilities or ADHD will receive include extended time on tests, testing in the CFLC, getting textbooks on CD, and working with a coach to talk about time management and organizational skills.

More and more students are registering with Duggan to receive accommodations.

“We have about 450 students with learning disabilities and ADHD right now, which is triple from when we started,” Duggan said.

Duggan asks each of these 450 students to self-advocate by taking a note that explains their registration with the CFLC and their accommodations to their professors. The students and professors are asked to work out the logistics of the situation themselves and only contact the CFLC to solve any discrepancies, a situation which rarely happens.

“I think we have a faculty that is very willing to work with students with disabilities and make accommodations,” Duggan said. “There are only a few issues I resolve each semester. Going back to the 1970s, long before I was here, there were professors who themselves had learning disabilities who advocated for the very bright students we have here who have a disability that impacts them in some minor way.“

Tutoring is available in the CFLC for over 60 subjects. A group of over 80 students comprised mainly of juniors, seniors, and graduate students work as paid tutors who handle the 5,000 tutoring appointments requested by BC students last year. All of these tutors are either certified by the College Reading and Learning Association or are in the process of earning their certification.

“We hold a certain number of training sessions where student tutors can come for professional development in their subject matter,” said Cecilie Reid-Joyner, assistant director for Tutoring and Supplemental Instruction. “Faculty and staff will come in to talk to tutors about the skills they employ at the tutoring table. Students that are able to complete all of the training sessions will receive a certificate.”

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