Celebrating equality and diversity in a curriculum for students on the Autistic spectrum with difficulties with empathy.
At Oakwood Court College in Torpoint every opportunity for advancement and learning is discussed as a whole and agreement to take part is gained from students and their tutors alike. Having applied to the emCETT Julia Tester; Head teacher at Oakwood Court College and her team were delighted to learn that they had been chosen from many applications received to take part and had been awarded a bursary to carry out a targeted piece of research on empathy and how it impacts on those who are on the autistic spectrum.
The grant was used for travel to research meetings, guest speakers, a workshop for staff and students and resources for the centre.
The team carried out a baseline empathy assessment with all students and a control group of staff. They then set out to teach empathic reactions through regular instruction, role play and practical exposure to socially, medically, sexually, religiously and culturally diverse people and groups. They reflected on each session facilitated, discussed, revised their practice, facilitated the next session and repeated the cycle. The reflection and discussion incorporated colleagues and learners views. At the end of the project they carried out a summative assessment and invited students to comment on the benefits/difficulties of the project they had been involved in.
Through analysis Oakwood believe their hypothesis that it is possible to teach empathic responses to people on the Autistic Spectrum is correct. The majority increase of scoring on the Cambridge Empathy Assessment was indicative of learning having taken place
Julia and her team believe that the responses from students and visitors/providers following interactions indicate that their students were able to use a limited social tool kit that enabled them to interact appropriately and with empathy, in a structured setting.
Analysis of this project has shown that students on the autistic spectrum are able to benefit from teaching and learning of empathy and the learning from this project will influence the future development of the whole college, encompassing the learning and teaching of empathy throughout the whole curriculum with all staff reflecting and encouraging empathy when interacting with learners both in and out of the classroom.
Of 63 organisations who took part Oakwood Court College are one of 18 who will have their research and findings published on the Excellence Gateway in early September 2014.