Touch Centre for Independent Living and GESL Group 2, Degree Programme
While brainstorming for a target group to work with, we had many ideas to work with youths, elderly and even animals. We then set out to look for organisations and eventually one of us suggested TOUCH Community Services, in particular, the TOUCH Centre for Independent Living (TCIL).
TCIL is a day activity centre that seeks to provide competency-based training programmes for adults with intellectual disabilities and empower their beneficiaries with functional knowledge and skills so that they can live independently within our community.
The whole group was united in working with TCIL and proceeded to brainstorm ideas on how we could help the Centre. Some of the initial ideas were helping them to design brochures to inform the general public about those with intellectual disabilities; make an educational video for them; raise awareness through education in NIE itself, and so on.
Eventually, we felt that we would like to be involved in the teaching of certain skills to the clients at TCIL. As student teachers, it was relevant to our course of study and our future professional life. Upon contacting TCIL, we discovered that they required help in planning lessons, not just teaching them. This provided an even better opportunity for us to learn from this project. By volunteering at TCIL, we would not only serve the clients there, but at the same time, also pick up skills for ourselves in terms of planning curriculum and executing lessons.
Upon further discussions with TCIL, it was surfaced that they needed help, in particular, with the topics on ‘Money’ and ‘Time Management’. We set out to plan lessons, which we carried out and then further improved and refined them based on peer feedback. Our aim was to be able to produce a curriculum which our partners could use perpetually when needed.
Our aims encompassed the areas of serving as well as learning:
- SERVICE – To plan a sustainable curriculum on the topics of ‘Money’ and ‘Time Management’, thus contributing to the cause to prepare adults with intellectual disability to live independently.
- LEARNING – To learn how to interact with people with intellectual disabilities as well as hone our skills as teachers in planning a curriculum according to the recipients’ needs.
We visited TCIL and observed the existing classes and lessons on 29 September 2014 to get a feel of the context and clients. Following that visit, we designed and planned our lessons, making several refinements over the months of October to November and eventually taught them to the clients at TCIL during December. After three days of classes, we spent 1 week discussing and refining the curriculum according to the reception of the students and the feedback of the teachers. With our new and improved curriculum, we taught for another week and took back the relevant feedback to edit our lesson plans accordingly.
Prior to this teaching experience, some of us had never interacted with people with learning disabilities. We did have initial fears and doubts about having to manage a whole class of adults with intellectual disability. One of us confessed that she was uncertain about being able to communicate with the beneficiaries let alone having to teach them concepts like ‘Money’ and ‘Time Management’. Nevertheless, the GESL project opened her eyes to a whole new level of understanding.
At the end of the project, having not only delivered the lessons to a group we had no experience with, but we also further received valuable feedback from one of the special work associates on how to fine-tune our curriculum and delivery of the lessons. This curriculum experience taught us how to be better teachers.