Instructor Resources

What is the college’s obligation to students with disabilities?

Paul Smith’s College (PSC) recognizes its responsibility to provide equal access to opportunity for students with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (as amended). The College will provide reasonable adjustments and/or accommodations to assure that students will have equal opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed during their time at PSC. The entire college community (faculty, staff, and students) has the broad responsibility to adhere to this philosophy of equal access to opportunity.

Paul Smith’s College has charged the Center for Accommodative Services with providing leadership for our efforts to assure equal access for our students. The college will support the authority of the Center for Accommodative Services in these efforts. The current best practices and compliance for disability support services are represented on the Center for Accommodative Services (CAS) website. The office is located in Joan Weil Adirondack Library, room 209.

To initiate recognition and consideration as a student with a disability, students should:

  • Self-disclose their disability by contacting the learning specialist.
  • Request academic adjustments.
  • Submit appropriate documentation to verify eligibility. Eligibility is determined on an individualized basis and is based upon documentation of a disability that currently substantially limits some major life activity.

All services are completely voluntary, and it is the student’s responsibility to request them. Students are encouraged to identify themselves early to ensure timely accommodations. The first step is to submit a Disability Disclosure/Application for Academic Adjustments to: Learning Specialist, Center for Accommodative Services, Paul Smith’s College, Paul Smiths, NY 12970. Questions related to this process should be directed to the learning specialist (518) 327-6414

What is my obligation as an instructor?

You are an agent of the college and as such share the college’s obligations to provide access within all aspects of your course. Your course outline should include the following disability statements:

It is the college’s policy to provide, on an individual basis, academic adjustments to students with disabilities, which may affect their ability to fully participate in program or course activities or to meet course requirements. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact personnel in the Center for Accommodative Services on the second floor of the Joan Weill Adirondack Library, Room 209, at 518-327-6414 or email at to discuss their particular need for academic adjustments.

This material is available in alternative formats upon request.

What should I do if a student identifies him/herself to me as a person with a disability?

Ask the student if he or she has been in contact with personnel in the Center for Accommodative Services.  If not, refer the student. You should not personally collect and/or maintain any disability documentation, nor should you make a determination as to the existence of a disability or the reasonableness of a request without consultation. Unless you are willing to provide a requested modification to all students, you should not provide it to any student without having first received a Faculty Notification from the Center for Accommodative Services.

What is the procedure for receiving academic adjustments?

The student must provide the Center for Accommodative Services (CAS) with appropriate documentation describing the disability and the limitations related to learning. A Faculty Notification is then developed between the student and CAS staff.  Appropriate classroom, testing and other academic adjustments are identified on the Faculty Notification, which the student delivers to each faculty member from whom he or she is requesting academic adjustments.  Please sign and date confirming that you have been notified.  If you have any questions, please call the CAS at 518-327-6414 or email at It is the student’s responsibility to request academic adjustments directly to the faculty and the faculty’s responsibility to assure that accommodations are being met. Faculty are entitled to reasonable notice of any requested academic adjustments. We encourage the student and faculty to meet and discuss the particulars of the request.  Faculty who are unable or unsure how to provide such adjustments on their own may request assistance from the Center for Accommodative Services (x6414).

What if the requested academic adjustments conflict with my course structure and/or policies?

You may have to make a modification in your structure or policies. Not making an adjustment may discriminate against the student because of the disability; however, while the need for modifications and/or auxiliary aids and services in a particular case is not negotiable, there are often alternate ways to provide the academic adjustments. Academic adjustments must be sensitive to the fundamental structure and objectives of your course. If you believe that a requested modification or auxiliary aid or service will so alter your course, immediately consult with Center for Accommodative Services (CAS) personnel (see Resolution Policy below).  What constitutes an appropriate modification or auxiliary aid or service in one course, or even section of a course, may not be appropriate in another. Feel free in all cases to discuss methods of academic adjustments with the student and with CAS personnel. The college has hired you for your expertise in your field and in the classroom. You are not expected to have expertise in the field of disability and postsecondary education. Let  CAS personnel help you create the best possible learning environment for both you and your students.

Resolution Policy of Disagreement about an Approved Accommodation

How Do I Read the Faculty Notification?

Some academic adjustments are specific for the classroom, others apply to testing or to print materials, and some apply to all areas. Below is an explanation of all academic adjustments that may appear on a Faculty Notification.

Computer with word-processing for all writing tasks:  Computers are available in the CAS for testing. If there is an in-class writing assignment, the student may be allowed to complete the task outside of the classroom using one of the computers available in the CAS, or a student may choose to use a laptop computer.

Copies of power points, electronic presentations, instructor notes (if available), and blackboard images (if available): If you have prepared notes and/or overheads, please provide the student with copies of the notes at the beginning of class. If you have these available in digital format, discuss with the student whether they prefer a hard copy or an email attachment. If your notes and/or overheads are not available in digital format, but the student needs them in that format, the CAS can help you scan your hard copies and convert them into electronic copies. Students may also use tablets or smart phones to take picture of notes on whiteboards or blackboards.

Extended time for tests (1.5X or 2.0X): The Center for Accommodative Services (CAS) is available during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily to help you provide this modification; however, you may provide the extended time yourself as well. Please note, though, that the student must NOT be required to move locations during the test (i.e. begin in the classroom and move to an alternate location when class time has ended). If you need help determining how to provide this modification for a student taking an evening exam, consult with CAS staff.

Large print (including tests): In order for some students with low vision to see print materials, the materials need to be enlarged. To produce an enlarged, hardcopy of your materials, enlargement can be done on the copy machine in the Faculty Office or by changing the font size in your electronic file and then printing the material. These large format or digital versions of the printed material should be made available to the student at the same time that the general student population is receiving the materials. The student or the Center for Accommodative Services can provide information as to the necessary enlarging percentage and/or font size.

Reduced distraction testing location: The Center for Accommodative Services (CAS) is available to provide this modification during our regular hours. For classes other times, please contact the CAS.

Digitally Recorded Notes: Students with disabilities who require help with class notes use the Sonocent Note-Taker Recorder Program.  To begin using the software, students must watch the 20-minute Webinar training session video.  Once the training session is completed, students are provided with a link to download the program onto their personal laptop and the License Key.  Students must agree to, and sign, the Audio Recording Policy.

Sonocent Recorder is a free app for Android and iOS devices, but cell phone use of this app will be at the discretion of each professor.

Students must stay in contact with the CAS office for the first two weeks of using the software.  Any issues will be addressed during this time period and full activation of the software license will be granted through the end of the semester.  Each semester, the license is re-issued upon request.

The Live Scribe Smart Pen is both a digital recorder and writing tool in an all-in-one device.  The Smart Pen allows you to record class lectures and take handwritten notes at the same time!  The device will also sync your recordings to your notes, so you will not have to scroll through all of your recordings to find the one you want to listen to.  The Center for Accommodative Services has a limited number of Smart Pens to lend to students to try.

Alternate format textbooks and/or course materials: Students with print disabilities may receive their textbooks and all course materials in alternate formats. These formats vary by student need and occasionally by preference. Available formats include e-text, Braille, enlarged text, audio text, and more. The Center for Accommodative Services helps the student obtain their textbooks in alternate formats. For more information, please talk to one of the CAS staff.

Alternate seating: Alternate seating may involve particular furniture put into classrooms for a student’s use. This furniture should NOT be moved from the classroom or to a different area of the classroom; it is there to address a specific need. Alternate seating may also mean a particular location in the classroom. For example, a student with a hearing impairment who reads lips may need to sit at the front of the room or a student with a back problem may need to sit at the back of the room, so that he or she can stand or walk out into the hall as needed.

Speller/Spellcheck: This accommodation can be provided by the use of an electronic speller or by using a word processor with a spellcheck capability. This must be allowed for in-class assignments as well as tests when correct spelling is not the learning objective.

Digitally Read Exams: The Center for Accommodative Services can help you provide this auxiliary aid. Please email the CAS ( a copy of your test in an accessible digital format in order for us to use our computer text reader software. If you are unable provide the CAS with a digital copy of your test and will be providing a hardcopy, we will need to have the test at least 2 business days in advance of the scheduled test so that there is sufficient time to convert it. If we receive the test with insufficient time for conversion, we may have to reschedule the test, producing a very difficult situation for a student who must be told that the test is not ready after he or she has prepared for it.

Use of calculator for all math tasks: This auxiliary aid allows the student to use a four-function or scientific calculator (as appropriate) for any math task. The student must choose to use this academic adjustment in the CAS in order to avoid an awkward situation in the classroom.

Use of recorder in the classroom: Students who use this auxiliary aid will have previously signed an Audio Recording Lecture Policy agreement with the CAS.

Voice-input computer/word processor: Students may use Dragon Naturally Speaking in the CAS to write papers, essay exams, final exams, etc. Please be aware that this technology requires a certain amount of forethought on the student’s part as he or she must “train” the software to recognize his or her voice before it will work effectively. The training process takes about 30 minutes. Effective use requires practice over a period of time.

Alternate format (may apply to all instructor-created or provided materials): When a student’s access plan memo specifies “alternate format’, this generally means providing textbooks, journal articles, and handouts in digital (readable by electronic readers) format  to the student.  If the material is not something which you have access to electronically, the CAS staff can help you scan the item and then convert it to a digital file. The KIC scanner is also available through the Joan Weill Adirondack Library.

Use of laptop for classroom note-taking: A student may take notes on a laptop or tablet when otherwise prohibited. Faculty may limit a student’s access to other resources (internet, email, etc.) if they otherwise prohibit laptops or tablets in class.

Captioning of all audio and video materials: Faculty will always be notified when we are aware that a hard-of-hearing or deaf student enrolls in their class. At that time we will ask whether you use any audio or video materials during the course. We (along with the library staff) will help you find equivalent captioned versions of these materials when possible.  Those materials not available already captioned must be sent away for captioning.  Be aware that this process takes a great deal of time so please plan ahead and provide the information in a timely manner.

The best course is to use only captioned materials at all times.

What are Strategies That Help All Students Improve Their Learning

These instructional and learning strategies are provided to highlight and reinforce those that are already in your repertoire. Particular attention is drawn to these strategies in order to showcase how they are not only beneficial for students with disabilities but can improve learning for all of your students. The presence of students with disabilities in your class does not require a major alteration in your teaching style.

How to help students get the most out of class:

  • Take the initiative in seeking an ongoing dialogue with your students.
  • Encourage class participation and questions.
  • Permit the use of recorders in the classroom to facilitate note-taking.
  • Provide notes on line for each class.
  • Assist the students in teaming up with a classmate to exchange copies of notes and review materials.
  • At the start of classes, provide a brief review of the previous class session and an overview of what is to come. At the end of class, briefly summarize the day’s main points.
  • Take care to include time for questions, discussions, and requests for further examples.
  • Highlight major concepts and terminology, both orally and visually, remembering to read aloud material on the blackboard, transparencies, or handouts. Present new vocabulary in writing and use the words in context a number of times during the class.
  • When forming groups in the class, try to use an objective process such as first four students, or every other, etc. Students with disabilities are often excluded when student choice is used.
  • Give assignments both orally and in writing.

How to help students study:

  • Remind students often of your available office hours for clarification of lectures, readings, or assignments.
  • Encourage the formation of study groups. Providing some amount of in-class time for such groups can be beneficial for both you and the students.
  • Provide explicit feedback, both oral and written, about the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s work so that his or her follow-up efforts will be well focused.
  • If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide and/or a textbook that is currently available in audio (with transcript available) or audio visual (with captioning available) format.
  • Periodically offer tips and encourage class discussion of ways for improving studying, organizing ideas, outlining, and summarizing materials.
  • Encourage use of college support services including the all of the services in the CAS.

How to help students demonstrate what has been learned:

  • Permit oral or taped presentations to supplement written assignments.
  • Offer to critique early drafts of assignments to provide pointers and encouragement for rewriting.
  • Provide exam study questions that illustrate both format and content. Explain what you expect for a good answer and why.
  • Encourage students to request clarification of the intent of exam questions. The student may know the information and be able to offer it fully but may have difficulty interpreting the question.
  • In all questioning, avoid unnecessarily intricate sentence structure, double negatives, and questions embedded within questions.
  • Separate evaluation of essay exams into two categories: content and mechanics. Grade each separately, allowing the mechanics to be re-done outside of class and resubmitted for a revised grade.
  • Allow the use of four-function calculators, scratch paper, pocket spellers, and dictionaries. Provide additional scratch paper to help students with overly large or poor handwriting.
  • Allow students to write directly on exam papers. Many students need the ability to underline, highlight, or visually dissect questions in order to fully understand them.
What Do Good Teachers Do?

Notes from a Great Course*


  • The memories of unfair teachers are reported by college students in great detail, even after many years have passed since those negative school experiences.
  • Consistent set of principles for reproaching or correcting.
  • Must be impartial and dispassionate.
  • It is professional misconduct to befriend students.

Positive Attitude.

  • Use “meaningful verbal praise: praise shrewd commends and accurate summaries. “I am so glad you asked that question…”
  • Effective teachers are generally positive minded individuals who believe in the success of their students as well as their own ability to help students achieve.
  • Flatter them into working hard; I know you can answer this question; you wouldn’t be here if you couldn’t!
  • Enthusiasm is key! There’s no place I’d rather be than right here.
  • A teacher is happy to be in the company of learners.


  • Competence and knowledge of the content area being taught is something that college students have always mentioned about their favorite teachers and is strongly supported by the current literature. Dramatic silences are powerful.
  • Videotape yourself.
  • Make them glad they were there.
  • When using demonstrations: React: watch how many are copying from the board, how well.
  • Do not speak to the board.

1) Talk

2) Draw on board

3) Talk

  • Syllabus to email

Personal Touch

  • Teachers who show interest in their students have interested students.
  • Students less motivated if feel anonymous.
  • Move through the classroom as you speak.
  • Notice each student—helps them to focus on the task at hand.
  • Fill the room from the front.
  • Separate people.
  • Break after 20 minutes in groups of two to discuss, take a stretch, etc.
  • Do not listen to boyfriend/girlfriend problems; keep the study of _____distinct from the rest of life.
  • Maintain long silences so students speak the most.
  • Students are less motivated if they feel anonymous.
  • Get as much 1:1 as possible; not everyone will take advantage. In a 1:1 situation there are no group dynamics and no peer pressure.

Sense of humor.

  • Good teachers can provide a wonderful model for how to deal with an embarrassing situation effectively.
  • Use humor in service of stimulating learning.

Teaching with PowerPoint:  Use for pictures, diagrams, etc.  what is the audience gaining in addition to my lecture? 

                                   Do                                      Don’t
·         Ask yourself how you want the audience to divide their attention between you and the screen.

·         Tell them when to look.

·         Use the mute button.

·         Too much text


·         Avoid gimmicks

·         Need 1 image/point

·         Keep to 1-2 points; 1-2 pictures


·         1 image/6 points


·         Leave screen on when no longer referring to it

·         Use mute button

·         Periodically raise lights


·         Read from screen (deadening)
·         Say or do more than what you are already saying ·         Not duplicate or replace you
·         Provoke discussion


·         Active learning


·         Review again later


Willingness to admit mistakes

  • Teachers who recognize their mistakes and apologize for them when they affect the students provide an excellent model to give students, and a great way to be remembered as a favorite teacher.
  • Always improving. Good better best: never let it rest.  Today is good, tomorrow is better; today is better, tomorrow is best.
  • Study self on film.
  • Study literature on teaching and pedagogy.
  • Eager to meet students’ expectations.
  • Take negative evaluations SERIOUSLY: throw out the very best, throw out the very worst, take the most repeated in the middle.
  • Wise enough to know what you don’t know.


  • Willingness to forgive students for misbehavior and a habit of starting each day with a clean slate.
  • A teacher worries about students’ welfare.


  • Showing sensitivity for feelings and for consistently avoiding situations that would unnecessarily embarrass students.
  • Respect my knowledge, my time, other students; dress, manner, rules = boundary lines.
  • Teaching is a vocation, not a job.

High expectations

  • Set limits, provided structure, held high expectations and pushed them to achieve. “I did not invite you to do the reading; I required it.
  • Ask them to read a passage aloud and to paraphrase it.
  • Impromptu tests
  • Get to know them intellectually, not socially
  • Keep records from the beginning.
  • “Simultaneously friendly and aggressive”
  • Emphasize the differences between you, not the similarities.
  • Teach your students how to learn.
  • Class is not “ordinary time”, but special time. Not for eating, drinking, wear hats, etc.
  • Throw out challenging questions to test knowledge.


  • Effective teachers are supportive of students in multiple ways and help to meet their needs for belonging and success.
  • Good teachers want students to succeed.

Sense of belonging

  • Effective teachers know well that when students feel emotionally, as well as, physically safe, they learn far better.
  • Create a distinctive tone and mood, a shared emotional existence. In 1860 people did not know they were on the brink of Civil War.  Emphasize uncertainties.
  • The classroom is a special place in time where special learning takes place.


  • Some teachers were remembered specifically for their unique ways of motivating their class.
  • Consider the body of knowledge approach versus the conceptual approach, and teach less better: review and repetition; foundation material.
  • Learner-centered learning; involvement and engagement motivate

Teach the Critical Skills (Guide on the side versus sage on the stage)

Reading and Notetaking are foundational:  communication, critical thinking, decision making

Read, take notes, think  —  need willingness to work hard, no procrastinating and avoid distractions, manage time.

Keys to understanding:

  • read aloud – catch the tone of voice and mood and emotional intensity
  • re-reading –
  • reading — is a slow pleasure, biorhythms slow down

Grade generously citations of outside reading

Read and Report

Look up words and write definitions: VOCABULARY QUIZZES

GOLD STANDARD:  Read two times!  Take Notes.  No Distractions

Read aloud


Meaning (paraphrase)


Secondary meanings (irony, ambiguity)

Teachers: isolate ideas, words, phrases, implications

Teach how to take notes — Note-taking increases attention in class

Outline the lecture in full sentences – shows student most important themes.

One-paragraph summary of chapter  (1 line/page)

Collect notes at random

Encourage students to memorize

Recitation of memorized passages over and over

Recite poems  (The more you do it, the better you can do it)

Chapters, footnotes, sentences, rhetoric, what does this paragraph do?

Exams, evaluation, and Feedback

Continuous assessment

Oral exam, in class, (probably the easiest to grade), take home (grade per time spent on each question)

Reward progress:  more weight to later grades?  Greater weight to grades after midterm

Make top students compete for top grades.

Grades (projects, papers, etc.) are developmental as well as evaluative.

How to grade participation: commend the three best at each class by their peers.

Have them evaluate you at midterm.

Fools’ paradise if you do not flunk them.

Ways of Improving Their Writing

–Decide how much time you will devote to writing.

–Explain:  writing issues checklist, paragraphs, main points, organized to paragraphs, active voice, what is the function?  (describe,       persuade, explain…)

–Passive voice for Scientific Writing

First paper:

–sentences ten words or less (to think about sentence length)

–words 1-2 syllables (feeling of straightforwardness, simplicity)

–adjectives prohibited (directness comes from it)

Summary assignments:

–100 and 500 words long

–Short in-class assignments (describe something)

–Hand out 100-word statements; tell them to boil down to 30 words

–Convert a passage from passive to active

Teaching Revision and Editing

–Writing is a social activity.  Not solitary.  You must win the reader’s confidence: grammar and spelling can make a poor impression

–Look for verb tense inconsistency, number, and tense

–With rise of feminism and inclusive language, “their” may be used as a singular pronoun

–Commonly confused words (effect/affect; lead/led)

–Too many adjectives (very, extremely)

–Read aloud your first draft.

–Write second draft without looking at the first one.

–Set intermediate deadlines; evaluate very critically; then rewrite

–Students tend to change only where you marked, so correct some and tell them to identify the rest; make comments that lead to revision

Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths

Myth:                      Teachers pour knowledge into students

Truth:                     They teach how to process knowledge

Half-Truth:            Education is for Everybody

Truth:                     Mass Literacy is for Everybody

Half-Truth:            A good teacher makes all the difference

Truth:                     Student still has to do the hard work

Myth:                      Teacher who knows everything

False:                     You get what you pay for.

False:                     The best teachers are at the best colleges.

True:                       Most are completely self-taught.  The quality of the school is no guarantee of the quality of the teachers.

Half-Truth:            Uphold self-esteem at all costs

  • Students should be embarrassed because they didn’t do the work.
  • Be skeptical but not cynical.
  • Embarrass someone ONCE, lightly. Criticize students in public for not doing the reading.  “I did not invite you to do the reading; I required it.”
  • Show your students how to learn.

*The Great Courses.  The Teaching Company.

The Art of Teaching: Best Practices from a Master Educator

Taught by:  Professor Patrick N. Allitt, Emory University, history faculty since 1988


Contact Us »

Center for Accommodative Services
Joan Weill Adirondack Library, Room 207
Paul Smith’s College
7833 State Route 30 | PO Box 265
Paul Smiths, NY 12970

Vanessa Case, M.S.Ed.
(518) 327- 6415
(518) 327- 6369 fax

Hours 8:00-4:30