ERG SES G 07, Higher Education
Completion of tertiary education has been identified as a major condition for accessing employment and, correspondingly, to social inclusion, thus a successful transition to third level is deemed essential for all young adults (Ebersold, 2012). One of the main objectives of the EU Disability Strategy 2010-20 is to promote inclusive education and lifelong learning for students with disabilities (European Union, 2010). Irish national policy is consistent with European efforts, and young adults with impairments, have been found to be progressing to tertiary education in increasing numbers over the past decade (Ahead, 2015).
However, this increase has not been evidenced within all cohorts of students with impairments and certain students are under-represented (McGuckin, Shevlin, Bell & Devecchi, 2013). These groups include blind/vision impaired students, those who are deaf and hard of hearing and those with physical/mobility difficulties and all of these groups have been targeted under the National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-19 (HEA, 2015).
Once students with disabilities gain entry they have been found to face many additional challenges (Marriott, 2008). Although many campuses have made progress toward creating accessible academic programs and providing academic supports, co-curricular aspects of campus life have received significantly less focus (Johnson, 2000). Evans and Broido (2011) found that students with visible impairments were less likely to engage in co-curricular activities than were students with invisible impairments. Beauchamp-Pryor (2013) found that a quarter of the students with disabilties surveyed reported that they had not been able to participate in student activities as much as they would have liked.
Attending university constitutes for many a big step in the process of forming an independent personal and social identity (Goode, 2007). Similar to the rest of the student body, those with disabilties need both academic and co-curricular engagement to optimise their personal growth and success (Quaye and Harper, 2015).
Social integration into higher education is recognised as an important factor in ensuring a successful transition and retention of all students (Yorke & Longden, 2008). Students who feel like they belong within the college environment report higher levels of enjoyment, enthusiasm, happiness, interest, and are more confident in engaging with learning activities (Furrer & Skinner, 2003). Indeed levels of academic and social integration have been found to play a role in determining which students would persist in, or withdraw from, higher education.
Students’ engagement with ‘college life is important in enabling them to develop key capabilities such as critical thinking, problem solving, writing skills, team work and communication skills’ (Irish Survey of Student Engagement Results 2015, P.3, 2015). Despite the importance of these skills (Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005), there is very little research on the social involvement experience and sense of belonging of students with disabilities (Papasotiriou and Windle, 2012) at third level in Ireland.
This study seeks to address the lack of data relating to the social and sense of belonging experiences of students with disabilities in third level in Ireland. The research is timely due to the launch of the National Plan for Equity of Access to Third Level 2015-2019 in Ireland and EU initiatives such as the Disability Strategy to promote the full inclusion of people with disabilities. Using a theoretical framework that incorporates Bronfenbrenner’s Bio-ecological Systems Theory, (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006) will allow the researcher to view the web of interactions between the students and higher education institutions and will identify points at which certain factors function as promoters or inhibitors to a positive student experience and that contriubte to a sense of belonging (Doyle, 2015).
AHEAD. (2015). Numbers of Students with Disabilities Studying in Higher Education in Ireland 2013/14. AHEAD Educational Press. Beauchamp-Pryor, K. (2013). Disabled Students in Welsh Higher Education: A Framework for Equality and Inclusion. SENSE PUBLISHERS Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In R. M. Lerner, & W. Damon (Ed.). Theoretical Models of Human Development. Vol. 1 of the Handbook of Child Psychology (4th ed.) (pp.357-414) Ebersold, S. (2012). Transitions to Tertiary Education and Work for Youth with Disabilities. OECD. Education and Training Policy. European Commission. (2010). European Disability Strategy 2010-2020: A Renewed Committment to a Barrier-Free Europe. http://ec.europa.eu/europe2020/index_en.htm . Evans, N.J., & Broido, E.M. (2011). Social involvement and identity development of students with disabilities Poster presented at the conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education, Charlotte, NC. Furrer, C., Skinner, E. (2003). Sense of relatedness as a factor in children’s academic engagement and performance. Journal of Educational Pyschology, 95(1), 148-162. Goode, J. (2007). ‘Managing’ disability: early experiences of university students with disabilities . Disability and Society, Vol 22, 2007 – Issue 1. Higher Education Authority. (2015). National Plan for Equity to Access 2015-2019. Higher Education Authority. (2015). Irish Survey of Student Engagement (ISSE) Results from 2015. STUDENTSURVEY.IE . Marriott, J. (2008). Post-16 education and disabled learners: A guide for schools, colleges and for information, advice and guidance workers, England: Action on Access. McGuckin, C., Shevlin, M., Bell, S., and Devecchi, C. (2013). Moving to Further and Higher Education:An Exploration of the Experiences of Students with Special Educational Needs. The National Council for Special Eduation (NCSE). National Disability Authority (Ireland). (2002). Guidelines for including people with disabilities in research. Dublin: National Disability Authority. Pascarella, E.T., & Terenzini, P.T. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco , CA: Jossey-Bass. Papasotiriou, M and Windle, J,. (2012). The social experience of physically disabled Australian university students, Disability & Society, 27:7, 935-947. Pugach, M. C. (2001). The stories we choose to tell: Fulfilling the promise of qualitative research for special education. Exceptional Children, 67(4), 439-453. Preece, J. (1995) Disability and adult education –the consumer view, Disability and Society, 10, pp. 87-102. Shah, S, Priestley, M. (2011). “Disability and Social Change” Private Lives and Public Policies. Polity Press. Yorke, M. And Longden, B. (2008). The First Year Experience of Higher Education in the UK. York: Higher Education Academy.
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