04 SES 07 E, Inclusion from the Viewpoint of Students: Listening to the learners’ voices
This work intends to identify the aspects that facilitate and hinder inclusive education at the university, according to the staff of disability support services and the students with disabilities. In particular, we intend to analyze the attitude of the teaching staff toward students with disabilities, learn about reasonable adjustments that are necessary in the university classroom, and analyze the use of information technologies in university teaching to promote inclusive education.
Three research questions guided this analysis: How can the faculty's attitude influence the inclusion of students with disabilities?; What adjustments by faculty members are required to meet the needs of students with disabilities?; What role do the new technologies play in the learning processes of students with disabilities?
The number of university students with disabilities is increasing. This new reality has forced universities to rely on services to address the needs of these students. However, students with disabilities identify a number of barriers at their university (Clouder, Adefila, Jackson, Opie, & Odedra, 2016), for example, the absence of social support (Strnadová, Hájková, & Květoňová, 2015). In this sense, the disability support services staff (Fossey et al., 2017) and many students with disabilities both point to the negative attitude of some faculty members towards disability as an important barrier (Strnadová et al., 2015). In Magnus and Tøssebro’s (2014) study, people with disabilities reported that, when faced with demand for reasonable adjustments, some faculty members respond ambivalently or even initially refuse to make such adjustments, or question these students' needs. In this regard, staff of the disability services note that making reasonable adjustments is complex because the needs of these students are very diverse and, hence, so are the adjustments they require (Fossey et al., 2017). Thus, it is not surprising that the adjustments are not always made adequately and, unfortunately, students must face rigid and non-inclusive curricula (Hopkins, 2011).
For their part, the faculty members argue that sometimes they do not make the adequate adjustments because they have a large work overload (Riddell, Tinklin, & Wilson, 2004). At other times, because they think that such adjustments could lead to lower academic standards and offer additional advantages to students with disabilities.
Some studies have identified the elements that facilitate student inclusion, among which are the family network, friends, some faculty members, classmates, and the support services. Clearly, such support facilitates these students’ academic life (Lawson, Cruz, & Knollman, 2017).
Getzel (2008) pointed out the importance of the figure of the faculty members and emphasized that students with disabilities receive more support from faculty who is more aware and better trained about the characteristics and needs of students with disabilities, as well as those who incorporate the concepts of universal design for learning in their subjects. In this line, it is known that the faculty members’ experience and training in the field of disability promote a positive attitude and inclusive practices.
With regard to educational methodologies, various works have shown that students with disabilities improve their learning when the faculty follows a participative methodology, and the students value this methodology very positively (Hopkins, 2011).
Finally, some studies conclude that the proper use of information technologies can also promote inclusive education in the university setting. In contrast, the absence or misuse of technological tools by the faculty members (inaccessible designs of websites or online material) may be a barrier for students with disabilities (Kurt, 2011). In this sense, the use of online training is especially important to promote the inclusion of students with disabilities in the university (Pearson & Koppi, 2006).
The study involved eight technicians from the support services of seven universities and 44 students with disabilities from one university. Eight staff of seven universities in southern Spain participated in the study (one of the universities had two professional). Most of them are graduated in Psychology, Pedagogy, or Social Work. These universities had enrolled 2,463 students with disabilities in 2017, out of a total of 20,793 students with disabilities in Spain (Universia Fundation, 2017). Students were accessed through the disability support services of one of the universities. Forty-four students participated, their age ranged between 19 and 59, with an average of 24 years. Twenty two were men and 22 women. Twenty five percent were in their first year, 16% in their second, 25% in the third, 14% in the fourth, and 9% in their fifth year of university studies. The rest (11%) were postgraduates, studying official Master courses. Thirty eight percent of the students had a physical disability, 15% a mental disability, 36% a sensory disability, and 11% had difficulties because of health conditions. Qualitative methodology was used in this research; in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with all the participants. Although similar in both groups, the questions were personalized for each group. Thus, two interview scripts were designed. Some of the questions were: which specific barriers do you think that the students have encountered with regard to the faculty members? Which aids? Do you know what kind of reasonable adjustments (objectives, tasks, methodology, types of exams, etc.) are carried out in the classroom to meet the needs of these students? What type do they tend to be? How do you rate them? Why? Do you know whether virtual learning and technological tools (blog, wikis, platforms, etc.) are used in the subjects? If so, how do you rate them? Do you think that they contribute towards facilitating the learning processes or do they hinder them? Why? These interviews lasted about an hour and a half and were later transcribed. The information was analyzed using a system of categories and codes (Miles & Huberman, 1994); MaxQDA 12 was used.
The faculty's attitude toward students with disabilities From the point of view of disability service staff, the faculty in general presented a positive attitude towards students with disabilities, and did not imply a barrier for these students. However, students with disabilities felt that the faculty's attitude towards them was not always positive. They pointed out that some academics were not interested or concerned about their needs, were not empathetic towards them or towards the rest of students. Nevertheless, they indicated that others had a positive attitude towards them and this attitude was a great aid to their academic life. The need to make reasonable adjustments to achieve a more inclusive education The disability support staff considered that, in some cases, it was necessary for the faculty members to adjust their teaching methodologies, materials, and evaluation systems to address the needs of their students with disabilities. Students with disabilities also thought that the faculty members should modify their teaching methodologies and their evaluation systems and use resources tailored to their needs. They also noted that ideally such changes should be made at the start of course, before the initiation of the classes, and should therefore be planned in advance. Both students with disabilities and staff considered that the faculty members had difficulties in making all these adjustments when developing their classes. The use of technologies: a fundamental pillar to promote inclusive education Both from the perspective of the staff and the students, technologies were considered a facilitating element for students with disabilities, and their use increased students' academic motivation. They highlighted that the use of technological resources had certain advantages: it favored class follow-up, promoted autonomy and independence, and allowed academic staff to provide more individual attention to students.
Clouder, L., Adefila, A., Jackson, C., Opie, J., & Odedra, S. (2016). The discourse of disability in higher education: Insights from a health and social care perspective. International Journal of Educational Research, 79, 10 20. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2016.05.015 Fossey, E., Chaffey, L., Venville, A., Ennals, P., Douglas, J., & Bigby, Ch. (2017). Navigating the complexity of disability support in tertiary education: perspectives of students and disability service staff. International Journal of Inclusive Education 21 (8), 822-832. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2017.1278798 Getzel, E. (2008). Addressing the Persistence and Retention of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education: Incorporating Key Strategies and Supports on Campus. Exceptionality, 16 (4), 207-219. doi:10.1080/09362830802412216 Lawson, J.E., Cruz, R.A., & Knollman, G.A. (2017). Increasing positive attitudes toward individuals with disabilities through community service learning. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 69, 1-7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2017.07.013 Universia Foundation [Fundación Universia] (2017). Guide to care for the disabled in the University [Guía de atención a la discapacidad en la Universidad]. Madrid: Fundación Universia Hopkins, L. (2011). The path of least resistance: a voice-relational analysis of disabled students' experiences of discrimination in English universities. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15, 711-727. doi:10.1080/13603110903317684 Kurt, S. (2011). The accesibility of university Websites: the case of Turkish universities. Universal Access in an Information Society, 10, 101-110. doi:10.1007/s10209-010-0190-z Magnus, E., & Tøssebro, J. (2014). Negotiating individual accommodation in higher education. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 16(4), 316-332. doi:10.1080/15017419.2012.761156 Miles, M.B., & Huberman, A.M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis. CA, USA: Sage Publications. Pearson, E., & Koppi, T. (2006). Supporting staff in developing inclusive online learning. In M. Adams, & S. Brown (Eds.). Towards inclusive learning in higher education (pp. 56-66). London: Routledge. Strnadová, I., Hájková, V., & Květoňová, L. (2015). Voices of university students with disabilities: inclusive education on the tertiary level – a reality or a distant dream? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19 (10), 1080-1095. doi:10.1080/ 13603116.2015.1037868
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