04 SES 04 B, Fostering Inclusion In Higher Education: What Are Supportive Practices?
The study presented in this paper forms part of a broader research project funded by the Spanish Ministry of the Economy and Competitiveness: "Walking towards social and educational inclusion in the university: design, development and evaluation of a training program for university faculty" (MINECO, EDU2013-46303-R, IP. Anabel Moriña). The aim was to design, develop and evaluate a training program on inclusive education and disability for faculty members.
Faculty members constitute one of the principal barriers which appear during the students’ university careers. Research indicates that some of them are not predisposed to implementing the reasonable adjustments stipulated in the university rules and regulations (Yssel, Pak, & Beilke, 2016). For example, in some cases, students recount how their faculty are reluctant to provide teaching material in advance or to ensure audio recordings of their lectures (Claiborne, Cornforth, Gibson, & Smith, 2011). In other cases, students report that their faculty refuse to modify the methodology or the evaluation method used. Studies that include the voices of faculty members highlight their limited experience, minimal training working with students with disabilities and lack of knowledge regarding inclusive instructional practices (Black, Weinberg, & Brodwin, 2014).
Both in Spain and in other countries, faculty training is voluntary and mainly focused on topics related to teaching methodologies. There is little room for specific training on disability and inclusive education in the range of training courses on offer to faculty members. Some universities have evinced an interest in designing and developing training programs to help faculty members respond more effectively to the needs of students with disabilities. For example, the “Teachability” project (Simpson, 2000) is a project which aims to improve curriculum accessibility for students with disabilities in Scotland. In the United States, the ASD curriculum has been developed to train faculty members in inclusive education (Debrand & Salzberg, 2005). In Spain, a number of training programs have been developed for faculty, which aim to teach them how to deal inclusively with students with disabilities (Dotras, Llinares & López, 2008). In Ireland, Griffiths (2010) has developed a guidebook for inclusive teaching. In England, Hockings, Breet, and Terentjevs (2012) have compiled a set of online open resources for higher education faculty based on the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
The majority of training initiatives never move past the design phase, with no evaluation being carried out of their implementation and/or impact. The results of some of those that have been evaluated seem to coincide in concluding that faculty training in disability, inclusion and UDL has a positive impact on students, regardless of whether or not they have a disability (Getzel, 2008). Other studies conclude that the training provided helped improve faculty’ knowledge of and sensitivity towards students with disabilities, as well as their general attitude (Davies, Schelly, & Spooner, 2013). Moreover, students themselves were also found to benefit from faculty receiving this training (Getzel, 2008). Therefore, including the contents of this training into everyday teaching practice is vital to creating an inclusive educational environment and raising awareness regarding the specific needs of students with disabilities (Black et al., 2014; Hockings et al., 2012).
Three qualitative evaluations were carried out at three different moments: prior to the program design (training needs evaluation); half way through its implementation (training process evaluation); and after its completion (results and impact of the training evaluation). In this paper, we present the results from the final evaluation. The program, which was designed by the research team, was implemented using the Blended-Learning method. The training itself lasted six months (January-June 2016), with a total of 54 hours (12 hours face-to-face training sessions and 42 online hours). To make up the sample group, the course was advertised through the university's training centre. Finally, 20 faculty members completed the whole course. The six criteria used to select the sample were published in all advertisements: faculty members from all areas of knowledge; faculty members of both sexes; variety in relation to years of teaching experience; experience with students with disabilities; commitment to introducing changes in the classroom; and availability for active participation. Of the final sample group, 12 participants came from the Social and Legal Sciences, 4 taught Health Sciences and 4 came from the field of Humanities. As regards sex, 12 were women and 8 were men, and 14 claimed to have had a student or students with disabilities in their class at some point in their career. Finally, regarding years of teaching experience, half of the participants had 5 years or less experience at their university, whereas the other half had more extensive teaching experience. A qualitative evaluation was conducted of the training. The instruments used to gather the data were semi-structured group and individual interviews, open-ended written questionnaires and observations. During the final evaluation, three group interviews were held, lasting approximately 1 hour 30 minutes each. Four faculty members were unable to participate in the group interviews, so individual interviews lasting approximately 1 hour were arranged. Moreover, each participant completed an open-ended questionnaire in which they were asked to think and write about what they had learned during the course. Finally, two members of the research team observed the classroom-based training sessions. All the information was recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data were analysed using a system of categories and codes developed inductively by the research team in accordance with the proposal made by Miles and Huberman (1994). This was then used to conduct a comparative analysis of all the information gathered, with the help of the computer program MaxQDA12.
The main conclusions of the study are related to three areas of learning acquired through the training program: information, training and awareness. A well-informed faculty member should not engage in actions that rely solely on their good will; rather, they should be aware that there is a regulation that specifies the modifications that can be made to the curriculum and sets out the rights of students with disabilities. Therefore, being well-informed is the first step to tearing down some of the barriers encountered by students with disabilities. Faculty members also need to be well-trained. In this study, participants highlighted the fact that they had learned how to modify the curriculum and how to design and develop syllabuses based on the principles of UDL. This in turn made them feel more confident, since they had been taught how to respond adequately to the needs of students with disabilities. Participants also underscored the fact that the improvements made (more accessible materials, syllabuses based on UDL) benefited all students, not just those with disabilities (Pliner & Johnson, 2004). As other authors recommend, the participants think that this training should be mandatory for all staff (Hurst, 2006). Finally, being well-informed and well-trained inevitably leads to faculty members being more aware. Other studies have concluded that training has an impact on faculty members' sensitivity to students with disabilities and helps improve their attitude (Davies et al., 2013). Moreover, students themselves were also found to benefit from faculty members receiving this training (Getzel, 2008). Our study found similar results, with participants claiming to feel more motivated and more sensitive towards the needs of students with disabilities.
Black, R. D., Weinberg, L. A., & Brodwin, M. G. (2014). Universal design for instruction and learning: A pilot study of faculty instructional methods and attitudes related to students with disabilities in higher education. Exceptionality Education International, 24(1), 48-64. Claiborne, L. B., Cornforth, S., Gibson, A., & Smith, A. (2011). Supporting students with impairments in higher education: social inclusion or cold comfort? International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(5), 513-527. doi:10.1080/13603110903131747 Davies, P. L., Schelly, C. L., & Spooner, C. L. (2013). Measuring the effectiveness of Universal Design for Learning intervention in postsecondary education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 26(3), 195-220. Debrand, C. C., & Salzberg, C. L. (2005). A Validated Curriculum to Provide Training to Faculty regarding Students with Disabilities in Higher Education. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 18(1), 49-61. Dotras, P., Llinares, M., & López, P. (2008, April). Propuesta de formación al profesorado en el contexto de la Universidad Pública. V International Congress of Psicology and Education, Oviedo, Spain. Getzel, E. 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 Griffiths, S. (2010). Teaching for Inclusion in Higher Education: A Guide to Practice. Dublin: All Ireland Society for Higher Education. Hockings, C., Brett, P., & Terentjevs, M. (2012). Making a difference—inclusive learning and teaching in higher education through open educational resources. Distance Education, 33(2), 237-252. doi: 10.1080/01587919.2012.692066 Hurst, A. (2006). Disability and mainstreaming continuing professional development in higher education. In M. Adams., & S. Brown (Eds.), Towards inclusive learning in higher education (pp. 56-66). London: Routledge. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Pliner, S. M., & Johnson, J. R. (2004). Historical, theoretical, and foundational principles of universal instructional design in higher education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 37(2), 105-113. doi: 10.1080/10665680490453913 Simpson, A. (2002). The Teachability Project: Creating an Accessible Curriculum for Students with Disabilities. Planet, 6(1), 13-15. Yssel, N., Pak, N., & Beilke, J. (2016) A Door Must Be Opened: Perceptions of Students with Disabilities in Higher Education. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 63(3), 384-394. doi: 10.1080/1034912X.2015.1123232
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