Students with disabilities are pursuing postsecondary degrees in growing numbers, yet are still experiencing disparate educational outcomes when compared to their peers. Academic accommodations have been vital in supporting students with disabilities, but not all students choose to disclose and seek out formal supports. Less is known about classroom practices that support these students, regardless of whether they disclose a disability. Utilizing a narrative methodological approach, this study explored the ways in which 13 undergraduate students experienced their identities and disabilities in postsecondary classroom environments and their perceptions of the instructional practices that impacted their learning. The narratives revealed that students’ identities were fluid and that disability was not experienced in isolation from other identities. Students’ identities and disabilities affected their experiences in the classroom environment, and to a large extent, the way that they learned. Instructors, including their tone and messaging, were a significant source of support and at times also posed substantial barriers to students’ academic success. The extent to which community had been fostered, opportunities were provided for peer engagement and interaction, and multiple options were given for learning and demonstrating knowledge also affected students’ ability to learn and thrive in the classroom. Findings of this study support existing practices of Universal Design, although ideas for enhancing existing principles are also discussed. Implications for this study address the need for postsecondary institutions to focus on scholarship and practice to improve classroom experiences for students with disabilities, as well as to enhance instructor capacity to implement Universal Design.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation.December 2016. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Rebecca Ropers-Huilman. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 275 pages.
People Like Me: Disability, Identity, & Experiences in Postsecondary Classrooms.
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