Application of Research Findings
A literature review was conducted to guide the selection of content and presentation modes for professional development for postsecondary faculty and administrators. The following paragraphs describe how research and theory can be applied as you implement a training program on your campus.
Professional Development: Need, Content, and Methods
People with disabilities are less successful in college and careers than their non-disabled peers. Faculty members play a key role in the success of all of their students yet have little knowledge regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities in their courses. They need to know more about legal issues, accommodation strategies, and resources. They have a special interest in learning to work with students who have learning and psychiatric disabilities. Their demanding schedules and diversity in interests and needs for information suggest that multiple modes of delivery should be offered, including short on-site presentations, programs tailored to specific audiences, short publications, and web-based resources.
Faculty and administrators have a wealth of knowledge and experiences in their fields, but they may have little knowledge about the academic needs of students with disabilities. Additionally, they may have misconceptions about the students' abilities. Approaches that can maximize faculty and administrators' motivation to learn and the likelihood that learning will be retained, include inviting them to share their experiences, to participate in learning activities, to self-direct their learning, and to discuss relevant cases.
Most individuals have preferred styles of learning that relate to how they receive, process, and integrate information. Some individuals learn better through listening, some through reading or watching, and still others by doing. A commonly used classification of learning styles is auditory, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic. Styles of learning may also be characterized by how individuals best learn from experiences— they're either convergers, divergers, assimilators, or accommodators. In order to support all learning styles, presenters must use a variety of teaching strategies, verbal discussion, visuals, demonstration, and active experiences. Incorporating case studies and practical real-life situations for problem-solving can address all learning styles and promote optimal learning.
Types of Learning
Domains of learning include cognitive, psychomotor, and affective. In the cognitive domain, skills include knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, and synthesis of information. Learning may also be viewed within the categories of knowledge and skill. Types of intelligence can be classified as logical-mathematical, linguistic, spatial, musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. Since different teaching techniques are best used for different types of learning, analyze the learning that you want to occur and select an appropriate strategy to engage all learners. Consider the participants' existing attitudes, knowledge, and skills, and how they can best acquire the knowledge and skill to do their job more effectively. Vary presentation methods and individualize strategies to meet a variety of learning needs.
Universal Design of Instruction
Consider the wide variety of characteristics of presentation participants. They may vary in race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, academic specialty, native language, and abilities and disabilities. To maximize the learning of all participants, respect diversity; ensure physical access for all people; and use a variety of delivery methods, such as lecture, small and large group discussion, case study, hands-on activities, web-based interaction, labs, and fieldwork; provide full access to information by using captioned videos, printed materials in electronic format, and accessible online information; offer effective and prompt feedback; and allow multiple means for participants to demonstrate competency. Modeling UD approaches as you train faculty and administrators will encourage them to incorporate this approach in their own teaching. Universal design of instruction maximizes the learning of all students, and reduces the need for individual accommodations.
Both internal and external forces may pressure postsecondary institutions to be more inclusive of students with disabilities. External forces of change include a global, technological, and information-based economy; legislation; and societal pressure toward a pluralistic society with equity for underrepresented groups. Internal forces include pressure from students with diverse characteristics (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity, culture, disability, part-time status) and faculty who seek a more inclusive environment. Systemic change occurs when change is transformational and long lasting. This type of change occurs not with one, or even a few individuals, but reflects the entire organization or system. Transformational change is more likely to occur when a powerful case is made for change, there is high-level support, and all stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. To create a campus environment that provides equal educational opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities, it is important that administrators develop policies and procedures in collaboration with faculty, student service providers, and students with disabilities.