Shelly, J. M. (2018). Perceptions and understandings of community college instructors in the provision of accommodations for students with disabilities (Publication No. 10789319) [Doctoral dissertation, Gwynedd Mercy University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Shelly, J. M. (2018). Perceptions and understandings of community college instructors in the provision of accommodations for students with disabilities (Publication No. 10789319) [Doctoral dissertation, Gwynedd Mercy University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.


Gwynedd Mercy University (Gwynedd Valley, PA); ProQuest document ID: 2042959394


Educator survey; No age; No disability; Postsecondary; U.S. context




Accommodations were broadly described. Community college instructors' perceptions and instructional practices, including providing accommodations to postsecondary students with disabilities, were investigated. Extended time on course examinations and alternate formats for instructional materials were mentioned in some educator survey items, and other accommodations were noted in instructors' responses; further details were described in the Findings section.


Across three public community colleges in southeastern Pennsylvania (U.S.), 107 postsecondary instructors responded to educator surveys. Information was gathered on their full- or part-time statuses (64% vs 36% of instructors, respectively), and their teaching experience in postsecondary education (range of 1–15+ years). Information about each of the three community colleges' programs, all granting two-year degrees, and about student populations were reported. Respondents (postsecondary instructors) estimated that they had taught varying numbers of students with disabilities in the past four years: about 33% had taught more than 16 students with disabilities, with the remainder having taught fewer, and only one respondent had taught no students with disabilities recently. Their students had various disabilities, with nearly all respondents having taught students with learning disabilities (93%), and most had taught students with mental health conditions (52%). Students with other disabilities were taught by smaller proportions of respondents: mobility impairments (45%), hearing impairments (45%), vision impairments (38%), intellectual disabilities (27%), neurological impairments (21%), and communication disorders (19%).

Dependent Variable

The researcher-designed online educator survey had five demographic questions and 21 rating scale items on respondents' degrees of agreement (1=strongly disagree, 4=strongly agree) to declarative statements, collecting quantitative data, and five open-ended questions that asked for more nuanced responses and collecting qualitative data. Survey items asked about educators' perceptions of and experience with addressing the learning needs of postsecondary students with disabilities, including providing academic accommodations. Information was sought on respondents' orientation or training on available accommodations at their postsecondary institutions, and on the organizational supports that instructors need to this purpose. The survey asked about respondents' experience teaching students with disabilities, including the types of disabilities that their students have had; these details were reported as part of the Participants section.


[Quantitative] Respondents' self-assessments indicated that they had attended to the instructional needs of their students with disabilities. Nearly all respondents (95%) endorsed feeling comfortable in providing requested accommodations to students with disabilities, with 57% strongly agreeing to the statement; 97% indicated that if unsure about accommodations, they would contact the disability services office. About 20% of respondents indicated that their "workload prevents [them] from working closely with students with disabilities who request accommodations" (p. 90). About 63% of respondents endorsed having participated in training or professional development on providing accommodations, and 79% agreed that their community college provides these trainings. In response to a survey item phrased in terms of whether they may choose to not provide extended time on exams if they felt that the student would not benefit, "even if the student has a documented disability and has requested extended time," nearly all (96%) did not endorse the statement, with 53% strongly disagreeing. [Qualitative] Although fewer than the 107 total respondents answered the open-ended survey items, this qualitative data provided details that elaborated on the rating scale items. Three themes were identified: (a) perceptions of individual participants and their provision of accommodations, (b) participants' views of institutional supports needed to address academic needs of students with disabilities, and (c) training and professional development and their provision of accommodations. (a) Participants indicated awareness of legal requirements on providing access including accommodations, their time and workload challenges, and variation among the three community colleges regarding inclusive school culture. Instructors' part-time status was a relevant factor, and one respondent indicated that postsecondary students in their first year have been not fully trained in adaptive technology, resulting in the respondent's frustration, while another indicated that additional work making accommodations for students with disabilities ought to be compensated by the college. (b) Many participants reported on the many resources available, yet some participants indicated that additional accessible technology resources were needed. (c) Participants remarked on ideas for engaging all instructional staff regularly in training, with broad information on academic supports for students with disabilities and specific information on technology tools. [College Comparisons] The researcher reported variation on concerns and needs across the three community colleges. All instructors perceived their responsiveness to the needs of their students with disabilities as satisfactory. However, the instructors from one college—referred to as College A—reported that no additional organizational supports were necessary to provide accommodations, while the instructors from the other two colleges—Colleges B and C—indicated that specific supports were needed. At College A, they also reported that training had little to no impact on instructors' ability to provide accommodations to students, while at Colleges B and C, they indicated that this professional development benefited instructors' ability to do so.