Clark, M. C. (2017). A case study of community college faculty attitudes toward students with disabilities (Publication No. 10686666) [Doctoral dissertation, Rowan University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1983517808
Rowan University (Glassboro, NJ); ProQuest document ID: 1983517808; this dissertation is also openly accessible online at https://rdw.rowan.edu/etd/2488/
Accommodations were not specified in advance of this dissertation inquiry; the perspectives of faculty members in a community college setting were investigated, exploring their attitudes toward postsecondary students with disabilities and providing accommodations for them. Academic accommodations, particularly available details on those provided during course examinations, were emphasized in the Findings section.
Thirty-five (35) faculty members at a community college in a southeastern state (U.S.) responded to educator surveys; 13 survey respondents also participated in interviews. Stratified purposeful sampling of the population of community college faculty members was completed based on their being employed in the spring academic term in 2017, and having experience working with postsecondary students with disabilities. The faculty population and the study participants were described in terms of demographics such as age and gender, and with other characteristics such as years of work experience and part- or full-time status. The academic divisions in which they taught included arts and sciences, applied sciences, and health sciences. The student population was also described, including types of disabilities; students had visibly apparent and not apparent (also termed "invisible") disabilities.
The Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Scale, Form B (ATDP; Yuker & Block, 1970) consisted of 30 items using a 6-point rating scale that measured participants' self-reported perspectives; the educator survey also had two open-ended questions about the use of accommodations in their courses and their experience teaching students with disabilities. Nine interview questions about their individual teaching careers and the current academic term, general experiences with people with disabilities, as well as positive and negative teaching experiences with postsecondary students with disabilities. Interview participants were also asked about their understanding of the institution's expectations of faculty in teaching students with disabilities, and what information, training, or equipment is needed by faculty. In this exploratory case study, bounded to the community college, the disability services office coordinator provided information, and an additional 30 institutional information artifacts were sources of quantitative and qualitative data for describing the case. The potential associations between faculty responses to the ATDP survey, their experiences with postsecondary students with disabilities, their accommodations implementation practices, and their insights into student needs were explored.
Five major themes emerged and were described for the faculty members who responded to the ATDP survey, including those who also participated in interviews. Faculty members: (a) held positive attitudes toward students with visibly apparent disabilities; (b) had "significant concerns for the academic success" (p. 104) of students whose disabilities were not apparent; (c) showed overall willingness to provide accommodations, yet they indicated hesitation to provide accommodations "they believed provided an unfair advantage" (p. 104) or otherwise were not deemed helpful for preparing students with disabilities for academic or career rigors—such as unproctored exams, untimed exams, and program requirement waivers; (d) observed needs for training on teaching and accommodating students with various disabilities; and (e) used outmoded disability terminology, which was also present in institutional documents. Survey respondents reported having overall positive experiences (62%) and negative experiences (29%) with accommodations in their courses; three respondents (9%) indicated that accommodations were neither a positive or negative experience, with one reporting that accommodations were neither positive nor negative but rather served to address the individual needs of all students. Survey respondents also indicated primarily positive experiences (62%) and negative experiences (21%) teaching postsecondary students with disabilities; six respondents (over 17%) reported having both positive and negative experiences, and seemed to indicate parallels to their experiences teaching students without disabilities. Interview data further connected faculty attitudes toward students with disabilities and their perceptions about providing accommodations: when describing teaching students with visible disabilities, they perceived accommodations as ways to overcome situational barriers, yet when describing experiences with students with invisible disabilities, they perceived accommodations as disruptive to the class environment or providing unfair benefits. Nonetheless, faculty participants mostly held predominantly positive attitudes and strong willingness to provide accommodations.