Peterson, D. H. (2017). Parental and teacher perspectives on assistive technology (Publication No. 10600110) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global. https://www.proquest.com/docview/1960809140
University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN); ProQuest document ID: 1960809140; also available in UofM website database at http://hdl.handle.net/11299/190508
The focus was on parents' and teachers' perceptions and experiences with assistive technologies that were provided to the students with disabilities. Assistive technologies were broadly defined, and included those that facilitated communication with the student as well as those that provided access and support to academic content in the classroom during both instruction and testing.
Twelve people were interviewed: six parents of six different students with cognitive disabilities, and six special education teachers of those students. While not study participants, the students in focus had disabilities including autism, intellectual disabilities, attention problems, impulse control difficulties, learning disabilities, speech-language disabilities, visual impairments, and other health impairments. The parents had children in five different Minnesota school districts, and teachers were from four different school districts; the districts were in the suburbs of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area (U.S.). Additional demographic data for parents were reported, such as marital status, along with information about their general familiarity with technology and assistive technology. Information was also reported about teachers' special education caseloads, their familiarity with technology in general, and knowledge of the specific application of assistive technology to pedagogy. Additional information on school districts was reported, including student population demographics, teaching positions, and school funding statistics.
The stated problem being investigated was the implementation challenges associated with effective use of assistive technology; the researcher sought to inquire about the possible effects of parents' and teachers' perspectives, whether supportive or not, on successful use of assistive technology by students with cognitive disabilities. The primary data comprised the participants' responses to interview protocols, inquiring about the reflections—perceptions, attitudes, and experiences—of parents and teachers of students with cognitive disabilities. The interviews were transcribed, member-checked, and analyzed using NVIVO data analysis software. The researcher noted drawing out other data artifacts for triangulation purposes, including intermittent examination of research literature "as both secondary source of data and supplementary validation of what the parents were saying" (p. 3). With the expansion of study participants to include educators, the researcher noted that information about available resources, assistive technology details in IEP documents, and teacher education program information were also examined.
Parents tended to indicate open-mindedness about engaging with new or additional assistive technology tools, and teachers affirmed parents' positive attitudes toward new possibilities; new support resources typically came from educators and not parents. As such, a potential implementation barrier could be educators' attitudes or resources for initiating assistive technology for students. Teachers identified four barriers to implementation: "their own comfort with technology, their awareness of appropriate assistive technology solutions for their students, school or district support, and financial considerations" (p. 59). Some teacher interviewees indicated limited comfort with, and several indicated limited awareness of applying specific assistive technology resources to address student needs—that is, they lacked not only information about resources, but practical knowledge of how to use them. Further, the presence or absence of a technology-oriented professional on the IEP team was related to whether students had assistive technology listed in their IEPs. The researcher reflected that these first two implementation barriers were also affirmed in the body of literature, and that they were associated with the degree to which educators had an accepting attitude toward assistive technology use; further, acceptance and knowledge can be complicated by educators' preparation, or lack thereof, to incorporate assistive technology in their teaching practices. School and district resources, and funding, both also operated somewhat independently as factors experienced by teacher interviewees effecting implementation barriers. Districts with funding might not already have assistive technology resources, yet funding can be a necessary prerequisite for obtaining at least some new assistive technology resources, and were required for leaders to facilitate acquiring new resources. The availability of resources and finances varied widely in the study participants' districts; some had assistive technology lending libraries, and some did not. The degree to which finances are limited or available at the school or district, or from parents of students needing assistive technology, can serve as an implementation barrier according to interviewees and the body of research literature. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.