Alumni Research Abstracts
Enablers and barriers of community service for youth with disabilities
The Ontario government implemented a community involvement requirement for students to graduate from high school in 1999. There is scarce research about the enablers and barriers for students with disabilities and the overall impact of the program. A qualitative approach (i.e. 30 minute interviews) to explore the enablers and barriers from the students' perspective was initiated with students with learning disabilities. For the sample in this study there were no significant accommodations or barriers specific to having a disability. Similar to general research in this area, the program structure did impact their ability to fully participate in the community involvement experience including not knowing how to get started and a lack of time. Family and peer relationships were significant to their decisions of where to volunteer. Community service and volunteerism should be encouraged as a viable option for adolescents with disabilities to gain employment experience, social interaction and increase participation in community. The Ontario Community Involvement Program needs to be restructured to offer more support and guidance to students to provide them with the most optimal experience.
The assessment of basic language and learning skills (ABLLS-R) and teacher education for students with autism spectrum disorders
Increases in numbers of school-aged students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have prompted educators to use new resources to serve the learning needs of this population. The current study evaluated teacher perceptions of the Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills (ABLLS-R) and its utility in creating specific and measurable communication goals for students with ASD. Seven participants, from both inclusive and congregated classrooms, attended two workshops on Applied Verbal Behaviour (AVB) and the ABLLS-R and had follow-up consultations provided by the researcher. Data on their perceptions of the ABLLS-R was gathered in a final interview. Overall, the teachers found the ABLLS-R both helpful as a programming too and as a template to create concise Individual Educational Plan (IEP) goals for their students with ASD. However, most of the participants required assistance from a consultant to help implement the ABLLS-R. Implications for future research on the ABLLS-R and teacher preparation practices are discussed.
The Research to Practice Gap in the Identification and Instruction of Students at Risk for Reading Disabilities: Teachers' Perspectives
This study investigated teachers' uses of research on the identification and instruction of students at risk for reading disabilities (RD). It identified obstacles to teachers' uses of RD research and methods to bridge RD research and teachers' practices. Two theoretical frameworks underpinned the study. The knowledge utilization framework consisted of eight stages of knowledge use (reception, search/find, cognition, reference, effort, adoption, implementation, and impact), and three categories of obstacles to knowledge use (supply, demand, and context). A critical perspective also informed the study's methods, analyses, and implications. A mixed methodology was employed by way of: (a) a pre-pilot study which tested the efficacy of the knowledge utilization framework; (b) a narrative synthesis of RD research; (c) a pilot study of an online questionnaire; (d) an online teacher questionnaire; and (e) focus groups. Ten Ontario elementary school teachers participated in the pre-pilot and pilot studies; 204 elementary school teachers completed the questionnaire and eight teachers took part in focus groups. Results revealed underutilization of RD research across the eight stages of knowledge use. Variables within the three categories of obstacles contributed to the underuse of RD research. Research/researcher and user variables correlated most strongly with research uses; user variables were most predictive. Specialized teachers reported greater research use than intermediate grade teachers. Methods to bridge RD research and practice related to research, researcher, dissemination and context factors. Insights which may lead to improved evidence-based reading instruction for those at risk for RD were achieved. Further study of research use across the curriculum and disciplines is proposed.
Elementary school principals as leaders of inclusion for students with exceptionalities.
Inclusion promotes equality, provides opportunities, breaks down barriers, and ensures accessibility for all members of a community. Consequently, elementary-school administrators should become inclusion leaders who introduce and maintain inclusive learning environments. This qualitative study profiled and discussed practices and beliefs of four elementary school principals in southern Ontario who are recognized leaders of inclusion for students with exceptionalities. The researcher used multiple instruments for triangulation, thematic qualitative data analysis (constant comparative method) of interview responses and reflective field notes, and data from the Principal and Inclusion Survey to interpret qualitative findings. Findings revealed distinct leadership profiles reflective of empathy and compassion among participants who all regard accommodation of students with exceptionalities as a moral obligation and view inclusion as a socially just pedagogical framework. The researcher recommends that senior school board administrators screen and secure principals who value inclusion to create and maintain school cultures that ensure students' access to inclusive education.
General Education Elementary Teachers' Perceptions of Developing "Interventionist" Beliefs and Practices
This thesis investigates how "Interventionist", "general education" (GEN) teachers, (or "core" teachers, as opposed to special educators) in the elementary stream, in Ontario, have learned inclusive beliefs and practices that have been considered effective for teaching and including children with exceptionalities in their classrooms. 10 GEN elementary teachers, consisting of 3 men and 7 women, from 2 local school boards, were interviewed to determine if they were "Interventionist" (Stanovich & Jordan, 1998). From this sample, 6 GEN teachers; 2 men and 4 women, were found to be "Interventionist". Classroom observations and follow-up interviews were used to gain insight into the development of their beliefs and teaching practices. Effective teacher perceptions in the form of qualitative data were coded, themed, and analyzed based on the "constant comparative" method (Miles & Huberman, 1994), which gave rise to single case, and cross case analyses. Teachers' perceptions are organized in results according to a framework based on 3 main questions: (a) what are teachers' current practices for inclusion?; (b) how did teachers develop inclusive practices?; and (c) how did the Community of Practice (e.g. teachers, principals) influence and support teachers' inclusive practices? Discussion centers on teachers' perceptions of the development of their positive beliefs and practices, ongoing professional development, and the importance of the community of practice.
Participation profiles: Measuring adolescents' engagement in school and extracurricular activities
The participation of 18 Grade 8 students was studied through analysis of semi-structured interviews of students, parents, and teachers. The interviews focused on the students' daily activities, supports and barriers to participation, and descriptions of roles. Participation portfolios were created for each adolescent from the interviews. The portfolios incorporated key characteristics of participation including the variety and structure of activities that typically occur at school or in the community and the development of activity-related identities. Three participation profiles reliably distinguished the presence of activity-related identity, depth of involvement in structure activities, and positive interaction with peers. All adolescents engaged in three to seven activities. They varied in their depth of involvement in one or two activities, in the structure of the activities they engaged in, and the degree to which they identified with an activity. Participation profiles allow for a more complex description of participation and their utility is discussed.
School re-entry protocols for children with acquired brain injury
Acquired brain injury (ABI) results from trauma that causes temporary or permanent brain damage. Once critical medical issues are resolved, rehabilitation mainly involves learning and relearning, thus, schools play a critical role. The primary problem facing educators is the lack of appropriate school re-entry protocols to facilitate the transition from medical to educational settings. Without proper protocols, appropriate information is omitted, inappropriate decisions are made, and inadequate IEPs are developed (Glang, 2008). This study first looked at identifying any pre-existing school re-entry protocols through a detailed literature review, conducting a review of ABI specific medical and educational legislation, and contacting each Ontario school board's special education learning consultant to determine whether any protocols existed. Based on these investigations the data revealed that there were no pre-existing protocols. Due to this gap in the literature and practice, the study's main focus became constructing and evaluating an original school re-entry protocol. The protocol was designed through adherence to policy theory practices and accepted standards of practice found in the literature. To validate the content and structure of the protocol an evaluation was conducted by 13 special education experts using a combination of one-to-one interview(s) and a focus group discussion. Each of these professionals was identified as having prior experience working with children with ABI throughout the school re-entry process. The evaluators were all in agreement regarding the changes and additions made to the protocol post-evaluation and they felt that it would be particularly useful for educators who do not have any experience with the school re-entry process for children with ABI. The designed protocol appears to help bridge the gap between healthcare and education in the school re-entry process. Its application will be able to provide optimal learning environments for children with ABI that are free of barriers that have been documented to occur when protocols are not in place (Glang, 2008). The use of the designed protocol will also introduce more effective learning and/or behaviour management strategies that can maximize each student's learning potential.
Gabrielle Young - Western University: Socio-cultural inclusion
Examining students' use of assistive technology, self-concept and school motivation across school transitions
Provincial demonstration schools provide specialized programs for students with learning disabilities and provide a supportive environment where students learn about their learning disabilities and how they learn best. Embedded within subject area instruction, these schools provide intensive training on the use of assistive technology. This mixed methods study followed 12 students (8 males and 4 females between 14 and 16 years of age) and their parents in order understand students' transition from a demonstration school into high schools, their assistive technology use in both school environments, and how these environments may have impacted their self-concept and school motivation. Participants reported students experienced a positive transition to high because of the independence and self-advocacy skills students acquired at the demonstration school. Teacher-student relationships were more positive at the demonstration school than at high school. There were no significant differences between the degree to which assistive technology impacted students' competence, adaptability, and self-esteem at the demonstration school and at high school. Students continued to benefit from assistive technology in high school and used the technology to varying degrees. Students' perceptions of their general intellectual ability, and reading, writing, spelling, and math competencies increased while attending the demonstration school. Students' perceived reading and writing competences decreased in high school, yet remained higher from when students entered the demonstration school. There were no significant differences between students' motivation and engagement at the demonstration school and high school. Implications surround supportive school practices for students with learning disabilities and how these practices can be applied in inclusive schools.