Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Associations between Prior Disability-Focused Training and Disability-Related Attitudes and Perceptions among University Faculty

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Associations between Prior Disability-Focused Training and Disability-Related Attitudes and Perceptions among University Faculty

Article excerpt

Abstract. This investigation examined the relationship between prior disability-focused training and university faculty members' attitudes towards students with learning disabilities (LD). A survey containing items designed to measure faculty attitudes was sent to all full-time faculty at one university. Analyses of 198 responses indicated that faculty who had received some form of disability-focused training scored higher on factors pertaining to Willingness to Provide Exam Accommodations, Fairness and Sensitivity, General Knowledge About LD, Willingness to Personally Invest in Students with LD, and personal actions, such as Inviting Disclosure and Providing Accommodations, and lower scores on negatively valenced factors than did faculty who had not received prior training. Faculty who had previously attended disability-related workshops and courses reported the most positive attitudes, followed by faculty who had participated in "other" forms of training (i.e., reading books and articles or visiting websites) and faculty who had received no prior training. The total number of types of training experienced and time spent engaged in training was predictive of faculty attitudes as well as faculty-reported satisfaction with prior training. Implications of the findings are discussed.

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The importance of postsecondary school in an increasingly global, knowledge-based economy is indisputable (Carnevale & Fry, 2000; Flannery, Yovanoff, Benz, & Kato, 2008). College and university graduates are approximately twice as likely as high school graduates to be employed, and the projected lifetime earnings of graduates are approximately one million dollars greater than are the earnings of high school graduates (Day & Newburger, 2002; U.S. Department of Labor, 2008).

Although increasing numbers of students with disabilities are attending some form of postsecondary school, students with disabilities continue to be far less likely than students without disabilities to attend four-year colleges and universities (Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Levine, & Garza, 2006). According to the most recent estimates, approximately 23% of students with disabilities have attended postsecondary school (Horn & Neville, 2006), the vast majority attending vocational training or two-year community college programs (19%) rather than four-year colleges or universities (8%).

Furthermore, data pertaining specifically to students with learning disabilities (LD) indicate that these young adults are less likely than those with speech-language impairments, hearing impairments, visual impairments, and orthopedic impairments to attend four-year colleges and universities (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003; U.S. Department of Labor, 2007; Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Garza, & Levine, 2005). Similar findings were reported by Murray, Goldstein, Nourse, and Edgar (2000), who found that whereas 8% of high school graduates with LD had attended four-year colleges or universities five years after exiting high school, 62% of young adults without disabilities had attended such programs.

In addition to low rates of attendance in four-year colleges and universities, young adults with LD who do attend these programs have difficulty graduating. Murray et al. (2000) reported that only 2% of high school graduates with LD had graduated from four-year colleges and universities a full 10 years after high school, whereas 46% of a carefully matched sample of adults without disabilities had graduated from college at the same time point. These findings suggest that students with LD are dually disadvantaged by having low access to four-year colleges and universities as well as attaining extremely low levels of success within these settings.

A critical factor that contributes to the attendance, and success or failure, of students with disabilities in four-year colleges and universities is availability of supports within these contexts (Allsopp, Minskoff, & Bolt, 2005; Boxall, Carson, & Docherty, 2004; Burgstahler & Doe, 2006; Finn, 1998; Trammell, 2003). …

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