The characteristics of positive and negative one-to-one student-faculty interactions were examined in a sample of college students with disabilities and without. Analyses indicated that those with disabilities responded similarly to those without with the exception that students with disabilities find interactions with faculty more pleasant than their non-disabled peers. Respondents also wrote themes characterizing their most positive and negative interactions. Themes that characterized positive interactions were similar for both groups. However, students with disabilities reported more themes where faculty were unaccommodating or sarcastic in their one-to-one interactions.
The number of students with disabilities entering college has increased rapidly (Fichten, 1988). While the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 has made college campuses more accessible, students with disabilities still face numerous difficulties. One specific challenge pertains to how they are perceived and treated by faculty.
Fichten, Goodrick, Tagalakis, Amsel, and Libman (1990) stated that a professor's awareness of the special needs of students with disabilities is vital to students' success. Winzer (1987) indicated that if instructors display negative attitudes toward students with disabilities, it can impede their academic performance. Hart and Williams (1995) reported that professors generally adopt one of four roles when teaching a student with a disability. Three of these, the nervous "Avoider", the overprotective "Guardian", or the discounting "Rejector" have extremely negative consequences. Only the fourth, the role of the supporting, encouraging "Nurturer" is seen as beneficial.
Patton (1981) reported that though professors typically feel positively toward students with disabilities, most don't know how to help them. This may account for their adopting one of the stereotypical roles mentioned above. Not only do professors lack such knowledge, but they are also hesitant about seeking it; ironically, professors who initiated conversations about students' disabilities were considered "outstanding" by those students (see Amsel & Fichten, 1990).
Many students are concerned about student-faculty interactions. However, by virtue of their special needs, interactions between students with disabilities and faculty take on special importance. Fitchen, Amsel, Bourdon, & Creti (1988) examined what disabled students and professors viewed as "appropriate" or "inappropriate" interactions between them. Of 196 behaviors studied, appropriate ones were judged more common than inappropriate. Fitchen et al. (1988) also state that professors are often exhorted to treat students with disabilities "... like other students, within their limitations", while disabled students are told: "behave like other students wherever possible" (p. 14). The current study examines these maxims by presenting data that compare disabled and non-disabled students' positive and negative interactions with professors.
The One-to-one survey (Folse, Rosenthal, Boudreaux & Soper, 1994) was designed to investigate students' personal interactions with faculty outside the classroom. The survey included questionnaire and narrative items. The current study compares the responses of students with disabilities to those without.
Research hypotheses consist of the following: (a) students with disabilities (SWD) and students without (SW) would differ in their tendencies to initiate one-to-one interactions. (b) SWD and SW would differ in their overall satisfaction with such interactions. (c) SWD and SW would differ in the extent to which positive and negative interactions affect their reports of course performance. (d) SWD and SW would differ to the extent which positive and negative interactions affect their student evaluations of the professor. (e) SWD and SW would differ in the percentage of twelve basic themes (typical of positive and negative interactions) present in their narratives. …