This is a reprint of the Journal on Postsecondary Education and Disability, volume 13, #3, Fall 1998, published by the Association on Higher Education And Disability.
Faculty Attitudes and Practices Regarding Students with Disabilities: Two Decades After Implementation of Section 504
Yona Leyser, Ph.D., Susan Vogel, Ph.D., Sharon Wyland, Ms.Ed.,
Northern Illinois University
Andrew Brulle, Ed.D.
The following study examined experience, knowledge, and attitudes toward accommodations for students with disabilities of a large sample of 420 faculty. Participants responded to a 35-item survey questionnaire. Findings revealed that many faculty had limited experience and contact with individuals with disabilities and limited training and knowledge of disability legislation. Still most faculty expressed willingness to make classroom accommodations and reported that they have made various teaching adaptations. Several variables such as gender, personal experience, rank, and discipline were related to knowledge, attitudes, and practices. A number of differences were noted in the responses by faculty in education between this study and a study conducted 10 years ago. Implications for practice and research are discussed.
Federal special education legislation, namely PL 94-142, The Education of All Handicapped Children Act (U.S. Congress, 1975), which mandated that all individuals with disabilities have a free appropriate education resulted in a significantly larger number of students with disabilities being identified and served in elementary and secondary schools. In addition, the amendment PL 101-476, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (U.S. Congress, 1990), mandated that an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) be included in the Individual Education Plan (IEP) to prepare all students with disabilities for transition to postsecondary education or employment. As a result, individuals with disabilities, their parents, counselors, and teachers became more aware of a variety of postsecondary options for students with disabilities. Students who had not previously aspired to higher education found that colleges and universities were more responsive to their needs because of passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which mandated that any higher education institution receiving federal assistance had to make its campuses and programs accessible to qualified students with disabilities. When the "barriers" were removed for students with orthopedic, visual, and hearing impairments, those with "hidden" disabilities (e.g., learning disabilities, chronic illness) also benefited.
As a result of the removal of the barriers, a dramatic increase in the number of students with disabilities in higher education in the 1980s was noted (Brinckerhoff, Shaw, & McGuire, 1993; Vogel & Adelman, 1993). According to the Higher Education and Adult Training for People with Handicaps (HEATH) Resource Center of the American Council on Education (ACE), the proportion of first-time, full-time freshmen with disabilities attending college increased fourfold between 1978 and 1994, from 2.6% to 9.2% (Henderson, 1995). The breakdown in 1994 indicated that among freshmen 32.2% reported having learning disabilities, 21.9% visual impairments, 9.7% hearing impairments, 10.2% orthopedic impairments, and 16.4% health impairments. The most noticeable increase, from 15.3% in 1988 to 32.2% in 1994, was reported for students with learning disabilities.
The achievement of students with disabilities in higher education has only recently been reported in the literature (Vogel & Adelman, 1990); however, several experts have noted that their achievement is influenced by faculty attitude and the willingness to provide accommodations for students with disabilities (Baggett, 1994; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981; Moore, Newlon, & Nye, 1986). The following is a three-part definition of attitudes proposed by Triandis, Adamopoulos, and Brinberg (1984) "an attitude is an idea (cognitive component) charged with emotion (affective component) which predisposes a class of actions (behavioral component) to a particular class of social situations" (p. 21). Several studies on faculty attitudes and awareness of the needs of students with disabilities and of their experience and willingness to provide needed instructional accommodations have been reported in the literature. While one study reported negative views of college faculty toward students with disabilities (Minner & Prater, 1984), most studies reported that faculty expressed positive attitudes toward the students' integration into the normal classroom environment (Aksamit, Morris, & Leuenberger, 1987; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981, Leyser, 1989; Satcher, 1992). Moore, Newlon, and Nye (1986) reported contradictory findings in a survey of students with visual, hearing, and orthopedic impairments. They found that respondents in all groups, particularly students with visual and hearing impairments, noted some lack of faculty awareness of their needs.
Researchers who explored faculty attitudes and willingness to make accommodations found that attitudes were related to a number of selected demographic variables. These included (a) gender (i.e., female faculty expressed more positive attitudes toward individuals with disabilities than male faculty members) (Aksamit et al., 1987; Baggett, 1994; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981); (b) information (i.e., faculty with more information about disabilities had more positive attitudes than those with less information) (Aksamit et al., 1987) and (c) academic field (i.e., faculty in education were found to have more positive attitudes toward individuals with disabilities than faculty in business and in social sciences) (Fonosch & Schwab, 198 1). Nelson et al. (1990) reported that College of Education faculty responded more favorably to making accommodations for students with learning disabilities than did faculty in the Colleges of Business and Arts and Sciences. Finally, experience had an impact on attitude and accommodations (namely, faculty with more contact and teaching experience with students with disabilities had more positive attitudes and were more comfortable allowing accommodations than those with less experience (Fichten, Amsel, Bourdon, & Creti, 1988; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981; Satcher, 1992).
When faculty familiarity with special education disability legislation, experience with students with disabilities, and knowledge of support services on campus were examined, the reported results indicated mixed responses. For example, Baggett (1994) found that many faculty in a large state university often reported lack of familiarity with disability laws and university support services. Limited experience in teaching students with disabilities were also indicated. Aksamit et al. (1987) reported that faculty members had limited knowledge about students with learning disabilities. Leyser (1989), on the other hand, reported that a large majority of faculty members (85%) were familiar with special education legislation pertaining to the rights of individuals with disabilities. A larger percentage of the faculty indicated that they had contact with individuals with disabilities as well as experience in teaching college students with disabilities. About 80% were familiar with resources and services available on campus. Finally, many respondents indicated that they were knowledgeable about topics and issues in special education.
Overall, investigations regarding faculty attitudes toward making accommodations revealed that faculty members expressed a willingness to provide various teaching accommodations in their classrooms (Baggett, 1994; Houck, Asselin, Troutman, & Arrington, 1992; Leyser, 1989; Matthews, Anderson, & Skolnick, 1987; Nelson, Dodd, & Smith, 1990; Satcher, 1992). However, evidence from these investigations has also shown that faculty were generally less willing to allow exclusive extra credit; overlook misspellings, incorrect punctuation, and poor grammar; permit substitutions for required courses; or allow students to turn in tape recorded assignments (Matthews et al., 1987; Nelson et al., 1990; Satcher, 1992). As these researchers observed, faculty were willing to accommodate but not to the extent of what faculty perceived as lowering certain course standards.
Interestingly, in a recent study of perceptions of students with disabilities regarding the willingness of faculty to make accommodations, Hill (1996) reported that, on the average, students felt that the instructor's level of willingness to make accommodations was in the "good" to "excellent" range. In addition, the author found that students perceived their instructors as being very willing to make some accommodations while they were less supportive of some others, such as allowing students to do an extra credit assignment, allowing misspelling and incorrect punctuation without penalty, and allowing students to give oral/tape recorded presentations rather than written presentations.
Although empirical findings have been reported on faculty perceptions and practices concerning students with disabilities, further research including large samples is needed to examine their knowledge, attitudes, and classroom accommodations. There is also a need to ascertain whether there are changes over time in these attitudes and teaching practices. Such data will be necessary to guide the development and provision of needed accommodations and support services for these students and for professional development activities.
The major purposes of this study were to examine (a) faculty reported experiences and attitudes toward making instructional accommodations (behavioral intent) and their knowledge of disabilities, disability legislation, and of programs and services for students with disabilities; (b) faculty accommodations (overt actions) for students with all types of disabilities as reported in open-ended comments; (c) the relationships among background variables such as gender, experience with individuals with disabilities, and academic discipline, with knowledge attitudes, practices, and needs; (d) faculty suggestions and input regarding services and supports needed to accommodate students with disabilities; and (e) changes in attitudes and practices over time by comparing findings from this study with data collected in a previous survey at the same university (Leyser, 1989). With the increasing numbers of students with disabilities entering postsecondary institutions and recent legislation (i.e., PL 105-17, IDEA Amendments 1997, ADA of 1990) changes could be anticipated.
Participants consisted of 1,050 instructional faculty in a large mid-western doctoral-granting university with an enrollment of approximately 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Demographic information on 420 respondents (40% return rate) is presented in Table 1.
Chi square tests of goodness of fit (Siegel & Castellan, 1998) were used to determine whether the sample of respondents was representative of the population. Results from these tests revealed no significant differences for the variables of Tenure and Discipline (Education vs. all other colleges). However, on the other variables (university data on age was not available) statistically significant differences (at the .05 level) were obtained. These included (a) rank, i.e., the sample included more instructors and fewer associate professors as expected; (b) gender, i.e., more female faculty and fewer male faculty as expected; (c) years of teaching, the sample included more faculty with 16+ years and fewer faculty with 1-5 years as expected; and (d) percent time, i.e., more part-time faculty than full-time faculty were observed. Although four of the analyses were significant, it should be noted that the size of the sample was quite large and that the differences between the observed and expected counts in all tests were very small (less than 5%). While these differences were statistically significant they may be of little practical importance (Bruning & Kintz, 1977).
A survey instrument titled "A Faculty Survey of Students with Disabilities" was used in the study. The instrument was a modified and extended version (added items) from a scale used in a prior study on faculty attitudes and practices developed by Leyser (1989). It also incorporated a number of items which were adapted from several other questionnaires developed and employed in similar surveys of faculty attitudes (i.e., Houk, Asselin, Troutman, & Arrington, 1992; Nelson, Dodd, Smith, 1990; Rose, 1993; Satcher, 1992).
The survey consisted of 35 major items (several of them included sub-items) to solicit information such as (a) faculty demographic background (i.e., gender, rank, teaching experience); (b) personal experience or contact with individuals with disabilities, willingness to make accommodations, and knowledge of disabilities, disability legislation, and of support services; (c) faculty needs for information and training; and (d) faculty input regarding accommodations they made for students with disabilities in their classrooms. Items which focused specifically on students with learning disabilities (i.e., accommodations and items directed only to faculty in education asking about teacher certification candidates who have learning disabilities) were also included. Findings from the analyses of the data on students with learning disabilities is reported in Vogel, Leyser, Brulle, and Wyland (in preparation).
The survey form contained structured 4-point Likert-type items where (1 = low degree of support or willingness to accommodate and 4 = a high level of support or willingness to accommodate) as well as items to which the response was between 1 and 4 with (1 = strongly disagree and 4 = strongly agree). Multiple choice items and several open-ended questions asking for additional comments and faculty suggestions were also included. Faculty were not asked to identify themselves and complete anonymity was assured in the cover letter. Prior to its use, the survey instrument was reviewed by several faculty and staff members within and outside the university to obtain their input, suggestions, and recommendations regarding the wording and clarity of the questionnaire before its final printing. A Chronbach alpha coefficient of reliability for the faculty survey used in this study yielded a coefficient of .86.
Following a request from the University Office of Contracts, Records, and Reports, a list and mailing labels for all full-time teaching faculty and temporary faculty (instructors) employed half-time or more were obtained (graduate students were not included). During the spring semester of 1996, each participant was sent via campus mail a survey questionnaire, a cover letter, and a campus address return envelope. The letter explained the purpose of the survey and the importance of the input for the development of programs and activities for students with disabilities. Anonymity was assured and the letter indicated that participation was voluntary. Names and telephone numbers of the researchers were provided for those wanting additional information or having questions. Respondents were allowed two weeks to complete and return the survey. The study was announced in a weekly publication for faculty and staff at the university to encourage participation. A follow-up reminder postcard was sent to all faculty after the deadline. On this card, a thank you note was included for faculty who already returned the form, and a request for those who did not respond, to complete and return the form within two weeks. Faculty were given a phone number to call in case the original survey was not received or misplaced in order to request a replacement form.
Method of Analysis
A descriptive item analysis was conducted regarding the frequency of the responses for all items. Chi square tests were conducted to examine differences in responses (the dependent variable) as determined by the independent variables of gender, personal experience, academic rank, and academic discipline. An alpha level of .05 was established for null hypothesis rejection.
Faculty Knowledge, Experience, and Accommodations
Table 2 presents percent and means of 4-point scales (1= low, 4 = high) regarding faculty experience with individuals with disabilities, their willingness to make accommodations, and their knowledge of disabilities, disability legislation, and services. A substantial number of faculty members (64.2%) reported limited personal contact with individuals who have disabilities (M = 2.16). Even more (83.5%) reported limited teaching contact in higher education (M = 1.74). About half of the respondents reported having contact in their classes (not reported in Table 2) with students with learning disabilities (54.3%), or with students with visual impairments (52.1 %), hearing impairments (54.1 %), and students with orthopedic impairments (46.4%). Faculty had less teaching contact with students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (20.2%), students with psychiatric disabilities (24.8%), and students with chronic health illnesses (20.7%). More than 40% of faculty indicated that they had limited knowledge and skills for making requested accommodations (M = 2.63), and two thirds reported spending little time in making accommodations (M= 2.06). Most (68.2%) spent less than 30 minutes per student per week (M = 1.40). A majority of faculty (88%), however, expressed a willingness to provide accommodations if such requests were made (M= 3.76). Interestingly, many faculty (54.6%) were unfamiliar with resources and services on campus serving students with disabilities (M = 2.36). Sixty two percent reported that they had no contact with these service providers and an additional 24% said they had very limited contact (M = 1.56). A large number of faculty (82%) reported having limited or no training in the area of disabilities (M = 1.60). Many indicated that they had no familiarity (66.7%) or very limited familiarity (14%) with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (M = 1.62). Forty percent were not familiar with ADA and 26% had only limited familiarity with this law (M = 2.10).
Faculty Reported Teaching Accommodations
Faculty were requested to provide open ended comments regarding accommodations they provide for students with all types of disabilities (verbal statement concerning behavior). All reported accommodations were organized into six categories. In classifying these responses categories similar to those provided in the literature were used (Mathews et al., 1987; Nelson et al., 1990; Rose, 1993). These categories and examples of adaptations are presented below.
1. Instructional accommodations. For example manipulation of visual input and verbal cuing. Comments were: "Enlarging handouts for class;" "writing more on the board in the classroom;" "Face them when talking, use more hand signals;" "For deaf students provide more written material and use of films," "Read passages of material for tape recording-provide personal recording of material where available," and "I have verbally described diagrams on the board."
2. Assignment accommodations. For example, flexibility in scheduling and format of assignments. "Allowed revisions of papers;" "Made scheduling more flexible;" "Obtained books on tape, allowed rewrites of paper, allowed alternative format for presentation;" "extended due dates, given them more time to complete assigned tasks."
3. Testing/examination accommodations. For example, modifications of the location of exams and of their format. "Reschedule exam date, time, and location;" "Print special copies of exams with extra-large print;" "use of card during exams to keep with scanning line-by-line;" "Braille exams;" "Essay, instead of multiple choice format exam;" "Exams proctored at other sites."
4. Personal attention/assistance. For example, faculty availability and advocacy. "Extra tutoring and written feedback and extra counseling;" "Just listening, acting as mentor, advocate with other faculty," "Individual laboratory sessions;" "Extra office hours," "Before and after class help," "Read to student in my office, review for test one-on-one;" "Provide materials from personal file/collection instead of library resources."
5. Peer-mediated instruction. For example, assistance by other students in class. "A student assigned to assist a person with a disability;" "Peer tutoring;" "Provide TA and proctor;" "Provide learning partner/mentor (another class member);" "Ask another student to make a copy of notes."
6. Physical accommodation/adaptations. Comments were: "Chairs placed where people's faces were visible" (for students with hearing impairment); "Changed location of class to reduce travel time between classes" (for students with an orthopedic impairment); "Mainly the physical setup of the classroom."
Demographic Variables and Faculty Responses
Following are Chi-square tests computed to determine if there were differences in faculty experience, knowledge, attitudes, and needs as determined by select demographic variables.1
Gender. Significantly more male faculty than female faculty reported teaching experience with some groups of students with disabilities, such as those with orthopedic impairments ((21 = 13.87, p = .001) and with visual impairments ((21 = 4.80, p =.028). Also, signifiicantly more male faculty than female faculty expressed a stronger overall willingness to provide accommodations to students with disabilities ((23 = 8.89, p = .030). On the other hand, significantly more female faculty reported having training in the area of disabilities (X23 = 31.73, p = .001) as well as familiarity with Section 504 (X23 = 8.52, p =.036) and ADA (X23 = 14.13, p = .002). More female faculty expressed an interest in participating in future workshops on topics of classroom accommodations (X21 = 5.40, p = .020) and available programs and services on campus (X21 = 8.90, p = .002).
Personal contact. Faculty with higher levels of personal contact compared to those with limited contact with individuals with disabilities such as experience with an immediate family member (X23 = 100.87, p < .001) reported having more teaching experiences with students with disabilities in higher education (X29 = 75.43, p = .001), having more knowledge and skills in making accommodations (X21 = 81.50, p = .001) and spending significantly more extra time making accommodations (X29 = 28.91, p =. 001). The high contact group also reported being more aware of resources and services on campus (X29 = 52.15, p = .001), having more frequently communicated with service providers (X29 = 24.02, p = .004), and having more familiarity with Section 504 (X29 = 87.27, p .001) and with ADA (X29 = 80.82, p = .001).
Academic rank. Higher ranking faculty (full professors) as compared to lower ranking members reported significantly more experience in teaching students with orthopedic impairments (X23 = 18.25, p = .001), visual impairments (X23 = 25.76, p = .001), and more knowledge of services and resources on campus (X29 = 49.98, p = .001). On the other hand, professors reported less familiarity than did instructors and associate professors with recent disability legislation, namely ADA (X29 = 25.30, p = .002). Instructors reported spending on the average more time per week with students who have a disability than higher ranking faculty (X29 = 19.43, p = .021). In addition, they expressed more interest than higher ranking faculty in receiving training in the areas of classroom accommodations (X23 = 13.41, p =.003) and on services and programs on campus (X23 = 14.99, p = . 001).
Academic discipline. Comparisons between faculty in the College of Education and faculty in all other colleges indicated that faculty in education reported that they had more overall contact with individuals who have disabilities (X23 = 7.61, p = .054) for example with a coworker (X21 = 5.25, p = .021), that they had more skills and knowledge regarding disabilities (X23 = 18.79, p = .001), and had more training in the area of disabilities (X23 = 44.91, p = .001), and a greater familiarity with Section 504 (X23 = 42.13, p = .001) and ADA (X23 = 18.29, p = .001). Faculty in education were also significantly more interested in workshops on topics such as classroom accommodations (X21 = 7.12, p = .007) and programs and services on campus (X21 = 13.89, p = .001). Comparisons of faculty responses among all participating colleges revealed that the observed differences reported above were accounted for mainly by responses of faculty in the College of Education. It may be noted that in the comparison among colleges, faculty in Law and Education reported more familiarity than other faculty with Section 504 (X221 = 68.44, p = .001) and ADA (X221 = 46.57, p = .001). Faculty in Law compared to all other faculty expressed more interest in participating in workshops on legal issues (X27 = 18.65, p = .009).
Participants were asked to identity areas in which they would like to receive additional training and information and to provide input regarding strategies to assist them in working with students with disabilities. The percent of faculty checking areas in which they wished to receive more training were: legal issues (20%), classroom accommodations (42.6%), programs and services on campus (34.3%), and test accommodations (31.7%).
In response to the open-ended question asking for faculty suggestions for additional training, comments made most frequently included a need for more written information about disabilities and services in the form of brochures, pamphlets, faculty handbook, or one-page sheets. Orientation meetings for new faculty, additional use of technology and equipment, and additional funding for services for students with disabilities were also included. Some identified a need to train and encourage students to contact their instructors before the course and share their needs for accommodations or modifications.
Changes Over Time: The 1985 and 1996 Studies
Comparisons of the responses by College of Education faculty studied previously, and the responses obtained in this study, are presented in Table 3. In the 1980s, faculty in Education and in Allied Health received federal grants to support curricular changes and faculty development activities in the area of mainstrearning. While more faculty in 1996 (26.4%) than in 1985 (13.4%) reported having no personal contact with individuals with disabilities, a greater percentage also reported having a "large extent" of contact (46% vs. 37.3%) with these individuals. As to the individuals with disabilities with whom faculty had contact in 1996, more respondents reported that they had contact with friends (48.3% vs. 34.3%), coworkers (37.1% vs. 20.9%), and with immediate (37.7% vs. 17.6%), and other family members (21.3% vs. 17.9%) with disabilities. As to teaching experience with students with disabilities in higher education, more faculty in 1985 (86.8% vs. 47.6%) reported having experience with these students. A larger percentage of the faculty in 1996 reported experience in teaching students with learning disabilities than in 1985 (61.8% vs. 33.3%), while more faculty in 1985 reported having teaching experience with students who had visual, hearing, and physical impairments and with students with psychiatric disabilities. (In 1996, the term psychiatric disabilities was used, based on the American Council on Education. In 1985, we used the term social and personal maladjustment.)
A greater percentage of the faculty in the present study than 10 years previously reported having training (59.6% vs. 44.8%) in the area of disabilities through course work, presentations, and workshops. All College of Education faculty in 1996 indicated that they were willing to provide requested classroom accommodations. In 1985, about one-fourth noted they had not made accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The data showed that about 76% of faculty who responded in 1985 and 1996 indicated familiarity with resources and services on campus for students with disabilities, yet only about 40% reported having used these services. Interestingly, more faculty in 1985 than in 1996 (85.3% vs. 57.4%) reported being "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with important laws pertaining to the rights of individuals with disabilities which were passed in the 1980s (e.g., PL 94-142 and Section 504). However, looking at recent legislation, i.e., ADA of 1990, many faculty in 1996 (73%) reported being "very familiar" or "somewhat familiar" with this legislation.
The main goals of this investigation were (a) to examine knowledge, attitudes, and practices of university faculty regarding students with disabilities, and (b) to assess changes that occurred in faculty of education responses over a decade.
Findings revealed that about two thirds of faculty reported having limited contacts with individuals with disabilities. A large majority also noted that they had no or little contact or experience in teaching students with disabilities. Those who had teaching experience with students with disabilities reported having more experience with students with learning disabilities and students with visual, hearing, and orthopedic impairments. Faculty had the least amount of experience with students with psychiatric disabilities and chronic illnesses. Such findings are supported by recent data reported by Henderson (1995) which showed an increase in the percent of students with learning disabilities in higher education and by findings from Baggett's (1994) survey.
Similar to results presented in several other studies (Aksamit et al., 1987; Baggett, 1994), a large percent of faculty expressed unfamiliarity with disability rights laws. More than one-half had limited knowledge of university support services for students with disabilities, and a large majority reported having no or little contact with service providers. In addition, most faculty responded that they had no or very limited training in the area of disabilities, and almost half indicated that they had limited knowledge and skills for making requested educational accommodations for students with disabilities. Interestingly, despite the limited knowledge base, a large majority of faculty expressed a supportive attitude toward students with disabilities by indicating their overall willingness (behavioral intent) to make needed instructional accommodations in their courses. Other researchers have found that faculty members hold positive attitudes by expressing their willingness to teach and make course related accommodations for students with disabilities (Aksamit et al., 1987; Baggett, 1994; Houck et al., 1991; Matthew et al., 1987; Nelson et al., 1990; Satcher, 1992).
Faculty in this study reported a variety of teaching accommodations they were willing to make or have made and indicated their availability for students who need more personal assistance and support. Several qualifications, however, must be kept in mind. The accommodations faculty reported did not seem to require a substantive amount of time, effort, or major modifications of the "normal" teaching procedures (see similar results reported by Matthews et al., 1987; Satcher, 1992). In fact, almost three-fourths of the faculty indicated that the average time they spent in making accommodations was less than 30 minutes per week. It might be argued, however, that the limited time spent in making accommodations was all that was necessary to meet the needs of students who requested such adaptations. Future studies are needed to determine if the amount of time provided by faculty is sufficient to make the accommodations requested by students. Classroom observations and student input on questionnaires and interviews may offer answers to this question.
The examination of the relationships between faculty background variables and their attitudes and practices revealed findings which are overall in concert with data reported in several similar investigations. Specifically, data from this study have shown that personal contact with individuals with disabilities was associated with increased knowledge of teaching accommodations, available services, and of disability legislation, as well as with willingness to spend more time in making needed adaptations. This finding is consistent with previous research showing a relationship between personal contact and attitudes defined as faculty level of comfort and/or willingness to provide accommodations (Aksamit et al., 1987; Fichten et al., 1988; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981; Satcher, 1992) and between contact and knowledge of disabilities, legislation, and services (Aksamit et al., 1987). Regarding the variable of gender, some inconsistent findings were obtained. Male faculty indicated that they had more teaching experience with some groups of students with disabilities and expressed an overall stronger willingness to provide accommodations than did female faculty. On the other hand, female faculty indicated that they had more training in the area of disabilities, more knowledge of legislation, and expressed more willingness to participate in additional training. The question as to why more extensive previous training and increased knowledge among female faculty were not translated into a stronger willingness to make needed accommodations is difficult to answer. Several previous studies have also shown that female faculty held more favorable attitudes and had more knowledge about disabilities (Aksamit et al., 1987; Baggett, 1994; Fonosch & Schwab, 1981). Leyser (1989), however, found that male faculty more than female faculty indicated that they had made accommodations in their classes. Comparisons among academic divisions showed that faculty iin the College of Education as compared to faculty in other academic divisions reported having more experience with individuals with disabilities as well as more training and knowledge about disabilities. They also expressed a stronger need for additional training. Other investigators have found that faculty in education held positive attitudes toward integration of students with disabilities into college classrooms (Fonosch & Schwab, 1981) and were more willing to provide accommodations (Nelson et al., 1990). Results regarding faculty rank (a variable not extensively investigated in past studies)revealed some inconsistent data. Faculty who usually have more years of teaching experience than lower ranking faculty reported, as expected, that they had more teaching experience with some groups of students with disabilities and had more knowledge of services on campus. They were, however, less familiar with recent disability legislation. Instructors, on the other hand, indicated that they spent more time making accommodations for students with disabilities and expressed a stronger interest in additional training than did higher ranking faculty.
The follow-up part of this 1996 study comparing the responses of faculty in the College of Education to those obtained in the previous 1985 study revealed some mixed results. While a greater number of faculty in the present study reported having no personal experience with individuals with disabilities than faculty 10 years ago, they also noted having a large amount of experience. Indeed, more faculty in 1996 study indicated having experience with coworkers, friends, and family members with disabilities. It was surprising to find that more faculty in 1985 than in 1996 reported having teaching experience with students with disabilities. This response may have been an outcome of a greater sensitivity resulting from two deans' grant initiatives. These grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to the College of Education to design and implement a preservice training program in mainstreaming for regular education majors and to implement various ongoing faculty development activities on mainstreaming. It was not surprising, however, that with the reported increases in the percent of students with learning disabilities in higher education (Henderson, 1995), more faculty in 1996 indicated having teaching experiences with this group of students. Fewer, however, mentioned experience with students with visual, hearing, and orthopedic impairments and psychiatric disabilities. Data revealed that more faculty in the present study reported having training in special education as compared to about three-fourths in 1985. Many faculty in both studies noted that they did not have knowledge about programs and services for students with disabilities on campus and that they had never used these services. Finally, faculty in 1996 were less familiar than their counterparts in 1985, with earlier disability legislation namely, Section 504 passed in 1973. However, a majority of faculty in 1996 were familiar with recent legislation, i.e., ADA of 1990. It seems that the Deans' grant activities in the 1980s had some impact on faculty, yet with more recent legislation, the mainstreaming and inclusion movements, and the push for supporting the rights of individuals with disabilities in the 1990s, faculty have become more aware and knowledgeable.
Results from this survey have a number of implications for practice and for future research. Considering the fact that many faculty reported limited training in disabilities, limited knowledge, and skills for making accommodations, and unfamiliarity with disability laws and university resources, there is a major need for training and development activities for faculty. Almost all faculty, however, were supportive of the integration of students with disabilities and, despite their limited knowledge have implemented various accommodations in their classrooms for these students. Busy schedules, time constraints, and the perceptions by faculty that they have made accommodations may have resulted in the finding that only about one-third expressed a desire to participate in training or work-shops on topics such as testing, instructional accommodations, and services and programs. Faculty comments, however, provided input suggesting that they are interested in receiving information through print materials, i.e., newsletters, pamphlets, handbooks, one page outlines, or booklets (possibly through campus e-mail and the internet). Indeed, these communication channels, in addition to a university newspaper, should be used by personnel in the office for students with disabilities on campus to disseminate ongoing and updated information about disabilities, legislation, programs, technology, and instructional adaptations. Recognizing the different needs or training and inservice by faculty, short ongoing workshops on these topics and on others as requested by faculty, could be offered at the department level and across experiences and strategies. The special education faculty in conjunction with support service providers could offer technical assistance to faculty who desire such help and also take an active role in training activities and in the dissemination of information.
Several shortcomings of this survey need to be noted. First, the findings and recommendations could have limited generalizability to other universities because they were based on data collected from only one university. Still, it should be stressed that the university is representative of many other comprehensive large public universities across the nation. In fact, findings reported here corroborated data collected on faculty attitudes and practices in many other universities. Second, responses by in the classroom. Other data collection methodologies such as interviews and classroom observations, as well as input from students about faculty behavior, should be used to verify data that are based on faculty self reports. Third, although the sample size in this study was quite large, about one half of the faculty contacted did not respond. Tests of goodness of fit indicated that while on some demographic variables no differences were found between respondents and the faculty population, on others differences were observed. In future studies, larger samples and/or slightly different representations of the total faculty are desirable. Ways of reaching this goal may include asking deans or department chairs to encourage faculty to respond or sending out additional follow-up reminders after the deadline. Finally, the authors would like to note again that very few comparisons of faculty attitudes and practices over time, regarding students with disabilities, are reported in the literature. The present study has addressed this need. Future researchers may wish to pursue this line of research.
1Actual probabilities are given for readers who may wish to use their judgment in deciding whether or not the null hypothesis should be rejected.
Table I Demographic Information of Respondents (N=420)
*Data from 1996 were recorded as follows:
a1 = no experience, 2 = limited experience, 3+4 = large amount of experience
b1 = no, 2+3+4 = Yes
c1 = not familiar, 2+3 = somewhat familiar, and 4 = very familiar.
Aksamit, D., Morris, M., & Leuenberger, J. (1987). Preparation of student services professionals and faculty for serving learning-disabled college students. Journal of College Student Personnel, 28, 53-59.
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About the Authors
Yona Leyser is a professor of special education at Northern Illinois University. His teaching and research interests include high incidence disabilities, inclusion, families of children with disabilities, attitudes and teacher training. He has published extensively in these areas.
Susan A. Vogel is a professor of special education at Northern Illinois University. Her research interests include educational and employment attainment, career paths of teachers with LD, university support services, policies and practices, literacy proficiency, and gender differences. She is currently President of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities.
Andrew Brullle is currently professor and chair of the Department of Education at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois. His current interests include a variety of issues regarding teacher preparation, new teacher induction, and special education. He is also very active in a number of statewide organizations that address teacher preparation issues.
Sharon Wyland, M.S.Ed., is the Learning Disabilities Coordinator for the Center for Access-Ability Resources at Northern Illinois University, where she had also taught courses for the NIU department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education. She is an active member of AHEAD, the National Learning Disabilities Association and the Orton Dyslexia Society.