ASQ - Education Division

Workshop-Helping STEM Students with Disabilities Persist

Abstract: Workshop Presentation on Helping STEM Students Persist; presented at the ASQ 2012 Advancing the STEM Agenda Conference. Presented by Kathleen Deery, Michael Lawler, Laura McCullough, faculty at UW-Stout and Garcia Larson, Minnesota State SErvices for the Blind. The rate of success for students with disabilities in postsecondary STEM programs is disproportionately low, despite continual efforts to change this. One of the primary reasons that students with disabilities drop out of STEM majors is a “disconnect” between student and faculty expectations regarding ability, communication, resiliency, and reasonable accommodations. Students report doing poorly in part because they feel faculty lack of awareness of the need for accommodations in school learning environments or have lowered expectations of their success. At the same time, educators report feeling unsure of the fairness of requested accommodations or simply don’t understand the impact disability plays in a student’s education. They want to help students with disabilities succeed, but they just don’t know how. Sound familiar? This workshop offered an opportunity to bridge the gap in expectations utilizing a systems-based approach. It examined both sides of the issue, offering tips and strategies for improving interactions with students as well as discussing the sensitive issues of reasonable and responsible accommodation. Workshop leaders shared specific methods to promote the retention of students with disabilities through mentoring and the development of soft skills to enhance learning. Case studies and simulation exercises were used to help workshop participants understand the complexity of disability issues in common learning environments (large lecture halls, small group projects, and lab work). It also discussed Universal Design for Learning taking into account learning disabilites. The last slide is an overview of the concepts of the Universal Design for Learning.

Keywords: STEM - Conference Proceedings - Higher Education Brief - Best Practices

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