|Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability
Volume 21, Number 1, 2008
James Martin, University of Oklahoma
Richard Allegra, AHEAD
John W. Graham, University of Oklahoma
Editorial Review Board
Manju Banerjee; University of Connecticut
Joan Bisagno; Stanford University
Ron Blosser; Green River Community College
Loring Brinckerhoff; Educational Testing Service
Connie Chiba; University of California, Berkeley
Justin Cooper; Eastern Kentucky University
Joanie Friend; Metropolitan Community College
Elizabeth Evans Getzel; Virginia Commonwealth University
Stephanie Gaddy, Lincoln College
Christie L. Gilson; University of Illinois
Sam Goodin; University of Michigan
Wendy S. Harbour; Harvard University
Cheri Hoy; University of Georgia
Charles A. Hughes; The Pennsylvania State University
Kristina Krampe; Eastern Kentucky University
Ruth C. Loew; Educational Testing Service
Pamela Luft; Kent State
Joseph W. Madaus; University of Connecticut
Elaine Manglitz; Calyton College & State University
Joan McGuire; University of Connecticut
Janet Medina; McDaniel College
Deborah Merchant; Windham Southeast Supervisory Union
Ward Newmeyer; Dartmouth College
Christine O’Dell; University of California, Davis
Nicole Ofiesh; Notre Dame de Namur University
David Parker; University of Connecticut
Betty Preus; College of St. Scholastica
Kelly Drew Roberts; University of Hawaii at Manoa
Frank R. Rusch; The Pennsylvania State University
Daniel Ryan; SUNY at Buffalo
Charles Salzberg; Utah State University
Mary Catherine Scheeler; The Pennsylvania State University Green Valley
Sally Scott; Longwood University
Stuart S. Segal, University of Michigan
Stan Shaw; University of Connecticut
Sharon K. Suritsky; Upper St. Clair School District
Colleen A. Thoma; Virginia Commonwealth
Susan A. Vogel; Northern Illinois University
Ruth Warick; University of British Columbia
Kristine Webb; University of North Florida
Marc Wilchesky; York University
Practice Brief Review Board
Doris A. Bitler; George Mason University
Melinda S. Burchard; James Madison University
Trey J. Duffy; Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Alberto Guzman; University of Illinois, Chicago
Andrew Jason Kaiser; St. Ambrose University
Angela S. Mooneyham; University of Alabama, Birmingham
Lori R. Muskat; Georgia School of Professional Psychology, Argosy - Atlanta
Jack Trammell; Randolph-Macon College
Mary Lee Vance; University of Wisconsin, Superior
Margaret P.Weiss; Virginia Tech
AHEAD Board of Directors
Carol Funckes, President; The University of Arizona
Michael Shuttic, President-Elect; Oklahoma State University
L Scott Lissner, Secretary; The Ohio State University
Jim Marks, Treasurer; University of Montana
Stephan J. Hamlin-Smith, Executive Director; AHEAD
Emily Singer, Director; Catholic University of America
Mary Lee Vance, Director; University of Wisconsin - Superior
Kathleen McGillivray, Director; Bethel University
Jose Soto, Director; Southeast Community College
Troy A. Odom, Director; The University of Pennsylvania
Anne Jannarone, Director; University of Arkansas
Jean Ashmore, Director; Rice University
From The Editor 3
Females with Learning Disabilities Taking On-Line Courses: 4 – 14
Perceptions of the Learning Environment, Coping and Well-Being
Assessment of Campus Climate to Enhance Student Success 15 – 31
Susan A. Vogel
Janet K. Holt
Metacognitive and Affective Factors of College Students 32 – 41
With and Without Learning Disabilities
Cathy W. Hall
Raymond E. Webster
Developing Accountability Metrics for Students with Disabilities 42 – 54
in Higher Education: Determining Critical Questions
Book Review 55 – 56
Rebecca Daly Cofer
Author Guidelines inside back cover
From the Editor
Welcome to the 21st volume of the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability. Reaching its 21st birthday seems an appropriate time for JPED to transition from two issues per volume to three. So, with this volume JPED begins publishing three issues a year. This increase in the number of issues publishing per year has been in the planning for some time, and with support of the AHEAD board and everybody associated with the journal, publishing three issues a year has now become a reality.
This issue brings you four articles and a book review. The first article, written by Tali Heiman from Israel, presents a unique study of the perceptions of females with learning disabilities taking on-line classes. Far too little attention has been paid to females with disabilities and their higher education experience. Heiman’s research begins to shed light on this important topic. This paper needs to be read by all postsecondary support practitioners whose institutions provide or are considering offering on-line education.
Susan Vogel and colleagues, in the second paper of this issue, describe the results of a study that evaluated and changed the campus climate for students with disabilities. The assessment process identified areas needing improvement and targeted interventions that produced positive climate changes. The process used in this study aligns with AHEAD’s mission and may be accessed via the AHEAD website, www.ahead.org.
Cathy Hall and Raymond Webster, in the third article, compare metacognitive, affective, self-efficacy, resiliency, and other factors of college students with and without learning disabilities. The results yielded information about the group of students who demonstrated the highest level of initiative, GPA, and coursework self-efficacy. Read the paper to find out how students with disabilities fared on these measures. The results may surprise you.
The fourth paper in this issue, written by Marya Burke and her colleagues, discuss a qualitative study addressing the inherent barriers in gathering accurate data on the outcome of students with disabilities, including delayed college entry. This represents the first of a three-phase effort sponsored by the Illinois Board of Higher Education to address the significant lack of information on postsecondary students with disabilities in Illinois.
Last, Rebecca Daly Cofer has written a review of Mel Levine’s book, Ready or Not, Here Life Comes. In her words, “as a start-up adult myself, I found this book incredibly helpful and reassuring.” Levine provides interesting insight about young adults transitioning from the teenage years to young adulthood. Rebecca and I both agree that the JPED readership will enjoy Levine’s book.
Females with Learning Disabilities Taking On-Line Courses: Perceptions of the Learning Environment, Coping and Well-Being
The Open University
The study examined perceptions of the learning environment, coping strategies, and the subjective well-being of undergraduate female students taking on-line courses at the Open University of Israel. Fifty females with learning disabilities (LD) and 73 females without disabilities, 25-39 years old, completed three different questionnaires sent to them by email. Findings indicate that the females with LD perceived the learning environment as less supportive and less satisfactory than the control group; they felt that the academic services were not sufficiently considerate of their special needs; and they were less content with the academic courses. Women with LD reported using more task-oriented and avoidance-oriented coping strategies and perceived their overall well-being as less satisfactory than female students without LD.
Most studies of populations with learning disabilities (LD) have examined high school students or adults with LD in general. Given the ever-increasing numbers of students with LD who are turning to higher education (Hadley, 2006, 2007), it is important to examine the perceptions and the adjustment to the demands of higher education of these students. Female students with LD are of particular interest because, according to Kohen (2004), they must deal not only with difficulties resulting from their disabilities, compared to non-LD students, but also with the cultural and societal disadvantages of being female. Studies reveal that, females with LD face greater difficulties in the social and psychological domains, leading to an increase in the risk factors for vulnerability, depression, and isolation, to low self-esteem, and to difficulty in responding to daily demands (Roer-Strier, 2002). They frequently experience loneliness, emotional, and social difficulties (Wiener, 2004). Others (Brown, 1997) have shown that females with LD tend to experience more restrictions in and tighter controls over their personal and social life than males with LD.
A comparison of students with and without LD (Heiman & Kariv, 2004) revealed that females without LD reported higher support from family, friends, and significant others, and were more task-oriented than female students with LD. Female students with LD were found to be more emotion-oriented. No significant results were obtained for these measurements for male students, both with and without LD. In addition, female students expressed a higher level of academic stress, utilized more emotion-oriented and avoidance-oriented strategies, and needed more support than male students.
Adjustment and Coping of Students with LD
A review of the literature on studies of the adjustment of students with LD, particularly freshmen students, to the situation and demands of higher education indicates that many of them are daunted by a new and often challenging environment (Damsteegt, 1992). Students with LD must not only adjust to the demands of higher education, but also deal with deficiencies in their academic achievements and social skills (Braxton, Milem, & Sullivan, 2000; Heiman & Precel, 2003; Parker, 2000; Winter & Yaffe, 2000). These findings are consistent with other research on college and university students with LD, suggesting that students with LD also experience more difficulty with stress management (Heiman & Kariv, 2005; Reiff, Hatzes, Bramel, & Gibbon, 2001). A significant difference in adaptability has been noted between college students with and without LD. That is, students with LD display a lesser degree of adaptability and thus a lower ability to cope with environmental demands and size up and deal with problematic situations (BarOn, 1997).
According to Barton and Fuhrman (1994) contend that adults with LD often exhibit a number of psychological difficulties, including stress and anxiety, low self-esteem, and feelings of incompetence, unresolved grief, and helplessness. Although a higher degree of stress is probably widespread among college students in general, those with LD apparently experience increased levels of stress due to the amount of time, effort, and self-regulation they must invest to fulfill the academic demands (Hatzes, 1996). For example, to succeed in their studies, students with LD often have to devise special study methods, which usually require extra time and energy and increase fatigue. They also need to develop efficient competences for time management and for coping with academic tasks (Heiman & Precel, 2003).
A literature review found only a few studies dealing with the coping strategies of students with learning disabilities. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) offer a widely used definition of coping, namely: constantly changing cognitive and behavioural efforts to manage specific external or internal demands. Based on this work, Higgins and Endler (1995) grouped coping strategies into three main categories: task-oriented, emotion-oriented, and avoidance-oriented.
Task-oriented strategies are problem-focused; that is, direct action is taken to alter the problem situation to reduce the amount of stress it evokes. An emotion-oriented strategy is directed at changing or modifying one’s emotional responses to stressors. This may include attempts to reframe the problem in such a way that it no longer evokes a negative emotional response and, therefore, elicits less stress (Mattlin et al., 1990). Finally, avoidance-oriented coping strategies include behavior such as evading or ignoring the situation, or losing hope (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). The first two strategies, task- and emotion-oriented, are characterized by proactive efforts to alter the stressfulness of the situation, whereas avoidance-oriented strategies are characterised by the absence of attempts to alter the situation. Endler and Parker (1999) have suggested that, in the long run, a task-oriented strategy is the most efficacious.
Proactive coping strategies are associated with better adjustment, as reflected in higher self-rated coping effectiveness and less depression (Causey & Dubow, 1993; Moos, 1990; Reid, Dubow, & Carey, 1995; Strutton & Lumpkin, 1993), whereas avoidance-oriented strategies are associated with poorer adjustment (Billings & Moos, 1981). In an examination of the coping styles of students with LD attending a university, Heiman and Kariv (2004b) found positive behavioral and emotional modes of coping. Most of study's subjects also believed they would continue studying for graduate degrees, expected to succeed in work, and hoped to further develop their abilities in the future.
Subjective well-being consists of people's own evaluations of their lives. Such evaluations include cognitive or affective perception of their social and economic environment, health, standard of living, and happiness (Diener & Lucas, 2000). Evaluation of well-being was examined as a global construct of evaluations of personal life experiences in relation to various ranges of emotions and pleasant or unpleasant moods, such as happiness, joy, satisfaction, and pain, anger or stress. Others examined key factors that are integral to well-being, including, for example, individual behavior and coping skills, socio-economic status (education, income, social status), social support networks, employment/working conditions, access to health care, gender and culture (Fletcher, Bryden, Schneider, Dawson, & Vandermeer, 2007) and how individuals evaluate or perceive their lives (Diener & Lucas, 2000).
Several studies have demonstrated significant differences between the perceptions of social and emotional well-being in male and female students. For example, adolescent girls have been found to be consistently more depressed than their male peers (Hankin & Abramson, 1999) and to report more emotional symptoms than boys (Bear, Juvonen, & McInerney, 1993; Martinez & Seemrud-Clikeman, 2004). Further, comparison of levels of hope in adolescent students with LD revealed that even when successful in their studies, students with LD reported lower levels of hope than their peers without LD (Lackaye, Margalit, Ziv, & Ziman, 2006). Given these findings, we may assume that similar differences will appear and influence the perceptions of students with LD in higher education.
A review of the literature revealed few studies concerning gender differences among students with disabilities in higher education. As reported by Downey (2003), when students were asked to rate their personal satisfaction with their studies and to assess other impressions of their college life, their judgments were mediated by their emotional state at the time the question was asked. These findings and those of several other studies suggest that men and women differ in their ratings of college satisfaction due to dissimilar, gender-related, levels of awareness of their feelings (Clore et al., 2001; Gasper & Clore, 2000; Gohm & Clore, 2002).
Few studies on gender differences and coping strategies of students with and without LD have addressed women's perceptions of the educational environment and their gender-specific coping strategies in their higher education studies. The present study was designed to explore these two issues and how women with LD perceive their well-being during their educational experience in general.
In addition to coping strategies, which have been examined in previous studies, we examined two components of higher education that have not been addressed: Female students' perceptions of the learning environment and subjective feelings of well-being. We hypothesized that female students with LD would report different coping strategies than non-LD female students. Specifically, they would (a) have a less positive perception of their learning environment; (b) have a greater need for academic support; and (c) report on lower levels of well-being, or satisfaction with their lives in general.
The Open University of Israel (OUI) is a distance-learning institution with an open admissions policy, high academic standards, and a unique and extremely flexible self-study method (e.g., on-line interactive discussion forums, assistive technology, written materials mailed to the student), that allows students to advance at an individual pace. Unlike in traditional universities, OUI students may choose between face-to-face tutorial sessions in study centers close to their area of residence, on-line interactive courses with instructors and peers via the Internet, or individual at-home study from specially prepared written materials mailed to the student.
In the OUI, 56% of the undergraduate students are women (mean age: 28.2), of which 68% study one of the social sciences. According to the Office of Disabled Student Services, 1,415 undergraduate students with LD studied at the Open University in the academic year 2005-2006. Of these, 754 (53.36%) were women. Most of the female students with LD (N = 538, 71%) took courses in the Social Science Department, studying sociology, psychology, education, management, or economics. The mean age of the undergraduate women with LD was 28.0 (The Open University, 2006).
The present study sample consisted of 123 Israeli female students studying at the OUI. Students were divided into two groups: (a) 50 students with LD, between 25 and 39 years of age, and (b) 73 students without LD, between 25 and 35 years of age, as the control group. Students in the LD group had been identified as having dyslexia or dysgraphia prior to the study. Most of them had completed the complete Wechsler Intelligence Scale (Wechsler, 1991), scoring between 95 and 120; others provided partial test scores on verbal IQ, performance IQ, Raven tests, various neuropsychological tests, memory tests, and other specific reading and writing tests. As the privacy of diagnostic documents is protected by Israeli law, specific test scores were unavailable.
All the females with LD were identified as having problems such as difficulties with reading, writing and/or spelling in their first language (Hebrew), and most of them also had difficulties in the required second language (English). All the participants with LD were registered at the Disability Support Services, and most of them received accommodations such as additional time during examinations, no penalty for spelling mistakes and permission to take a break during examinations. The control group consisted of female students without LD from the same fields of social science study as those with LD. As presented in Table 1, no significant differences were found regarding age or GPA in the study areas.
Demographic Characteristic of the Students
Students with LD
(N = 50)
(N = 73)
Note. All comparisons are not significant at .05. NLD: students without LD.
GPA1 range: 0 to100. Academic Credits2: The minimum number of credits required for graduation at the Open University is 108 (between 18 and 25 courses).
Learning Environment (Shin & Chan, 2004). This questionnaire examined the students’ perception of aspects of learning within a higher education context. The scale is comprised of 29 items, which are categorized into four factors: (a) student perception of support services and feelings of connectedness to the university (e.g., “I believe that the student support staff is willing to help me”); (b) learning outcomes (e.g., “the course provided me with knowledge”); (c) satisfaction with the courses (e.g., “taking a course at the university is a valuable experience for me”); and (d) intention to continue studies at the university. The items were measured according to a 4-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (4). For this study, we used only the first three factors. The reliability for the entire instrument was .85; the alpha for the scales ranged between .80 and .81.
Coping strategies (Endler & Parker, 1999). The Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (CISS) is comprise of 41 items evaluated by a 5-point rating scale ranging from not appropriate (1) to very appropriate (5), with higher scores indicating a greater emphasis on each coping strategy. For this study, the scale reflects generalized modes of coping strategies within different situations. Three measures were used to reflect the students' coping strategies: (a) task-oriented coping subscales that tap active coping styles; (b) emotion-oriented coping subscales that represent strategies directed at altering such negative emotional responses; and (c) avoidance-oriented subscales that represent withdrawal behaviors. The reliability (Cronbach alpha) coefficients obtained for this study for the entire scale of coping strategies was .88, ranging between .83 and .89 for the subscales.
Satisfaction with Life Scale (Pavot & Diener, 1993). This scale consists of five items on a 7-point Likert Scale from never agree (1) to always agree (7). The authors note that the scale was developed to assess satisfaction with the respondent's life as a whole, and does not assess satisfaction with specific life domains such as health or finances. Higher scores mean higher perceived well being. The Alpha Cronbach score of the overall scale of the present study was .91.
A file consisting of three questionnaires was sent by email to female students diagnosed with LD registered at OUI's Office of Disabled Student Services. Since most of the female students with LD were studying social sciences (N = 538), the questionnaires were sent to every third female students with LD who were at least in their second year of study taking on-line courses in the social sciences department. Thus, 80 questionnaires were emailed as one file, and the students were asked to complete the questionnaires and email them back to the author. In order to ensure a control group with similar characteristics of age and major subjects, the students with LD were asked to nominate a female colleague who matched them in age, grades, and field of study, and who did not have any known learning or behavioral difficulty. Since the returned questionnaires were anonymous, we sent a reminder follow-up email to all the students one week later.
Over a period of two weeks, we obtained 50 completed questionnaires (62.5%) from students with LD. Ten emails were returned as wrongly addressed, 12 students refused to participate in the study, and 8 claimed they did not have a disability. Further, some of the students with LD nominated two colleagues, so we obtained 98 email addresses of students with LD. An identical email procedure was conducted for students without disabilities. After a month, we obtained 73 completed questionnaires (74.49%) from female students without LD. Seven emails were returned as wrongly addressed, four women refused to participate, and three returned the questionnaires incomplete.