Mary Catherine Scheeler, The Pennsylvania State University, Great Valley
Sally S. Scott, University of Connecticut
Stan Shaw, University of Connecticut
Marc Wilchesky, York University
AHEAD Board of Directors
Jim Kessler, President; University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Carol Funckes, President-Elect; The University of Arizona
L Scott Lissner, Secretary; The Ohio State University
Jim Marks, Treasurer; University of Montana
Stephan J. Hamlin-Smith, Executive Director; AHEAD
Caroline Forsberg, Director; The State University of New York System
Michael Shuttic, Director; Oklahoma State University
Kathleen McGillivray, Director; Bethel University
Nancy Hart, Director; Lane Community College
Anne Jannarone, Director; University of Arkansas
Jean Ashmore, Director of Constituent Relations - US; Rice University
Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability
Vol. 19, No. 1
Table of Contents
Letter from the Editors 3 – 4
The Process: Development of the Revised AHEAD Program Standards
and Performance Indicators 5 – 15
Lyman L. Dukes, III
Postsecondary Disability Program Standards and Performance Indicators:
Minimum Essentials for the Office for Students with Disabilities 16 - 26
Stan F. Shaw & Lyman L. Dukes, III
Career-Focused Experiential Education for Students with Disabilities:
An Outline of the Legal Terrain 27 – 38
Melissa L. Nott & Cynthia Zafft
Employment and Career Development Concerns of Postsecondary Students
With Disabilities: Service and Policy Implications 39 – 55
Mary L. Hennessey, Richard Roessler, Bryan Cook, Darlene Unger & Phillip Rumrill
Perceptions of Academic Quality and Approaches to Studying Among
Students with Print Disabilities Enrolled in Distance Education 56 – 70
John T. E. Richardson
Student Perceptions of the Accommodation Process in Postsecondary Education 71 – 84
Noelle Kurth & Daryl Mellard
Improving Transition to Career for College Students with Learning Disabilities:
Suggestions from Graduates 85 – 93
Joseph W. Madaus
I’m Not the Gingerbread Man! Exploring the Experiences of College Students
Diagnosed with ADHD 84 – 109
Susan N. Perry & Kathy K. Franklin
Book Review: Rights of Inclusion: Law and Identity in the Life Stories of
Americans with Disabilities 110
Robin Cook (reviewer)
About the Authors 112
Author Guidelines inside back cover
Letter from the Editors
Nicole Ofiesh and James McAfee
Welcome to this issue of the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability. As members of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, we can be proud that we are part of an organization that is dedicated to providing the most professional and effective programs and services to postsecondary students with disabilities. This is demonstrated in the first two articles of this issue which report the outcome of AHEAD’s most recent research and developments on the Postsecondary Disability Program Standards and Performance Indicators. These Program Standards and Performance Indicators provide us with important tools with which to evaluate our programs and grow professionally as a field. However, our field would not be without the growing number of students with disabilities who attend our postsecondary institutions. Thus we are pleased to provide a wide variety of research articles that give voice to the college experiences of students with disabilities, and one that examines the legal terrain for students with disabilities in experiential education.
Moreover, this collection of articles addresses many timely issues for a diverse group of individuals with disabilities. Following a thorough look at the process of the development of the revised AHEAD Program Standards (Duke) and a presentation of the Program Standards and Performance Indicators (Shaw & Dukes), we present a study by Richardson, who compared the experiences of three samples of students in distance education in terms of academic quality and approaches to studying through a survey titled, the Course Experience Questionnaire. This study is unique and valuable to our profession in that the samples differed in terms of type and presence of disability, but also in the nature of their text format. While some differences among the groups existed, one interesting technological finding was that no significant differences existed between the experiences of the students with print disabilities who used a software based system and those who used audiocassettes. This article is followed by a critical look at the legal terrain for students who engage in career-focused experiential education, such as internships, and cooperative- or service-learning (Nott & Zafft). This article is one of three in this issue that investigate aspects of careers and students with disabilities. Issues related to experiential education are likely to increase as many private and liberal arts colleges more often require summer learning and service learning components.
In the next article which is dedicated to the career concerns of postsecondary students with disabilities, Hennessey, Roessler, Cook, Unger, and Rumrill first evaluate students’ perceptions of the career preparation and employment. These results are then used to recommend service and policy directions in order to ensure that students successfully gain meaningful employment, post graduation. In an article by Kurth and Mellard, we depart from career issues momentarily to examine a thoughtful article on the accommodation experience of students with disabilities. While this topic has received a great deal of attention over the years, these researchers evaluate this process with a new lens, exploring the accommodation process both as meeting the immediate needs of the students as well as system-wide access. Moreover, the accommodation process is discussed in terms of meeting the legal requirements of current legislation and the “spirit of the law”. One finding that many disability service providers may recognize anecdotally is that students tend to be satisfied with access to immediate accommodations (e.g. assistive technology, extended time), but dissatisfied with access to activities on a larger scale (e.g., social events, group activities). This finding provides important and useful data that can be used to support access initiatives on campuses.
As we continue with research on the perspectives of students with disabilities Perry and Franklin question ten undergraduate students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) about their college experiences. In this qualitative study, which employed grounded theory, the researchers glean important information about students’ perceived abilities to remain in college. The findings support previous research in terms of transition needs, and provide new research support for institutions that provide outreach programs for students, parents, and staff in order to improve retention for students with ADHD. In our last and third article on career related concerns of students with disabilities, Madaus looks at how we can improve the transition to successful careers for students with learning disabilities who have graduated from postsecondary settings. These findings are interesting in contrast to the study by Hennessey et al., which questioned students who were undergraduates. While the studies differ in terms of the research questions, the outcomes taken together provide immense support for broadening career support for students with disabilities before and after graduation. Robin Cook closes our issues with a very appropriate book review, Rights of inclusion: Law and identity in the life stories of Americans with disabilities by Engel and Munger (2003). We say appropriate because once again we hear the voices of individuals with disabilities. Dr. Cook articulately describes a summary of the book as well as suggestions on how the text might be used to foster an understanding of persons with disabilities at a variety of levels. We hope you find this collection of research articles useful as you continue your professional activities.
In 1999, AHEAD formally approved its first set of Program Standards. The Standards spelled out the services considered essential for ensuring equal access to education for students with disabilities. In addition, the Standards were intended to establish the parameters of what practitioners do as well as assert the credibility and uniqueness of the Office For Students With Disabilities (Jarrow, 1997). The Standard’s utility diminished due to a number of factors, but especially the changing nature of disability services. Thus, a survey consisting of 30 service components and 147 performance indicators was completed by a group of postsecondary disability services experts to get a current look at today’s services. This survey led to the updated AHEAD Program Standards and Performance Indicators, which were formally approved in November 2004.
Postsecondary institutions have rapidly expanded their programs and services for students with disabilities during the past 30 years. The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), established in the 1970s as the professional organization representing postsecondary disability service providers, had more than 1,900 members by the end of the 1990’s (Dukes & Shaw, 1999). Though services for college-level students with disabilities expanded throughout the eighties and nineties, there were no empirical data upon which to develop model programs until the late 1990s, leaving disability service providers to develop services based upon intuition or best guess (Gajar, 1992). Similarly, Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) personnel have had to make judgments in the absence of firm guidelines or best practice (Dukes & Shaw, 2004). Not surprisingly, there have been many calls in the literature for services that are better planned and organized (Brinckerhoff, McGuire, & Shaw, 2002; Bursuck, Rose, Cowen, & Yahaya, 1989; Dukes & Shaw, 2004; Sergent, Carter, Sedlacek, & Scales, 1988).
In response, AHEAD, in 1994, convened a set of task forces to develop a code of ethics, professional standards, and program standards for the profession. In 1996, the AHEAD Professional Standards and Code of Ethics were approved by the organization’s Board, and in 1999 the AHEAD Program Standards were formally approved. A revision of the original Program Standards is now warranted for a number of reasons. First, the field has changed dramatically since the first Standards were approved. For example, OSD administrators are now encouraged to rely more upon a collaborative decision-making model and have become keenly aware of the importance of faculty members in the service-delivery process. Second, college administrators are requesting that OSD directors specify criteria to evaluate their programs. Third, the original Standards used a research method that yielded data that were merely the conventional wisdom of the study participants. Finally, the original Standards did not specify how to meet criteria spelled out in the Standards. That is, service providers were saying they appreciated having Standards but they did not necessarily know how to apply them to their daily professional duties. The research method in the current study was specifically chosen to address these concerns.
In 1986, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) published its first set of standards entitled The CAS Standards and Guidelines for Student/Development Programs. The publication included general statements that were intended to apply to all student affairs programs and standards and guidelines specifically applicable to each functional area, including standards and guidelines for offices for students with disabilities. According to Miller (1997), these standards represent the minimum criteria an institution and its programs should satisfactorily meet over time. The standards and guidelines “were established for institutions and their student support service programs to use for program development, program self-study, and staff development purposes” (Miller, p. 3). In a more recent publication, CAS has set forth standards and guidelines for the OSD that consist of 13 parts, including area such as ethics, legal responsibilities, campus and community relations, and mission (Miller).
Though the Council has published standards for the OSD, they are not widely recognized. In fact, some in the disability services profession consider the standards too general to be of use to practitioners and their programs (L.S. Block, personal communication, July 18, 1997; D. Korbel, personal communication, November 19, 1997). Thus, Madaus (1996) stated that “while the publication of these standards was intended to ‘establish criteria and guidelines for the field’ (CAS, 1988, p. 113), there was little follow-up or discussion of the standards in the professional literature” (p. 38). Blosser (1997) echoed this position stating, “we do not really know how much the CAS Standards … are used by disability service programs, but it is this writer’s impression that its availability is not widely known” (p. 49). Moreover, the standards and guidelines for disability support service programs, though developed by experts within the student affairs profession, were not identified using empirical methods.
AHEAD Program Standards
As is true of an emerging profession, OSD personnel were interested in establishing an identity apart from other student affairs programs. Just as other student affairs program personnel have developed and maintained their own standards and ethics (e.g., counseling centers), disability student services personnel were steadfast in their desire to form a distinctive identity. A separate identity is intended to establish the parameters of what practitioners do as well as assert the credibility and uniqueness of the office for students with disabilities (Jarrow, 1997). Blosser (1997), when discussing program standards stated, “to a large degree, program standards should help define what we as professionals do in our programs” (p. 49).
Based upon research completed in 1997, program standards were developed that spelled out which service components were essential to ensure equal educational access (Dukes, 2001). The original AHEAD Program Standards specified that the OSD provide services under the following nine function categories: (a) consultation/collaboration/awareness, (b) information dissemination, (c) faculty/staff awareness, (d) academic adjustments, (e) instructional interventions, (f) program development and evaluation, (g) policies and procedures, (h) program development and evaluation, and (i) training and professional development (Shaw & Dukes, 2001). The nine categories collectively contained 27 standards. These standards were the first benchmarks derived using empirical methods available to postsecondary disability service providers.
The current study was designed to identify essential service components that should be available to ensure equal access to postsecondary education for students with disabilities. In addition, the study sought to identify the indicators for each standard that would lead to appropriate performance on that standard. AHEAD, the sole professional organization that represents postsecondary disability service providers, sponsored the study. A cadre of postsecondary disability experts, rated the importance of 30 service components and 147 performance indicators across 9 categories using a 5-point Likert scale (1 – Not Important, 2 – Slightly Important, 3 – Moderately Important, 4 – Very Important, 5 – Essential).
The Delphi technique is a “method for the systematic solicitation and collection of judgments on a particular topic through a set of carefully designed sequential questionnaires interspersed with summarized information and feedback of opinions derived from earlier responses” (Delbecq, Van de Ven, & Gustafson, 1975, p. 10, as cited in Friend, 2000). The Delphi method was chosen for the present study for a number of reasons (Anderson, 1998). First, it allows for both quantitative and qualitative measures. That is, participants provided both a numerical ranking of each service component and indicator and also had the opportunity to provide written comments regarding items. Comments regarding items had the potential to impact the language, location, and even the inclusion of an item in subsequent rounds of the survey. Second, the method allowed for group discussion among participants geographically dispersed throughout a wide region of North America. Third, results achieved through the use of the Delphi method are considered more accurate than an average rating achieved through a participant ranking. In addition, Anderson (1998) noted that the Delphi process concludes with a “sense of closure and accomplishment” that is, perhaps, valuable following a lengthy study process such as the Delphi.
Expert panelists were asked to rank service components for students with disabilities according to their importance and to provide comments regarding their rankings. In addition, they were given the occasion to reconsider their rankings (i.e., Rounds 2 and 3) after having the opportunity to examine average item rankings and comments provided by the entire panel. Throughout the process, participants remained anonymous; thus, each responded to group feedback without the influence potentially present in a face-to-face gathering.
A modified Delphi technique was used to identify which service components are considered essential in order to ensure equal access to postsecondary education for students with disabilities in North America. Expert panelists participated in three rounds of a survey, which involved rating a list of service components organized by category and providing written responses to those items. Rounds 2 and 3 involved re-rating items based upon panel feedback (i.e., written responses). An initial questionnaire was prepared based on a broad literature review and by compiling a list of service components founded, to a large degree, upon the previous AHEAD Program Standards.
The design of the survey followed specifications identified in the survey development literature (Gable & Wolf, 1993). A review of the original Program Standards and an extensive literature review yielded 31 service components and 129 performance indicators across 9 categories. The literature review investigated publications spanning the past four decades, which included the discussion of services for students with disabilities from the inception of Gallaudet College (now Gallaudet University) in the 1800s to the CAS in Higher Education program standards for disability services publication in 1997 to the original AHEAD Program Standards. An initial panel of 12 postsecondary disability experts, identified by the AHEAD leadership based on their expert knowledge of service provision for college students with disabilities, participated in content validation of the survey. The initial panel adequately spanned the diversity of postsecondary institutions in the United States. and Canada (e.g., two- vs. four-year, public vs. private, open enrollment vs. competitive enrollment), and all were members of AHEAD. The content experts were asked to comment on item clarity, relevance, and potential repetition. Specifically, panelists provided feedback about the (a) wording of the service components and indicators, (b) whether there were any missing components or indicators, (c) the goodness-of-fit of an item with its category, and the elimination of any components or indicators that were repetitive. Further, the panel was asked to provide feedback about the clarity of directions, the length of time required to complete the instrument, and the ease of use of the website used to deliver the instrument. Lastly, the panel each nominated 10-20 other postsecondary disability experts for participation in the Delphi process.
The comments of the panel of 12 content experts were reviewed using a focus group format. Members of the focus group also had extensive experience in the postsecondary disability services profession. Based upon the described levels of review, adjustments were made to the survey. Upon deployment, it consisted of 30 service components and 147 performance indicators representing 9 categories.
All rounds of the survey were conducted via a website developed and maintained by the researcher. Adobe Go Live software was used to develop both the website and survey instrument. Feedback about site accessibility was provided by the initial panel of 12 experts.. In addition, AHEAD’s Information Technology specialist provided feedback about both the website and the questionnaire prior to deployment. Lastly, the website and questionnaire were subject to analysis to ensure each met Web Content Accessibility Guidelines criteria.
Participants in a Delphi study are required to have knowledge and expertise to share regarding the research topic (Friend, 2000). In the present inquiry, 55 disability service professionals in North America agreed to serve as expert panelists in the study (see list of experts in Table 1). As mentioned, the initial panel of 12 postsecondary disability service experts was nominated by the Board of Directors of AHEAD. These 12 experts each provided a list of 10 to 20 disability service practitioners they considered to be experts in the profession. These individuals were contacted in order to determine their interest in participation in the project and whether they met the criteria for involvement.
Criteria for participation were as follows: Panel participants must have at least five years of recent experience in postsecondary disability services. In addition, participants must have one or more of the following: (a) a reputation developed through publications regarding disability services, (b) a reputation established through presentations related to disability services, or (c) experience providing training related to services for college students with disabilities. Panelist selection was also impacted by the need to ensure that a diverse array of service providers (e.g., two-/four-year, public/private institutions, U.S./Canadian programs, open enrollment / competitive entrance criteria) was represented.
Expert panelists responded to the questionnaire across three rounds. During round 1 demographic data were collected in addition to item ratings and comments. Participants were asked to respond to what students with disabilities require in order to facilitate equal educational access, not what is currently available to students at particular institutions. Respondent names and their respective institutional affiliation are listed in Table 1. The request for participation was prepared by both the researcher and AHEAD leaders. Respondents were assured that results would be analyzed and reported at the group level only. Two weeks following each an electronic request to complete the survey, electronic reminder mail message was sent to non-respondents. A total of 85% of expert panelists responded to Round 1 of the survey, 82% responded during Round 2, and 71% during Round 3.
The research question guiding the determination of essential service components was: “What service components do practicing OSD administrators perceive as essential in order to ensure equal educational access for students with disabilities?” In order for an item to be considered an “essential service component,” it must have had a mean rating of 4.2 or greater on a 5.0 scale. In addition, 80% or more of the expert panel must have rated each service component in either the same or an adjacent category (e.g., rating of 5, or in the adjacent category, 4). Prior studies of comparable information using the Delphi method have employed similar rating criteria (e.g., Anderson, 1998; Friend, 2000). In sum, 28 of 30 proposed standards were rated essential and 90 of 147 proposed performance indicators were rated essential. Results related to each category and its proposed standards and indicators may be found in Table 2 (Standards and Indicators not rated essential) and in Shaw and Dukes (this issue) (Standards and Indicators rated essential).
During Round 1, in addition to responding to the survey questionnaire items, participants also completed a section used to collect demographic data. Descriptive analyses (i.e., mean, percentages) were used to determine whether an item met the criteria to be considered “essential.” Following Round 1, the expert panel had identified 27 service components and 80 performance indicators as being essential. Participants also provided comments that influenced both the wording and the inclusion of items in Round 2. A total of 85% of the expert panel submitted responses that were included in the analysis of Round 1 data.
The Round 2 electronic survey was identical to the Round 1 survey; however, items where consensus had been reached were noted as such and did not require further rating. Additionally, panelists received an individualized feedback form concerning items on which consensus had not been reached. Also in the document were the panelists’ rating of each item and group panel statistics, including the item mean rating, consensus level, and panel comments regarding each item. All participants were asked to re-rate items on which consensus had not been reached during Round 1. Furthermore, if an expert chose not to agree with the mean rating of the group during the re-rating process, she/he was asked to provide a written justification. The experts identified one additional service component and 10 performance indicators as essential during this round. Eighty two percent of the survey participants provided responses during this round of the study.
The Round 3 format was identical to that used in the previous two rounds. Only items on which consensus had not been reached required re-rating, while those service components and indicators that had reached consensus were noted as such. Once again, panelists received an individualized feedback form concerning items that had not reached consensus during Round 2. The document contained the panelists’ ratings of each item and a summary of group statistics, including the mean rating of the item, its current level of consensus, and comments provided by the group regarding each item. As in the previous round, participants were asked to re-rate items on which consensus had not been reached. In instructions for this round, panelists were oriented to the study goal of consensus; however, if they chose to rate an item outside the current group mean rating, they were free to do so. The culmination of Round 3 determined which service components and indicators reached consensus and which did not.
The experts did not identify any additional service components or performance indicators as essential during this round. Seventy one percent of the survey participants provided responses during Round 3. In total, consensus was reached on 28 service components and 90 performance indicators representing 8 categories (see Shaw & Dukes, this issue).
The implications of the findings of the study must be considered in light of its limitations. The results of a study employing the Delphi technique are dependent upon the expert panel participants (Anderson, 1998; Friend, 2000). Participants for the current study were nominated by a nationally recognized body of 12 postsecondary disability service professionals who themselves had been identified by the AHEAD Board of Directors. Expert panelists all met specific criteria in order to be involved in the study (see criteria above). The panel also represented a wide array of postsecondary institutions across North America (e.g., two-/four-year, competitive/open enrollment).
Concerns regarding the considerable time required to participate in a Delphi study may have an impact upon the commitment of the study participants (Anderson). The average response rate for all rounds of the survey was 79%, which suggests that the panel understood the importance of its charge and significance of its commitment. Also noteworthy is the fact that it took less time to complete the questionnaire with each successive round. Thus, the most significant obligation was during Round 1.
Another possible limitation of the study is the likelihood that the survey instrument did not wholly represent all services available to students with disabilities at postsecondary institutions. The survey was predicated upon an extensive literature review, and prior to deployment, it was examined for comprehensiveness by a group of 12 postsecondary disability experts and a focus group. Thus, all efforts were made to ensure the questionnaire adequately spanned the universe of content.
Finally, the clarity of survey items must be considered as a possible limitation. The survey was examined by an initial group of 12 postsecondary disability professionals prior to Round 1. These participants also examined the instrument directions and the website used to collect survey data. In addition, the Delphi method allows participants to examine and receive any necessary clarification regarding survey items.
The principal purpose of this article was to describe the research process used to determine what service components disability service professionals consider essential for ensuring equal educational access for postsecondary level students with disabilities. In addition, service providers identified performance indicators for each service component rated essential. Performance indicators are intended to serve as examples of how a service component looks in practice. Shaw and Dukes (this issue) describe the implications of the results, as well as the value of program standards for the disability services profession.
The author would like to acknowledge the unique efforts of a number of persons involved in the research project, all of whom participated in extraordinary ways. These include Joanie Friend of Kansas City Metro Community College, Randy Borst of Buffalo University, and Patricia Anderson, Ph.D. whose dissertation provided significant guidance. Without their participation, this project would not be complete.
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