This is the postdoctoral research program of Hajer Chalghoumi, the new postodoctoral fellow at the IDRC.
1. Significance of the proposed research program
With moves towards inclusive education, more and more students with special needs are placed in the general student population (Marino, Sameshima & Beecher, 2009). Advances in technology are considered by many as a promising track of solution for these students as it provide them with new options to participate in and accomplish tasks in an inclusive educational setting (Edyburn, 2010; Rose & Meyer, 2002). In this context, Assistive technology (AT) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) stand at the forefront of the technology-based efforts to create access to education curricula for all students, either with or without disabilities (Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2008; Rose, Hasselbring, Stahl & Zabala, 2005). AT is technology solutions specifically designed to assist individuals with disabilities in overcoming barriers in their environment (Rose & al., 2005). UDL is an educational approach to curriculum and instruction that benefits of the inherent and nearly limitless flexibility of technology to enable students with diverse learning needs to be successful in the classroom (Lee, Soukup, Little & Wehmeyer, 2009; Special Education Assistive Technology (SEAT) Center, 2006).
Because of the size and growth of numbers of students classified as special needs students, AT and UDL solutions in schools are also growing in importance (Cavanaugh, 2004; Judge, 2008; Marino & al., 2009; Edyburn, 2010). For these solutions to be implemented and used properly, it is imperative that all teachers possess the knowledge and skills to select, implement and evaluate these solutions (Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2008; Edyburn, 2010). Certainly, schools are addressing this issue by recruiting one or a few well-trained AT specialists (Special Education Assistive Technology (SEAT) Center, 2006) or through the provision of related professional development efforts to their teachers (Hopkins, 2004), but it’s equally important to provide quality training for all teachers who are in contact with these students on a day-to-day basis. In fact, the lack of awareness and the lack of training of teachers continue to act as major barriers to the implementation AT and UDL in education (Chalghoumi & Viens, 2009; Judge & Simms, 2009; Lahm, 2005; Okolo & Bouck, 2007; Silver-Pacuilla, 2006; Lee & al., 2009). Despite the importance of this issue, no study has focused on creating a national snapshot of the current practice of AT and UDL knowledge and skills development in the preparation of teachers in Canada. Besides, too little research has been done to identify the needs of the special education teachers’ training programs in the field of technology (Chalghoumi & Viens, 2008). According to Smith & Kelly (2007), University programs need a framework to guide the integration of AT into their programs. This conclusion is even more important for UDL because of its recent history and the scarcity of the studies relating it to teacher education (Howard, 2003).
2. Originality and contributions of the proposed research program
This project will built a framework that suggests directions for the design of teacher education to enable it take into account the needs, skills and knowledge regular and special education teachers should develop in the most suitable way. In the absence of studies dealing with UDL and AT in teacher education in Canada, the role our data can play in aiding individual faculty members in developing their own curricula takes on greater significance. Sharing experiences with barriers to this implantation and possible approaches for overcoming them is a critical prerequisite for large-scale development of this field. A better teacher preparation to use UDL solutions and AT within special needs students in an inclusive approach will enhance each student's processing abilities, maximize learning outcomes and help him access the general curriculum.
3. Research approach
This research project is based on an original approach to AT and UDL. We consider AT and UDL different but completely complementary (Rose & al., 2005; Edyburn, 2010). In fact, AT is “unique, personal (travels with the individual), customized, and dedicated.” (Rose & al., 2005, p. 507) and UDL is “universal and inclusive, accommodating diversity.” (Rose & al., 2005, p. 507). Both kinds of solutions are needed (Hitchcock & Stahl, 2003). Advances in one approach prompt advances in the other and that this reciprocity will evolve in ways that will maximize their mutual benefits. On the one hand, an exclusively AT using setting may not be integrated with the learning goals and may cause more harm than benefits in terms of inclusion. On the other hand, a totally UDL solution that exclude AT may fail to consider the customized adaptations that many students need and will build environments that are too complex and expensive (Rose & al. 2005; Peterson-Karlan & Parette, 2008).
4. Objectives of the proposed research program
Three research objectives guide this project:
- Investigate how knowledge and skills of UDL and AT are being integrated into technology courses within preservice teacher education in Canada;
- Identify the needs and the barriers to the implementation of instruction about UDL and AT in preservice teacher education in Canada and,
- Identify promising practices that may have implications for the development or the improvement of the instruction about AT and UDL in preservice teacher education in Canada.
5. Link with my doctoral thesis
My doctoral thesis deals with the use of technology in the education of intellectual disabled students. My results underline the gap between teachers' skills and needs related to technology use in educating special needs students. Among my conclusions, I suggest that future research should analyse the existent practice in teacher education and their added value for preparing preservice teachers to use AT and UDL in the education of special needs students. My postdoctoral research project is an opportunity to push further the results and conclusions of my thesis. As a matter of fact, it focuses on this issue by aiming to develop a framework to introduce UDL and AT into Teacher Education in Canada that identify better the gaps and the needs of the teachers’ training programs in this field.
6. Research methodology and calendar
In this research project, we seek not only descriptions but also explanations and area of development related to infusing teacher education with AT and UDL in Canada. As a consequence, different and complementary methods will be used to collect data including literature review, syllabi analysis, questionnaires, and follow-up interviews. We identify 7 steps to collect and analyse the data of this project.
- Step 1 : A literature review will be conducted on teacher education and AT and UDL. In addition to situating our work within relevant scholarly literature, this step will help us develop the research instruments, mainly those related to the instruction of UDL. In fact, if AT has attracted the attention of a consistent number of researchers, it is not the case of UDL. The place of this newly and increasingly adopted approach has never been investigated in teacher education. This step will also help us identify the standard-skills, the similarities, the differences and the complementarities between AT and UDL in education. The review will be made on the basis of the reference book of Fink (2010).
- Step 2 : The university supervisor responsible of all institutions of higher education, members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) that offer a teacher education program, will be contacted. They will be asked to provide all the syllabi of technology courses over the last two years in the teacher education programs offered by their institutions. Syllabi will be coded and analyzed to produce a profile of course objectives, teaching methods, course contents, and methods for assessing students.
- Step 3 : Based on the Work of Nash & Norwich (2010) and Smith & Kelly (2007), a Web based survey will be developed and validated on the basis of the results of the literature review conducted in step 1. In addition to the course syllabi collected, this survey will help us determine the status of AT and UDL instruction in teacher education programs in Canada. It will also help us obtain data about teacher educator’s readiness to provide AT and UDL instruction, the needs and barriers that may exist in this area. Respondents will also be asked to identify promising practices that may have implications for the development or the improvement of the instruction about AT and UDL. This online survey will be prepared in a French and English version and will be housed on the server of Institute of Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) at the University of Toronto (my hosting institution).
- Step 4 : Teacher educators responsible for technology courses of the participating institutions will be e-mailed a link that will take them to a web site that describes the survey and asks for their consent to participate. If they choose to participate, they will be given a direct link to the survey. The survey will be online for two months to provide ample time for the participants to respond.
- Step 5 : Based upon responses to this latter inquiry, follow-up explorations in the form of telephone and e-mail interviews will be conducted to obtain additional information about the AT and UDL applications that are identified
- Step 6 : This step is concerned about survey and interviews data analysis. First, the survey data collected will be exported to SPSS (SPSS stands for Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, a computer program used for statistical analysis) for analysis. QDA miner software is selected to analyse qualitative data collected through interviews.
- Step 7 : Based upon the results of step 6, a research report will disseminate the finding of this project. This report will suggest in which direction teacher education should be designed to take into account the needs, the skills and the knowledge of regular and special education teacher in order to infuse teacher education with AT and UDL instruction in the most suitable way. It will mainly identify areas for development of a prototype of a technology course integrating UDL and AT in an exemplary way.
7. Plan to disseminate the findings
In addition to the research report, findings of this project will be disseminated to researchers and practitioners.
First, the finding will be published in different scholarly journals, national and international, in French and English, such as the “Revue des sciences de l’éducation”, “College & University (C&U)” and the “Canadian journal of education”. Besides, we have the intention to participate in national and international conferences such as “the annual conference of the Canadian Society for the Study of Education (CSSE)”, “the International Conference on ICT & Accessibility” and “the annual colloquium of the international Network on the Disability Creation Process”.
Second, the findings will be disseminated to practitioners and other non scholarly agents. On one hand, we intend to publish our results in non scientific journals such as “Vie Pédagogique”, “Education Canada” and “The Magazine of the Ontario College of Teachers”. On the other hand, a synthesis and vulgarized version of our research report will be prepared and sent to the participants to this project, to head education departments and educators, to agents in ministries of education and to special and regular teachers who may benefit from this research. I will also profit by more than 30 popular Web site relevant to my project topic reaching a large range of audiences globally that are managed by the IDRC (Host institution).
Finally, in order to enhance the potential for impact of this project, the areas for development of a prototype of a technology course, identified in the research report, will be explored and operationalized with the help of the expert-members of the IDRC. A course integrating UDL and AT in an exemplary way will be elaborated, implemented and evaluated in all the higher institutions that accept it. This is a future but eminent follow of this project.
Cavanaugh, T. (2004). Assistive technology and inclusion. Presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) conference Atlanta, GA.
Chalghoumi, H. & Viens, J. (2009). Training pre-service teachers to use technologies in teaching to students with handicaps, social maladjustments and learning difficulties. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on ICT & Accessibility, May 7-9th, 2009, Hammamet-Tunisia.
Edyburn, D. L. (2010). Would You Recognize Universal Design for Learning if You Saw It? Ten Propositions for New Directions for the Second Decade of UDL. Learning Disability Quarterly, 33, 33-41.
Fink, A. (2010). Conducting research literature reviews: From the Internet to paper. 3d edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hitchcock, C, & Stahl, S. (2003). Assistive technology, universal design, and universal design for learning: Improved learning opportunities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 18(A).
Hopkins, J. (2004). Assistive Technology (AT) to support students with special needs. Retrieved May 30th, 2009, from http://www.curriculum.org/tcf/teachers/projects/repository/AssistiveTechnology.pdf
Howard, J. B. (2003). Universal design for learning: An essential concept for teacher education. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 19(4), 113-118.
Judge, S. & Simms, K.A. (2009). Assistive technology training at the pre-service level: A national snapshot of teacher preparation programs. Teacher Education and Special Education, 32(1), 33-44.
Judge, S. (2008). Assistive Technology Training at the Preservice Level: Current Status and Training Needs. In K. McFerrin et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2008 (pp. 5109-5112). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Lahm, E. A. (2005). Improving practice using assistive technology knowledge and skills. In D. Edyburn, K. Higgins & R. Boone (Eds.), Handbook of Special Education Technology and Research (pp. 721-746). Whitefish Bay, WI: Knowledge by Design, Inc.
Lee, S.H., Soukup, J.H., Little, T. D. & Wehmeyer, M. L.. (2009). Student and Teacher Variables Contributing to Access to the General Education Curriculum for Students With Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, The Journal of Special Education, 43(29), 29-44.
Marino, M. T., Sameshima, P., & Beecher, C. C. (2009). Enhancing TPACK with assistive technology: Promoting inclusive practices in preservice teacher education. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(2). Retrieved September 29, 2010, from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss2/general/article1.cfm
Nash, T. & Norwich, B. (2010). The initial training of teachers to teach children with special educational needs: A national survey of English Post Graduate Certificate of Education programmes. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 26(7) 1471-1480.
Okolo, C. M., & Bouck, E. C. (2007). Research about assistive technology: 2000-2006. What have we learned? Journal of Special Education Technology, 22(3),19-34.
Peterson-Karlan, G. R., & Parette, H. P. (2008). Integration of technology into the curriculum. In: H. P. Parette & G. R. Peterson-Karlan (Eds.), Research-based practices in developmental disabilities (2nd ed., pp. 183--214). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.
Rose, D. H., Hasselbring, T. S., Stahl, S., & Zabala, J. (2005). Assistive technology and universal design for learning: Two sides of the same coin. In D. Edyburn, K. Higgins, & R. Boone (Eds.), Handbook of special education technology research and practice (pp. 507--518). Whitefish Bay, WI: Knowledge by Design.
Rose, D.H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal Design for Learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Silver-Pacuilla, H. (2006). Moving toward solutions: Assistive and learning technology for all students.
Smith, D. W., & Kelley, P. A. (2007). A survey of the integration of assistive technology knowledge into teacher preparation programs for individuals with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 101, 429-433.
Special Education Assistive Technology (SEAT) Center, National Center for Technology Innovation, & University of Kansas. (2006). Assistive technology outcomes summit: Assistive technology and educational progress … Charting a new direction. Executive summary. Washington, DC: National Center for Technology Innovation Retrieved September 20, 2010, from http://www.nationaltechcenter.org/documents/ExecutiveSummaryFinal.pdf