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Faculty Attitudes and Practices Regarding Students with Disabilities: Two Decades After Implementati... - page 10 / 67

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Discussion

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

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