Current Research

  1. Deconstructing disability “disclosure.” Beginning Jan 2020 pending IRB approval.

The purpose of this study is to explore the meaning of “disclosure” to students who identify as disabled and faculty who receive accommodation letters. the emphasis on the concept of “disclosure” emerged from a paper written with Dr. Jen Ashton  (publication forthcoming in Critical Education).

We noted anecdotally that over the last couple of years, students with invisible disabilities were “coming out” to us after learning about ableism and positive perceptions of disability identity in our introductory courses. As students shared more with us, we took their stories and overlaid a theoretical framework called Explanatory Legitimacy theory.  The resulting  analysis revealed a key finding about the openness and vulnerability of students and the response from their college environments.   Students talked about learning to embrace their identity, feel more comfortable and able to disclose their learning issues, medical problems and challenges without shame. Simultaneously, recent literature on higher education and disability refers to students being comfortable disclosing and how, in return, the response from college campuses was to be more open and accepting (Hehir & Schifter,2015).  In other words, the responsibility for accommodations was falling on the students.  They had internalized a message (the origin of the message is not clear) that it was their responsibility to disclose personal details in order to “make the campus more welcoming”.  This finding raised the concern that student disclosure seemed to be expected as well as prompting more questions such as (1) how do students come to believe and accept that sharing is beneficial? (2) how does the formal accommodations process through disability services willingly or unwillingly convey that personal disclosures are necessary? (3) how do faculty feel about disability disclosure (beyond the accommodations letter) i.e. do they want personal details and how do they receive them? The students with disabilities in our previous work expressed the belief that they had to be more open, accept their disability and share it with their professors and peers – even when they were uncomfortable because it was their responsibility to “contribute to inclusion”. This research deconstructs the idea of “disclosure”.

2. Project -based Learning data collected, currently in analysis stage.Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching process in which students are guided through an extended sequence of inquiry around a real-world problem. Advocates of PBL assert that this approach supports students to evaluate sources of information, think critically, direct aspects of their own learning, and communicate effectively with peers and adults (DuFour & DuFour, 2015; Lee, Blackwell, Drake & Moran, 2014). The appeal and promise of PBL is that it can engage students with a wide variety of strengths, needs, interests, and competencies together. The problem is that despite the appeal of these proposed benefits, there is little known about whether PBL actually lives up to the promise of meaningful engagement for students with learning and behavioral disabilities.  Research question:

  1. How do teachers gr 3-12 who have attended one or more regional PBL trainings implement PBL in their classrooms?
  2. What are the characteristics of teachers, students, and classrooms where PBL is being successfully implemented for students with learning and behavioral disabilities?

3. The fallacy of denial.  Autoethnography in process regarding perceptions of family “denial” in the face of nursing home care for a loved one.

4. Disability in society: new study being developed, traveling to Sri Lanka in Nov 2020 for beginning data collection,