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ERIC Document - ED505568 found in the ERIC Database

Document Type



Conferences (Gatherings); Disabilities; Science Education; Technology Education; Engineering Education; Mathematics Education; Secondary School Students; College Students; Academic Accommodations (Disabilities); Attitudes toward Disabilities; Assistive Technology; Participant Satisfaction; Self Advocacy; Self Determination; Careers; Iowa


Background: Few teachers and special education specialists are aware of the materials and resources available to support science; technology; engineering; and mathematics instruction for the scattered and isolated 3000 students with sensory and motor disabilities in Iowa's K-12 schools. Additionally; faculty at many community colleges and regent institutions are not aware of possible accommodations for their students with disabilities who have interests in pursuing STEM careers. Unfortunately; this often leads to discouragement and lack of success for students with motor or sensory disabilities. This conference brings together experts and conference attendees involved in instruction; support; or transitions for these students with sensory or mobility disabilities to plan ways to remedy the problem. Purpose: This document provides a summary of a two-day conference related to assisting secondary and post-secondary students with disabilities in Science; Technology; Engineering; and Mathematics (STEM) areas. Highlights of the conference and the need for self-advocacy of students with disabilities are included in the narrative. In particular; this conference focused on students with sensory and mobility disabilities; including students with vision impairments; hearing impairments; students using wheelchairs; and students with movement-related health and motor impairments. The purpose of this two-day working conference was to stimulate dialog to (a) improve attitudes toward; (b) investigate ways to better support; and (c) plan accommodations/supports for students with disabilities who have interests in Science; Technology; Engineering and Mathematics (STEM); in secondary and post-secondary settings. This included examining ways to support students with STEM interests transitioning from high school to post-secondary education; investigating ways to support students with STEM interests transitioning from community colleges into STEM majors in 4-year colleges and universities; exploring options for resolution of issues; and advancing recommendations for improving the quality of STEM education for students with disabilities. Setting: The conference took place at the University of Northern Iowa on April 1st and 2nd; 2009. Study Sample: A group of 67 professionals from across the state of Iowa and from Midwestern institutions with exemplary programs were invited as collaborative partners. The professional positions of these individuals included high school science teachers instructing students with disabilities; special education support staff; persons from post-secondary offices of student disabilities; community college and four-year institution STEM instructors/professors; with high school; college; and matriculated students with disabilities; and engineering students in senior design (with research projects focused on wheelchair modifications and other mechanical aids for students with mobility impairments); and representatives from business and industry. The conference was also attended by 159 preservice teachers. Research Design: This is a descriptive conference report with quantitative and qualitative conference evaluation responses. Data Collection and Analysis: The two-day conference was organized to include three 30 to 50 minute panel presentations each day followed by 15 to 20-minute eight person table discussions. Attendees addressed critical issues through panel presentations. Discussions addressed focus questions in small groups related to the panel members' presentations. Responses from these discussions were recorded by volunteers typing into laptop computers during the discussions. Responses to these questions are reported elsewhere (Rule & Stefanich; in review; Rule; Stefanich; & Boody; in review). Data for this report were obtained from responses to questions on a post-conference evaluation form. These ratings were tabulated and remarks were qualitatively sorted into groups. Findings: Participant comments and ratings on the conference evaluation indicate that the organizers were successful in providing speakers who presented interesting; useful information for stimulating discussions. The most often-reported participant comment was that the conference provided an ideal setting for networking for professionals working with students with disabilities. Overall conference ratings were high; also supporting conference efficacy. Conclusion: Response to the conference from professional participants was overwhelmingly positive. Future conferences should provide opportunities for participants to try out assistive technology and provide more discussion of classroom supports. (Contains 5 tables.) [Appended is: Remarkable Technology: Handout from the Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research.]


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

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1 PDF file (14 pages)


UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa


©2009 Audrey C. Rule, Greg P. Stefanich, and Charlotte W. Haselhuhn, Belinda Peiffer



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