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IES Grant

Title: Visualizing Science with Adapted Curriculum Enhancements (ACE)
Center: NCSER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Arens, Sheila Awardee: Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
Program: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3/1/2008 to 2/28/2011 Award Amount: $1,489,399
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324A080096
Description:

Purpose: Most children who are blind or visually impaired receive an education in the mainstream classroom. In science classrooms, students with significant visual impairments often have difficulty accessing the science curriculum. Most teachers have limited experience in incorporating instructional strategies that enable students with visual impairments to “observe” scientific information as presented in textual form or during a hands-on experiment. The researchers propose a professional development project to help educators better meet the needs of visually impaired students and enhance students’ learning. The purpose of this project is to provide teachers with a multi-faceted approach for engaging students with visual impairments in science classrooms to afford learning opportunities that parallel those of their sighted peers.

Project Activities: The project will recruit 24 teachers, both special education and general science, from four states and train them at two sites. Teachers must be currently teaching science to students with visual impairments and their students must be willing to participate in the study. The project involves creating professional development materials for special education and science teachers to help improve instruction and accessibility in science for students with visual impairments. The project will use a formative research plan to collect feedback and improve the professional development materials. The project will also develop tools to assess the needs of students with visual impairments in the science classroom and additional tools to assess the motivation and engagement of the students involved in the study.

Products: This project will develop the Visualizing Science with Adapted Curriculum Enhancements program for special education and science teachers, published reports, and presentations.

Setting: The development activities will occur in two sites with participant teachers and students from four states (Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York). Site A involves participants in Colorado and Site B involves participants in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York.

Population: The project will recruit and train 24 special education and science teachers in two sites who work with students with visual impairments. The project will also recruit 24 visually impaired middle and high school students from the same schools.

Intervention: The team is developing a professional development program to train special education and science teachers in visualization techniques that are intended to improve access to the general education science curriculum for students with visual impairments. The professional development program has three components: a set of resources to assist the teachers in learning about the spectrum of visual impairments, tools to assess the individual needs of students with visual impairments, and training in the implementation of specially designed Adapted Curriculum Enhancements science visualization techniques that include models and tactile graphics.

Research Design and Methods: The researchers will use a qualitative, two-site formative research plan to collect ongoing feedback from both participants and experts as the intervention is developed and tested in both locations.

Control Condition: There is no control condition.

Key Measures: The research team is developing a set of measures to be used by teachers to assess the needs of visually impaired students in the general education science classroom. These include a student checklist, a teacher interview protocol, a parent interview protocol, a classroom needs inventory, and a science background knowledge questionnaire. Student motivation and engagement instruments will also be developed specifically for students with visual impairments in science.

Data Analytic Strategy: The project will use data from student checklists, teacher interviews, classroom needs inventory, and a background knowledge questionnaire along with internal and external reviews to collect feedback and improve the professional development program. Researchers will examine differences between students’ pretest and posttest performance to assess changes in students’ motivation and engagement in science.

Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Urquart, V. (2012). How one Teacher, two Students With Visual Impairments, and a Three-Year R and D Project Could Change how all Students Learn Science. Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, online: 185–196.


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