A Critical Exploration of the Experiences and Beliefs of Administrators of Inclusive Postsecondary Education for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disability
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In this study, naturalistic qualitative inquiry grounded in the constructivist paradigm (Erlandson et al., 1993; Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Lincoln & Guba, 1985) and a critical lens informed by the educational philosophy of Paulo Freire (1970/2013) were used to examine the experiences and beliefs of administrators of inclusive postsecondary education programs designed for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD). I contextualized the study within research from the fields of inclusive postsecondary education for students with ID/DD, developmental education, K–12 special education administrators, and social justice in education, with broader contextualization in disability studies and human rights.
Using constructivist and critical lenses for data analysis, I discovered findings within and across the cases. Within case findings indicated that varying types of marginalized experiences such as disability and diversity impact administrator practices. Findings across all nine participants led to the construction of a definition of administrator beliefs, and to an understanding of administrators knowledge of the oppressions that students with ID/DD face throughout their lifetime. Administrator’s exposure to principles of equity, access, social justice, and critical perspectives in education also helped them facilitate inclusive PSE.
Results from the study suggest that beliefs, which include knowledge of students’ growth and development potential and knowledge of student oppressions, are key components of administrator’s work and that these may be acquired through many kinds of personal, professional, and educational experiences. Additionally, regardless of experiences, cultural and critical education studies can foster a critical understanding of the student population, particularly through the practice of critical self-reflection.
Implications are that college students with ID/DD should be considered a marginalized student group and that their population be added to other student groups when considering culturally relevant research and instruction in social justice, critical studies, cultural foundations of education, and deficit thinking. This suggestion also extends to considering the distinct instructional needs of students with ID/DD as well as their support needs. Many of these issues have already been explored within the inclusive PSE niche. My recommendation is that higher education begin to take an inclusive stance to welcome and support this new college student population.