Professors share perspectives on inclusive college learning experiences for students with intellectual disability

How can instructors provide inclusive college learning experiences to all students? As more students with intellectual disability (ID) enroll in college, instructors are learning about how to create inclusive classroom experiences.

Researchers **Allison Taylor, Daria Domin, Clare Papay, **and Meg Grigal from the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) published a paper this month, “More dynamic, more engaged”: Faculty perspectives on instructing students with intellectual disability in inclusive courses” in the Journal of Inclusive Post-Secondary Education.

Qualitative researchers interviewed 10 instructors who teach inclusive courses at seven colleges and universities across the US. They asked instructors about the benefits and challenges of teaching students with ID. Researchers also asked what instructors need to give students the best learning experiences.

Benefits and challenges to inclusive college instruction

There are benefits and challenges to fostering inclusive classrooms and learning experiences.

Instructors shared that teaching students with ID was a positive experience overall. Inclusive classrooms provided benefits for students with ID, students without ID, and teachers. Inclusive classrooms help students with ID interact more with their peers and explore topics of interest. They can help students with ID develop greater independence and leadership skills. Several instructors shared that all students seemed more engaged, dynamic, and enthusiastic in their inclusive classrooms.

Professors also observed how inclusive instruction can improve their own teaching skills. One instructor shared how teaching in diverse classrooms made them feel more confident in their teaching abilities. Another learned that having students with ID in their classroom prompted them to change their instruction approach:

“It really has caused me to stop and think, man, a lot of times I’ve just made this material a lot more difficult than it needs to be. So, I think it’s helped me make sure that the material that I’m covering in these classes is accessible to a wider audience than just a half a dozen people in my field.”

Researchers learned about challenges instructors face in inclusive classroom settings as well. Instructors shared concerns about how and when to provide appropriate accommodations to students with ID. Some professors doubted their own abilities to effectively teach students with ID. They felt underprepared for this work.

Instructor knowledge and attitudes can have a remarkable impact on college students’ experiences. It is crucial for professors to understand the expectations of inclusive learning experiences for students with ID so that all students can learn to their fullest potential.

Read more about the benefits and challenges of inclusive education from the perspectives of college instructors!