Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Westminster College was represented at the second Project ShIFT Summer Training Institute July 26-30 in Minneapolis by Dr. Kristenne Robison, assistant professor of sociology, and Corey Shaw, director of Westminster's Disability Resources Office.
Project ShIFT (Shaping Inclusion through Foundational Transformation) is a three-year grant-funded initiative to prepare and support postsecondary service providers nationwide as they examine and change disability policies and practices on campuses. More than 20 institutions are involved in the project, ranging from private liberal arts schools to large state universities with multiple campuses.
The first year of the project focused on campus disability resource programs and staff. Disability service professionals examined the policies and practices of their offices and made plans for introducing changes in those policies, practices, and campus interactions.
"The changes I have made in the office thus far are numerous, extensive, and ongoing," Shaw said. "This re-focus of the office is to provide meaningful resources-information, strategies, tools, collaboration, contacts, access solutions-to students, faculty, and staff to remove unnecessary barriers to academic and social programming on campus without altering their essential elements."
As the project enters its second year, a faculty representative from each member institution was invited to participate by examining their own teaching strategies, considering how course design impacts student inclusion, and developing a plan for integrating new design ideas into their courses.
As Westminster's faculty representative, Robison has implemented a number of changes to make her courses more generally accessible to all, including: altering the format of her syllabus to allow voice recognition software to pick up headings and sub-headings; adjusting the class participation grade to value multiple styles of participation; reevaluating in-class exercises and movies to make the contents accessible to all; including electronic texts for outside readings; and building choice into class assignments to allow students to pursue what most interests them and to activate different learning styles.
"Under the social model of disability, the goal is not to increase the number of individual accommodations for students with disabilities, but to make the course more accessible for all," Robison said.
Robison, who joined the Westminster faculty in 2009, earned an undergraduate degree from Baldwin-Wallace College, master's from The Ohio State University, and master's and Ph.D. from Syracuse University.
Shaw, who has been with Westminster since 2008, earned undergraduate and master's degrees from the State University of New York-Oswego.