Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM
EXPLORING THE ROLE OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES IN THE CHOICE AND PARTICIPATION IN STEM CAREERS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES
Increasing participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM has been examined in myriad ways over recent decades. While many factors are common among STEM minority groups, individuals with disabilities have a potentially unique component, assistive technologies. Assistive technologies (AT) are defined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as devices or services that support students with disabilities to access the curriculum. AT provides students with access to much of the K-12 STEM experiences and curricula. Research literature about AT in STEM is focused mainly on student access to curriculum rather than on student learning or student choice and persistence in STEM fields. Currently, we have no significant understanding of the role(s) AT plays in STEM field choice and participation, nor have we identified the scope or nature of access AT provides. The current study is designed to develop a better understanding of these issues. The sample being gathered for this study is STEM professionals with sensory and/or orthopedic disabilities and the theory of self-efficacy beliefs will be employed to explore the nature of the role of AT. Self-efficacy (SE) beliefs are described in Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (1986) as beliefs we hold about our capabilities to successfully accomplish tasks that have four main sources. These beliefs are fundamental to individual’s motivation, accomplishments and well-being (Schunk & Zimmerman, 2009). It is possible that without access to school-based STEM, students miss out not only on learning opportunities in STEM but also on school-based access to sources of self-efficacy. Therefore the scope of access afforded by AT in schools may exceed the explicit goal of supporting student access to STEM curriculum; AT may have a valuable role in the choice and participation of individuals with disabilities in STEM. It may provide access to the development of self-efficacy beliefs in STEM.