I'm the Smart Kid: Adult Attitudes and Perceptions about Enrichment and Special Education

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Virginia Tech


Within the educational community, there is a growing shift towards the development of essential skills, emphasizing process-skills over mastery of content. This shift is mirrored in the rapid changes in workplace-related technology, outpacing the creativity and flexibility of current graduates. Makerspaces and related technology education approaches have been increasingly implemented to offer students opportunities for developing these desired skills. Parallel to this effort, students who receive special education services but access the general education curriculum continue to lag behind the general education population in high-stakes testing, graduation-rates, and long-term employment outcomes. Remediation-based services often preclude students receiving services from exposure to technology- or other enrichment-based educational opportunities. The initial phase of this exploratory case study focused on the impacts of a technology-based enrichment club on a small group of special education learners. Through this proof-of-concept study, it became apparent that adult participants across stakeholder groups were showing evidence of transformative learning through their experiences with the club. The follow-up study, therefore, focused on changes in adult perceptions and/or practices resulting from these experiences, as evidenced through the Nerstrom Transformative Learning Model (2014). Following exposure, interviews were conducted with participating cosponsors, school-based educational leaders, and guest presenters from technical fields. These interviews were analyzed for both commonly identified and group-specific themes. Results suggest that experiences with the club challenged various assumptions held by participants, often leading to new perspectives on special education practices and students who receive services. These results suggest that potential shifts are a function of how many established perspective-based obstacles these challenged and reformed assumptions can address. Recommendations for future research include replication, extension beyond a club setting, and further exploration of identified themes, as well as investigating the deeper implications of obstacles to transformative learning.



Transformative Learning, Special Education, Enrichment, Technology Education, STEAM