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Newsletter of the Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy
Spring 2008, Volume 5, Issue 1

Research Highlights
Emily Goff, PASS IT grant coordinator

Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation (PASS IT) 

-Update-

The PASS IT project is entering its final 6 months, and we could not be more pleased with the results to date. We recently released the book Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education, which we plan to celebrate with a party on June 26 (see article “CRDUEL & PASS IT Host a Release Party for New Book”).The response has been overwhelmingly positive with multiple requests for the book pouring in every week. We are also excited about the upcoming publication of two guidebooks detailing the implementation of Universal Design (UD) in higher education as well as the release of a short video that will explore UD and Universal Instructional Design (UID) from the perspectives of students and instructors.

In addition to producing these materials for disseminating both theory and best practices in UD and UID, we have been gathering data on the impact of this pedagogical model on student achievement. Throughout the past three years, the PASS IT project has consistently met or exceeded original performance measures set in 2005. In an electronic survey that was completed by PASS IT participants and trainers over the past two years, 100percent of respondents indicated they had incorporated elements of UD and/or UID in their classroom teaching or work scope. More than 2,000 postsecondary professionals have received training from PASS IT trainers in on-campus presentations, at professional meetings, and in other professional development situations. Ina questionnaire they completed after attending workshops or conference presentations on UD and UID, 92 percent of attendees responded “Absolutely” or “Probably” to the question, “Will you use the concepts of Universal Design in your current position?”

The next performance measure used to monitor the impact of the PASS IT project compared the rate at which students with documented disabilities completed courses taught by faculty trained in project activities with the rate at which other students without disabilities completed those courses. We found that over the duration of the PASS IT project, the number of students in both categories increased. For spring 2006 Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning baseline data, the pass rate for students with documented disabilities was 87.8 percent (n = 41) and the pass rate for students who do not have documented disabilities was 89.8 percent (n = 617). When the same questions were asked after the fall 2006 and spring 2007 semesters, the pass rate for students with disabilities was 90 percent (n = 59) and the pass rate for students who do not have disabilities was 92 percent (n = 1550).

In our fall 2007 survey regarding courses taught by PASS IT summer institute participants, the pass rate for students with documented disabilities was 91 percent (n = 42)and the pass rate for students who do not have documented disabilities was 98 percent (n = 1674). It should be noted that this data set included more course sections from open-admissions institutions. Aggregating all of the data collected for the duration of the PASS IT project, 89percent of students with documented disabilities completed their courses taught by instructors trained by PASS IT, compared to 94.8percent of students without disabilities.

In an additional pilot study, we found that in a sample of 73 students with disabilities who participated in classes throughout the U.S. taught by faculty trained by PASS IT, 54 did not require any academic accommodations not provided to all class members. Please note that when referring to academic accommodations, we are including accommodations such as extended time, alternate test format, less distracting test environment, or alternate assignments that require additional preparation or planning on the part of the faculty member. Thus, this finding indicates both a reduction in the need to identify and segregate students with disabilities and a savings of time and effort for faculty who would otherwise have to provide accommodations “on demand.”

We are pleased with the positive effect that UD and UID seem to be having on student completion rates in a wide variety of postsecondary settings and are eager to continue to help all postsecondary professionals incorporate Universal Design into the work that they do. If PASS IT receives continued funding, future evaluation methodology will examine intervening variables and provide for greater consistency in the courses that are analyzed. We have a proposal for three more years of funding under consideration with the U.S. Department of Education.