The Social Engagement Experiences of Disabled Students in Higher Education in Ireland.
Citation:Rath, Vivian, The Social Engagement Experiences of Disabled Students in Higher Education in Ireland., Trinity College Dublin.School of Education, 2021
Title: The Social Engagement Experiences of Disabled Students in Higher Education in Ireland. Vivian Rath Ph.D. School of Education, Trinity College Dublin. The aim of this research was to examine the social engagement experiences of disabled students in higher education (HE) in Ireland. It explored the barriers and enablers to their social engagement, their sense of belonging and the policy and practice landscape within HE. The numbers of disabled students transitioning to HE in Ireland has increased (Association for Higher Education Access & Disability, 2019) in response to the adoption of the widening participation agenda. Disabled students face barriers transitioning to and engaging in HE (McGuckin, Shevlin, Bell, & Devecchi, 2013). Early and ongoing social engagement of students has been identified as particularly beneficial for those least prepared, or from under-represented groups (Thomas, 2012; Trowler & Trowler, 2011), contributing to a sense of belonging, greater student success and retention (Thomas, 2012). Despite its importance, there is a gap in the literature concerning the social engagement experiences of disabled students in HE in Ireland. This research adopted a framework which combined a transformative approach with the bio-ecological model. This methodology facilitated the development of a four-phased, sequential, and concurrent qualitative data collection research design. The sampling strategy gathered data from 65 participants, with representatives from 19 HEI across Ireland. This included, disabled students and graduates, students? union full time officers, senior managers, and disability support personnel. By capturing a diversity of voices (Walton, 2014), the research provided the integral knowledge for transformational research (Mertens, 2017) whilst viewing the many layers of the system within which the student was embedded (Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 2006). This approach yielded a considerable amount of rich data, which was analysed using a thematic approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The key research findings demonstrate disabled students value their social engagement highly and it was a contributor to their sense of belonging within HE. The majority of disabled students considered themselves to be socially engaged. However, almost all disabled students and graduates spoke of barriers to their social engagement, with a cohort having very limited or no social engagement. Persistent barriers had a major impact on students? sense of value, ability to maintain friendships, develop a sense of belonging (including, notably, in class) and engagement with leadership opportunities. There was little evidence of a strategic approach to facilitating the social engagement of disabled students or knowledge of how this could be achieved among senior managers. The research demonstrates that: (i) the development of effective policy in relation to disabled students in HE requires a clear understanding of their lived experiences; and (ii) those operating at all levels of the HE eco-system must work towards enhancing inclusive practices.
Author: Rath, Vivian
Publisher:Trinity College Dublin. School of Education. Discipline of Education
Type of material:Thesis
Availability:Full text available
Keywords:Disabled Students, Disability, Engagement, Social Engagement, Belonging, College Climate, Transitions, Universal Design, Transformative, Bioecological, Engagement, Social Engagement, Transitions, Disability, College Climate, Belonging, Universal Design, Transformative, Bioecological, Students, College
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