The Relationship Between Academic and Social Barriers. and Graduation Rates Among Deaf and Hard of. Hearing Students at Northeast Wisconsin

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1 1 The Relationship Between Academic and Social Barriers and Graduation Rates Among Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College by Susan Peterson A Research Paper Submitted in Paltial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Master of Science Degree In Career and Technical Education Approved: 2 Semester Credits The Graduate School University of Wisconsin-Stout December, 2010

2 2 The Graduate School University of Wisconsin-Stout Menomonie, WI Author: Title: Peterson, Susan L. The Relatiollship Betweell Academic alld Social Barriers alld Graduatioll Rates Amollg Deaf alld Hard of Hearillg Studellts at Northeast Wiscollsill Techllical Col/ege Graduate Degree/Major: MS Career and Technical Education Research Advisor: Kenneth Welty, Ph.D. Month/Year: December, 2010 Number of Pages: 45 Style Manual Used: American Psychological Association, 6 th edition Abstract One of the challenges technical colleges face is the student graduation rate. The completion rate is extremely low for Deaf and hard of hearing students who have attended Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in the last five years. Using a descriptive design and a qualitative approach, this study explored issues that may contribute to the low graduation rates of this population. Student perceptions regarding the academic and social battiers to education were gathered through semi-structured interviews. The analysis of testimony provided by eight Deaf and hard of hearing students suggest that some students were not prepared for the rigors of post-secondary education and had misconceptions about the nature of formal preparation for a technical career. The faculty's lack of understanding of Deaf culture, the students' social isolation and other personal responsibilities

3 3 were acknowledged as barriers to their success. Therefore, the recommendations for addressing the issues include an update of the initial intake process for new DHH students which will include more in-depth assessments of strengths, suggestions of additional resources and followup services. Education plans for students should include effective remediation, self-advocacy skills, time management and study skills. Deaf culture awareness should be a required component of faculty in-service opportunities.

4 4 Table of Contents Page Abstract... 2 Chapter I: Introduction... 6 Background... 6 Statement of the Problem... 7 Purpose of the Study... 8 Research Objectives... 8 Importance of the Study... 9 Limitations of the Study Definition ofterrns Chapter II: Literature Review Graduation Rates 'Underprepared Leamers...; Deaf Culture Chapter III: Methodology Description of Research Method Subject Selection Instrumentation... ~ Data Collection Pilot-testing Data Analysis... 18

5 5 Chapter IV: Results Research Design Research Objectives Demographic Information Acadenlic Barriers Social Barriers Intake Process Recommended Accommodations Summary Chapter V: Discussion Summary Discussion... '" Conclusion Recommendations References Appendix A: Interview Topics... 44

6 6 Chapter I: Introduction Background Student retention is critical at the post secondary level, especially in the area of Career and Technical Education (CTE). Career and Technical Education programs have the dual mission of real-world training for a skilled trade and facilitating articulation with four-year institutions. Low retention and graduation rates do not allow for either function to be fulfilled. Steps need to be taken to combat this issue and to ensure that CTE students have what they need to succeed. It is necessary to find strategies to retain students and increase the graduation rate. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College is one of sixteen schools in the Wisconsin Technical College System that is beginning to examine graduation rates and look for ways to improve this statistic. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) is located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has approximately 8,000 students enrolled and lists an overall 45% matriculation rate, (Match College, 2009). Within NWTC, the Special Needs Department serves approximately 450 students each year (Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, 2009), and this number is on the rise. It has been estimated that more than 6% of students participating in postsecondmy programs have a diagnosed disability (Burgstahler & Cory, 2008). More students have self-identified as utilizing accommodations and the altay of disabilities served is changing, (Pam Stelzer, personal communication, February 3, 2010). This study focused on the Deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) population attending NWTC. The intellectual requirements of everyday life and the world of work have increased the demand for a post secondmy education. According to studies of both two-and four-year programs only 25% of DHH students graduate (Lang, 2002). Studies have shown the

7 7 unemployment rate for DHH individuals without a college degree is 24% (Boutin, 2008). Job competition is strong and an appropriate degree may be the one thing that sets one apart from other applicants. Individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing must already contend with a cultural, and most likely, a communication deficit, making the completion of a degree even more important in the search for a career. This study addressed the issue of low retention and graduation rates by uncovering the academic and social baltiers to education for DHH students at NWTC. Fifteen DHH students have attended NWTC between 2005 and Only one of these students, to date, has completed a degree program. The circumstances sultounding this lack of achievement may be as varied as the individuals themselves. The intent of this inquiry was to gain a better understanding ofdhh students' perceptions of the baltiers that they face while attending NWTC. Academic and perceived social barriers to post-secondary education among DHH students were examined. Given the relative size of the population being studied, the sample included a small number of students. The goal of this study is to formulate recommended procedures that will increase the completion rate for these students. Statement of the problem The success rate, measured in terms of number graduated, for the Deaf and hard of hearing students at NWTC the past five years is extremely low. Steps must be taken to increase retention and completion rates for this population. NWTC has not previously investigated factors that contribute to the attrition of these students. An examination of student perception regarding academic and social barriers was necessary to provide information and insight as how to better serve this population.

8 8 Purpose of study One of the ongoing challenges faced by technical colleges statewide is the student graduation rate. Graduation rates have been used as a measurement of institution success, as an assessment of college performance and as a gauge of community worth. Student retention is critical for the post-secondary institutions. There were eight DHH students who are included in this study. Of those eight students, one has graduated. This low graduation rate is a concern for staff members of the Special Needs Department ofnwtc. The staff members of the Special Needs Department are in agreement that steps be taken to combat this issue and to increase the completion rate for DHH students. It is necessary to uncover students' perceived barriers and find strategies that better assess students' academic readiness to complete program requirements and implement appropriate measures that may lead to an increase in their rate of graduation. The purpose of this study was to examine issues that may contribute to the low graduation rates ofdhh students and based on the findings, recommend possible improvements to better serve this population. Perception regarding the academic and social barriers to education the DHH students over the past five years were analyzed. Semi-structured interviews collecting student opinion were used to folidulate recommendations regarding possible changes to the intake process as well as a plan for follow-up services. Research objectives The infolidation gleaned in this study addressed possible reasons that Deaf and hard of hearing student success rate is lower than non DHH students. Recommendations for both the intake process and follow-up services were suggested. 1. What are the perceived academic barriers that contribute to attrition and noncompletion of degree programs for the DHH population at NWTC?

9 9 2. What are the perceived social barriers that contribute to the attrition and noncompletion of program for the DHH population at NWTC? 3. Determine if these academic and social areas of concem are being identified during the intake between the student and colulselor. 4. Determine if this population is utilizing the recommended accommodations. Importance of the study The main reason for this study was to examine the relationship between graduation rates and academic and social barriers DHH students face. Graduation rates state wide are low, lower still for students who have special needs and unacceptable for Deaf and hard of hearing students at NWTC. That is why this researcher chose to focus on the Deaf and hard of hearing population at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. The rate of non-completion for this sub-group is high and an examination of possible reasons for this situation must be researched with the hope that some of the issues will be addressed. Another reason to address the lack of success for DHH students at NWTC is that the economic outlook today makes post secondmy education imperative. Studies have shown the unemployment rate for DHH individuals without a college degree is 24% (Boutin, 2008). Furthelmore, job competition is strong and an appropriate degree may be the one thing that sets one apart from other applicants. Individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing must already contend with cultural obstacles, and most likely communication deficit, which makes the completion of a degree integral in the search for a cm eer.

10 10 The cost of post-secondary education is an important factor to consider as well. Regardless of how individuals pay for their schooling, the return on investment is greater for students completing their technical college programs, allowing them to become positive contributors to the economic vitality of their community. Implications of the findings may help to provide feedback as well as a means for change in following students' progress. These changes could better serve this population of students. Limitations of the study 1. One of the limitations of this study is the lack of previous research done on the issue of completion rates among DHH college students. The limited research that has been completed was conducted through Gallaudet University, a leader in liberal education and career development for DHH students. Their findings are not clearly generalized to a public institution that focuses on career and technical education. 2. This study examines a special population, defined as Deaf and hard of hearing students. There has been no research of that focuses on this student population at NWTC; therefore, there is no previous data which to compare. 3. The small sample size was limited to NWTC DHH students enrolled in the past five years. The results are not applicable beyond the context ofnwtc. 4. There are numerous factors that playa role in the retention of students and this study only examined DHH students' perceptions regarding academic and social barriers that they face at NWTC.

11 11 Definition of terms The following definitions of terms were adopted for the purposes of this study. Deaf and hard of hearing. Refers to those individuals who have a hearing loss that may range from mild to profound, and also use interpreting services as an accommodation. Individualized Education Program (IEP). A written plan for k-12 students who have disabilities. This plan is developed when a student is diagnosed with a disability and then reviewed and revised yearly. Intake process. The first meeting between student and counselor in which the two work together to review documentation, clarify needs and recommend accommodations. Graduation rates. The completion of either a one year technical diploma or a two year associate degree completed at NWTC. Special Needs Department. Department at NWTC that offers accommodations and assistance to individuals with documented disabilities. Test of Adult Basic EducationlT ABE. The entrance exam used by students who have individualized education programs from high school. Thin layer classes. Classes that serve to enhance reading and writing skill sets to prepare students for a general studies course in English composition or written communications. Under prepared learner. Students leaving high school without the necessary skills to be successful with college level work (McCabe, 2003).

12 12 Chapter II: Literature Review The purpose of this study was to examine factors that may contribute to the low graduation rates ofdhh students who attend NWTC. More specifically, the study examined these students' perception of the academic and social barriers to their education ofthe DHH students and their use of recommended accommodations. The following review of literature presents information regarding graduation rates, underprepared learners, and Deaf culture. Graduation rates Graduation rate is one of the most salient measures used to gauge the success of programs at the post-secondary level. Low graduation rates continue to be an area of concern in many academic arenas, and the technical college system is no exception. According to the Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count data, commlmity colleges serve close to half of the undergraduate students in the United States, (Achieving the Dream, 2009), the data lists 126,779 post-secondaiy students in Wisconsin alone (Association for Career and Technical Education, 2009). The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) includes 16 technical colleges and 53 campuses (Education Sector, 2009); the estimated overall graduation rate for students in the WTCS is 39%, (Match College, 2009). One contributing factor to the rate of graduation is the preparedness of the learner. A 2004 progress report published by ACT states that "only 22 percent of the 1.2 million students tested were prepared for college-level courses," (Wilmer, 2008). It is often the case that college students, especially at the beginning of their academic career, are not independent, self-regulated learners, (Cukras, 2006). Many incoming students are not succeeding at the post-secondai'y level. Career devclopment issues may also contribute to the lower graduation rates. Career development researchers pay little attention to the career experiences and planning of

13 13 individuals with disabilities (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2009), thus individuals do not have a clear plan in place when embarking on post-secondary education. Some of the obstacles faced in these educational pursuits may be confronting attitudinal barriers based on misinformation, discriminatory beliefs, overcoming generalizations formed as a result of being labeled disabled or handicapped, having a lack of role models, having underdeveloped social or interpersonal skills and lack of a positive self-concept (Niles & Harris-Bowlsbey, 2009). Underprepared learners Over the years enrollments at technical colleges have continued to increase. Whether these increases have been due to a weak economy, re-training needs or the changes in technology that are forcing workers to return to school in order to update skills, low graduation rates are an area of concern. There are numerous factors that contribute to low graduation rates at the technical level According to an article in the Community College Review, college readiness is one of seven national education priorities cited in The results of a national study of community education show 41 % of students beginning community colleges are underprepared in at least one of the basic skills of reading, writing, and math (Byrd & Macdonald, 2005). Debra A. Derr, vice president for learner success at Madison Area Technical College, stated in a report for Recruitment and Retention, that they "are seeing the number of students who are underprepared for the rigors of college growing at huge rates," (2006, p. 7). ACT published a report in 2004 that claimed that many high school students are not ready for either college or work (Wilmer, 2008). According to Robert H. McCabe, in his book titled, Yes We Can! A Community College Guide for Developing America's Undelprepared (2003), nearly half of all students entering community colleges are underprepared. In her dissertation, Perceptions of Classroom Dynamics

14 14 by Developmental Studies Students at a Two Year Technical College (2006), Daisy Walker Davis divides the underprepared learners into seven important categories: Poor choosers: this includes students who made poor choices when deciding their academic futures and these choices had a negative impact; Adult students: this group includes students over the age of 25 and those who have been out of school for several years. These students may have to balance different demands in their lives: family responsibilities, job responsibilities and those responsibilities that come with entering the academic world; Students with disabilities: this group includes those students who have physical or learning disabilities than may hinder them from learning at the same pace other nondisabled cohorts may learn; The ignored: this group includes those students who may have undiagnosed learning disabilities; Limited English proficiency students: this group includes those students who have a primary language other than English; The users: this group consists of those students who attend post secondary education for the financial benefits they receive. These students may not have a specific goal as to a career choice; The extreme case: this group includes those students with severe emotional psychological or social problems that can be barriers to their ability to successfully complete comses at a level consistent with higher education.

15 15 Deaf culture It is difficult to compile an exact number of DHH in the United States, and while health statistics estimate that 36 million adults have hearing issues (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2009), this number includes a wide range of hearing loss and not solely those individuals who identify themselves and Deaf or hard of hearing. Of these individuals, approximately between] 1 and 30 percent inherit their deafness, yet fewer than 10 percent have Deaf parents (Padden & Humphries, 1988). Deaf culture has a rich background and history complete with language, rituals, tales, performances and social encounters (Padden & Humphries, 1988). Language is just one element of this culture. In 1761, the first school for the Deaf was founded in France and in 1817, a Deaf teacher from this school helped to establish a similar institution in the United States. It was here that French Sign Language and the student's own gestural system merged to become American Sign Language (Padden & Humphries, 1988). American Sign Language is a fully recognized language, complete with its own grammar and syntax. However, it does not translate, as a written language. Deaf individuals are expected to learn to read and write English, thus giving rise to a bilingual approach to learning. English is not the first language of many DHH students, making competing in the education arena more difficult. Goldin-Meadow and Mayberry claim that studies indicate Deaf high school graduates have an average reading level of 4th grade and an average math level of 6 th grade (Fraser, Hansmann, & Saladin, 2009). These numbers coincide with the U. S. Depruiment of Education reporting in 1999 that up to 75% ofdhh students do not complete college programs, (Boutin, 2008).

16 16 An important aspect of Deaf culture is the sense of belonging that transpires with membership to this group. Belonging to this group means members not only share language but they often have many of the same experiences with family life, education, and the issue of oppression (Fraser, Hansmann & Saladin, 2009). This strong social environment and sense of belonging are components that are not only crucial in Deaf culture, but also in the education arena (Taylor & Myers, 1998). Elaine Taylor and Mark Myers from Northwestern Connecticut Community-Technical College presented a best practices workshop outlining practical suggestions and resource information for solutions to common challenges that some DHH students face at the postsecondary level According to their research, intensive orientation programs help students adapt more effectively to college life. Furthermore, effective communication assessments and effective remedial learning plans enhance post secondary success for DHH students. Individual motivation is another critical aspect related to success (Taylor & Myers, 1998). This research indicated that these best practices for DHH students need to begin at the start of the students' career continue throughout their program with the end result in mind.

17 17 Chapter III: Methodology The purpose of this study was to examine factors that may contribute to the low graduation rates ofdhh students who have attended NWTC in the past five years. More specifically, the study examined these students' perceptions of the academic and social barriers to their education and their use of recommended accommodations. This chapter will describe the methodology, subjects, instrumentation, and data analysis used to conduct this inquiry. Description of research method The research design for this study was descriptive. The design solicited information as to the perceived level of academic barriers among the Deaf and hard of hearing students, determined perceived barriers of education these students face and evaluated their use of recommended accommodations. A survey methodology was used. More specifically, an interview topic schedule was developed and administered to gather perceptions regarding the academic and social barriers that impede success. A document review that included the subjects' TABE scores and first semester grade point averages was implemented to characterize their academic achievement Lastly, data gathered was collected with the aid of interview topics to address the research question regarding social ban'iers and the subjects' use of accommodations. Subject selection The subjects for this study were eight of the 15 DHH students who have attended NWTC in the past five years. Individual interviews were held at NWTC. Each interview lasted approximately one hour. Each subject determined the time of day the interview was conducted to best fit the daily schedule.

18 18 Instrumentation Six interview topics were used and each topic was supported by probes to be used as needed (see Appendix A). The interview schedule featured a series of open-ended topics that were designed to gather infonnation regarding academic barriers, investigate the perception of barriers faced, and the utilization of recommended accommodations. Data collection The data was collected through the use of semi-structured interviews. Tbe interviews took place at NWTC between August 10,2010 and September 24,2010. The researcher took notes during these interviews. The sessions were also recorded. Oral (signed) histories were taken using open ended topics that provided the subjects freedom to report their personal experiences, problems, challenges and perceptions. Pilot-testing The survey technique was initially pilot tested with three DHH students who were attending NWTC. The results of the pilot test were used to review and refine the instrument as well as the implementation procedure. Data analysis The data collected from the interviews was reviewed by the researcher. The six main topics that were discussed were: high school career, academic barriers, social barriers, Deaf culture, the intake process at NWTC and recommended accommodations. The signed interviews were then written in narrative form, coded and sorted for common themes.

19 19 Chapter VI: Results The purpose of this study was to examine factors that may contribute to the low graduation rates ofdhh students who attend NWTC. More specifically, the study examined students' perceptions of the academic and social barriers to their education and their use of recommended accommodations. This chapter will present demographic infonnation about the subjects that participated in the study. It will also present the information collected to address each research question. Research Design A survey methodology was used. More specifically, each subject was interviewed and relevant documents were reviewed to gather the data needed to address the following research question. Research objectives 1. What are the academic barriers that contribute to attrition or non-completion of program for the DHH population at NWTC? 2. What are the perceived social barriers that contribute to attrition or non-completion of program for the DHH population at NWTC? 3. Determine if these academic and social concerns are being identified during the intake process. 4. Determine if this population is utilizing the recommended accommodations. Demographic information The subjects who participated in this study included eight NWTC students, three females and five males. Six of the respondents were Caucasian and one was African American and one

20 20 was Asian American. The eight subjects have been attending NWTC ranging from five to 12 semesters. On the Test of Adult Education (TABE) entrance test scores, one respondent scored eighth grade, third month (8.3) on the reading portion of the test, and a sixth grade, zero month (6.0) on the language portion of the test. One of the other subjects scored a fourth grade, sixth month (4.6) in reading comprehension, and a fifth grade, eighth month (5.8) in language usage. The TABE scores for another subject were ninth grade, sixth month (9.6) reading and fifth grade, sixth month (5.6) in language. A reading score of sixth grade, sixth month (6.6) and seventh grade, eighth month (7.8) language usage were the entrance scores for one of the subjects. A reading score of eighth grade, eighth month (8.8) and a language score of sixth grade, third month (6.3) were recorded of one respondent. Another subject eamed scores of eighth grade, fifth month (8.5) in reading, and ninth grade, eighth month (9.8) in language. One respondent transferred to NWTC with enough credits to waive the TABE testing, so there were no scores to report. The remaining subject posted TABE scores in reading and language of eighth grade, sixth month (8.6) and twelfth grade, ninth month (12.9) respectively. The first semester grade point averages for the eight students were: 1.0, 1.1, 1.8, 1.8, 1.9,2.0,2.0, and 2.9. These grade point averages did not account for classes dropped or withdrawn, merely completed classes at the end of the first semester. Academic Barriers The first question examined the perceived academic barriers DHH students have faced at NWTC. Academic experience in high school regarding course work, time spent on homework and overall grades were discussed. The subjects each described a typical week at NWTC with regard to course work and time spent on work outside of class.

21 21 The first respondent noted surprise at the amount of time required to spend doing homework for courses. The amount of reading, while not excessive, was time consuming. Reading information one time was not sufficient to understand the information well enough to achieve a satisfactory test score. Reading has been a challenge throughout this student's education career. Respondent one mentioned that the online course option seemed like it would have been a good way to take classes, however, it did not go as smoothly as planned. Taking classes at home was a challenge. If there were questions regarding the assignment, it was frustrating trying to get an online response in a timely manner. Respondent one stated that it was not always easy to get a point across to other students via on-line modes of communication. Group work is a required portion of the curriculum in some courses. The first respondent acknowledged that other students did not always feel comfortable interacting with a Deaf student and/or did not understand the process. Frustration was reported with the number of times the respondent had to remind both the instructor and students not to direct comments to the interpreter, but to instead speak directly to the Deaf person. Echoing the sentiments of the first respondent, the second respondent acknowledged the amount of reading required was more than expected. Respondent two admitted struggling with reading comprehension and did not read for enjoyment. Here too, much time was spent rereading and not "studying". Although this respondent's high school transcripts showed above average work, the NWTC entrance test scores did not support previous grades. Respondent two expressed the most frustration with written work. Claiming good grades in high school in English classes, this student could not write well enough to pass an English composition course at the post-secondary level. After meeting with the instructor and being told

22 22 it would be impossible for the subject to pass the course, a withdrawal was offered. Respondent two was upset and angry that previous teachers never gave the impression that work submitted was anything less than satisfactory or that it was any different from other student work. The third respondent reported no educational barriers to education here at NWTC. Coming from a large high school and taking college prep courses fully prepared this student for the rigors of post-secondary education. Respondent three admitted to not spending much time on homework and not doing well in some classes, however, when the time was taken, this student achieved above average grades. Respondent three was very clear about accepting full responsibility for all course work, and emphasized that there were no educational ban'iers faced. The f0u11h subject reported shock at the amount of reading that was required at the postsecondary level. The expectation was, being a technical college and pursuing a degree in a technical field, there would be only hands-on work. This respondent did not anticipate that the general studies courses would be a vital part of the degree. Again, reading the material one time was not sufficient for learning the infonnation and large chunks of time had to be set aside for homework. The program that the fourth subject chose to study was one in which both critical thinking and problem solving were vital to one's success. The respondent admitted that there was little, if any, investigation into the program outcomes prior to attending NWTC. As the first member of the family with the 0pp0l1unity to attend college, there was a great deal of pressure to pursue an education beyond high school. Respondent four readily admitted that it was more the act of going to college, than the careful consideration of a plan that was the case. The fifth subject moved to Green Bay from a very small town in northern Wisconsin in order to attend NWTC, The high school attended was quite small, creating a situation in which

23 23 most students have known each other for most, if not all, of their school life. This was not the case at NWTC and respondent five reported having a difficult time adjusting to this new environment. As in most previous interviews, the amount of reading required was tmexpected. This subject also had planned on a strictly hands-on learning environment and did not understand the need for communication and writing courses. Much of the work in the fifth subject's program was team related. This person reported difficulties in managing communication within the team at times. During class there was always an interpreter present, however, if the groups decided to meet outside of class time andlor off campus, other arrangements had to be made. This caused some frustration and tended to result in the work being divided into individual tasks that were brought together at the end for the final presentation. Subject five felt that the new vocabulary was a challenge. It was one thing to be able to successfully master the hands-on portion of a skills test, but once again, reading comprehension levels made written tests difficult. There was extensive program specific vocabulary involved and respondent five acknowledged that it was a struggle to comprehend it all. The biggest barrier for the sixth respondant was not the communication within the program, but the number of presentations students were required to give. The group work was not a problem, as much of class and work time was spent in a computer lab area and typing back and forth was a clear and efficient way to communicate. The biggest obstacle was the presentation portion of the class. Various interpreters were assigned to cover classes in this program, and not having one interpreter for all classes, there was a knowledge gap between the classes and information gleaned in each. Respondent six reported that although aware of the option of scheduling time with an interpreter to practice any and all presentations, the option was

24 24 thought to be too time consuming and it was not utilized. This lack of presentation practice lead to presentations not being as smooth and professional as they could have been. Subject seven adamantly reported no academic barriers at NWTC. As a university transfer student, this respondent made it clear that NWTC was not a first choice and was merely a lay-over in the education plan. The eighth respondent admitted to struggling academically in high school, and was concerned about the amount of independent work required at the post-secondary level The high school experience of this subject included a great deal of reliance on teachers to assist in keeping track of assignments, due dates, test reviews and reminders. Time management and intrinsic motivation were two areas this subject rep011ed deficiencies. Although subject eight divulged a love of reading, the majority of books enjoyed were below grade level Subject eight described feeling uncomfortable with the many required presentations in the course of study. There was an emphasis on communication which entailed speaking in front of a group and leading meeting type situations that this subject had no prior exposure. Respondent eight verified that these were not skills previously practiced and the comfort level of performing them was not high. Social Barriers The second question examined the perceived social barriers this group faced. Inquiries regarding class participation and communication styles were reviewed. Outside responsibilities in addition to education were discussed. Respondent one reported dissatisfaction with the level of knowledge regarding Deaf culture, how to effectively use an interpreter in the classroom, and the basic nuances of interacting with someone who is Deaf. It was noted that even late in the semester some

25 25 instructors seem surprised when the interpreter responded to a question, the instructor would then respond as if the interpreter was a participant in the conversation, forgetting that the interpreter was voicing the responses of the student. This is a situation that had been discussed more than once. Group work was a component of course work that caused frustration. The first respondent disclosed that other students did not consider ideas or suggestions. There is a time lag when working with an interpreter and during some group work the conversation moved so quickly that by the time the concept was interpreted and a response had been formulated and voiced, the discussion had moved ahead. Respondent one mentioned that in most classes there were no other DHH students in classes. At NWTC there were few Deaf peers to offer social support. For respondent one, social barriers to education also included personal situations. As a single parent, children's needs were the priority and education was secondary. Respondent one acknowledged the importance of education. However, at this time in life, parenting was the priority, which meant that at the end of the day there was not always enough time or energy left for school work. Time management was a skill this student intends to become dedicated to mastering. While the second respondent did not mention barriers between instructor and student, similar complaints with regard to group work were reported. In order to simulate job experience, at times group work was handled without an interpreter present. This situation allowed for the DHH student and the hearing students to work through communication issues and to establish a plan to accomplish group goals. According to respondent two, other students did not want to take

26 26 the time to write back and forth, which was one way to accommodate group work discussion. This technique slows down the pace of the conversation, yet allows for communication access. The second respondent reported family responsibility as an additional barrier to education. This subject discussed the feeling of social isolation and of not fitting in, as one element that hindered learning. Respondent two identified not having a social support system as a detriment to education. There has been a small contingent ofdhh students who has attended NWTC; therefore, the number of peers is very limited. This lack of support continued outside of school as well. The social support received from family and Deaf peers was not adequate, as these peers have not attended post-secondary institutions and could not fully appreciate the situation and the challenges being faced. The third respondent cited work schedule as the biggest social obstacle faced at NWTC. A full time work schedule required this student to register for only evening courses, thus the availability of the required courses was not optimal. In addition, the respondent was consistently the only DHH student enrolled in all classes. Group work was a challenge for this student as well; however, the issue was slightly different. Respondent three identifies as hard of hearing and does not use an interpreter for voicing needs. This student relied heavily on lip reading. During group work, it was reported that the other students forget that respondent three was hard of hearing and tended to talk at the same time, which made both lip reading and interpreting difficult. As a first generation college student, subject four admitted to feeling pressure to succeed and also reported feeling guilty for not being home to assist with the family run business. Each Friday meant a trip back home and a weekend of work with the family. Returning to Green Bay late Sunday evening did not leaving much time for weekend study. At home, family members

27 27 could not relate to the pressures of school, and at school the respondent mentioned that very few new connections were made due to the weekly trip home. This situation created the lack of a support system in either location. Respondent five acknowledged that being the only DHH student in the program was a challenge. In this trades program, instructors seemed uncomfortable with the difference in communication styles, as well as the addition of an interpreter in hands-on labs. There was a lack of Deaf culture awareness on the part of both instructors and other students in the program. Another challenge was the number of different interpreters at NWTC. Coming from a small, northern community, this subject worked with the same interpreter from kindergarten to high school graduation. Having one interpreter for many years created an unusual situation in which the interpreter became more like a family member than part of the support staff. The difference in style, expectation and level of assistance given by staff interpreters at NWTC was an adjustment. The sixth respondent made it clear that social interaction among the students and teachers was not a concern. This subject attended a public high school and was mainstreamed in all coursework in high school. This subject reported being comfortable with working with hearing peers and instructors and has been able to make accommodations that work at the post-secondary level. The pressures for this subject came from outside the school environment instead. As a single parent, school could not be the number one priority. Childcare issues and time management were challenges this student faced. This respondent admitted to having an active social life. Weekends were times spent with friends rather than on extra study time. All assignments, projects and studying were done solely at school.

28 28 The seventh respondent acknowledged frustration with attending a technical college when the original goal was to graduate from a four-year university. Not wanting to be part of technical college environment meant not getting involved in the various activities, and thus not making the connections that many students make at post-secondary institutions. As a hard of hearing individual, this subject was comfortable working with hearing students durin& class and had no issues working in groups during class time. The eighth subject was also hard of hearing, but in this case, admitted to not feeling comfortable working with other students. This student felt uneasy working in group situations. This student reported the desire to get involved in post-secondary activities, but socially did not feel comfortable doing so. Little effort was made to acquire new friends as this respondent felt there was little in common with other students in the program. Intake process The third question addressed the intake process and the options outlined at that time. Subjects were asked to explain their first meeting with an NWTC counselor. The first respondent had been taking classes at NWTC for five semesters, including one summer session. During the initial intake the basic accommodations for DHH students were outlined: interpreters, note takers, the option of alternative testing room, and extended test time. There was no discussion regarding perceived baltiers or cone ems of any SOli. Respondent two had been attending NWTC on a part time basis for 12 semesters. Interpreting services and note taking services were requested and alternate test sites were discussed, but there was no discussion regarding academic struggles or concerns. The meeting focused solely on disability documentation and aecommodation requests.

29 29 Respondent three had been attending NWTC part time for nine semesters. There was no recollection of any discussion regarding education or social barriers. The focus of the meeting was related to NWTC services. An accommodation plan was established. This plan had not been reviewed since the first meeting. The fom1h subject had been attending NWTC full time for five semesters. Accommodations were discussed during the initial intake meeting. There was no inquiry as to possible barriers, either academic or social. This respondent was not asked about preferences related to accommodations, the accommodations were merely outlined. The fifth respondent had been attending NWTC for five semesters. Coming from a small high school and having had only one interpreter the entire school career this respondent believes an explanation of the role of an interpreter at the post-secondary level would have been beneficial. General accommodations, interpreting services, testing accommodations and note taking services were reviewed. A plan was established that included only interpreting services. Respondent number six had been attending NWTC for ten semesters. No conversation regarding barriers was reported. The accommodation plan was outlined, and interpreting and note taking services were scheduled. The seventh subject was in the fifth semester at NWTC. As a transfer student, the discussion during the intake process focused on specific course requirements. An inquhy was made as to previous accommodations utilized, however, there were no probing questions related to perceived barriers or feelings associated with this move to NWTC. The eighth student had been attending NWTC for five semesters. The details of the intake process were not readily recalled. The differences between high school and postsecondary courses were discussed, and interpreting services were assigned. Even though this

30 30 respondent admitted to feeling nervous about being successful in post-secondary education, there was no additional discussion. Recommended Accommodations The foulih question examined the accommodations that were being utilized by each subject. Regardless of the program course, the one recommended accommodation that all eight subjects did utilize was sign language interpreting services. This was the only accommodation that was requested universally. In addition to interpreting services, the first respondent used a note taker for classes and tests were taken in the Special Needs Office with extended test time. The second respondent used note taking services and testing accommodations. An interpreter is the only service that respondent three utilized. Respondent three identifies as a hard of hearing student and preferred not to use note taking services. Subjects four and five utilized only interpreting services. Respondent number six requested note taking services, and testing accommodations, however, testing accommodations were only used in general studies courses and not program courses. Respondent seven requested no service other than interpreting. Subject number eight utilized both testing accommodations which allowed for extended time and the option to take the test in a distraction free setting as well as note taking services for all classes. Summary When asked about perceived academic baniers, four of the eight respondents noted frustration with the amount of reading required at the college level. The same four admitted struggling with reading comprehension. Two respondents did not note any academic barriers. One respondent repolied communication during presentations the biggest obstacle. One subject cited the amount of independent work required to be the biggest obstacle.

31 31 With regard to social barriers, the responses of two of the subjects echo the sentiments of the research by Kyle and Pullen (1988) in that they feel they are misunderstood, to some extent. In addition, there are no DHH role models or leaders at NWTC in which to gamer support. Social isolation and lack of peers were two reported issues. Most of the subjects discussed the problems associated with the coordination of group work in one fonn or another. There is a gap in knowledge of Deaf culture and etiquette on the part of both staff and other students. The intake process at NWTC focused on disability documentation and an accommodation plan. There was no discussion regarding either academic or social barriers to education or concems in general. The eight respondents all utilized interpreting services. Five subjects accepted the note taking accommodation for classes. Two subjects chose to test in an altemate location for all classes, and one utilized an altemate testing location for general studies classes only. Communication and Deaf culture issues were the predominant barriers that were expressed during the interviews. Whether the subject was identified as Deaf or hard of hearing, most respondents felt that one barrier was the lack of awareness regarding Deaf culture in the classroom.

32 32 Chapter V: Summary, Discussion, Conclusions and Recommendations Summary The purpose of this study was to examine factors that may contribute to the low graduation rates ofdhh students who attend NWTC. More specifically, the study examined students' perceptions of the academic and social barriers to their education and their use of recommended accommodations. This chapter will include a brief summary of the study, conclusions and recommended actions as well as a final discussion. The subjects in this study were eight Deaf or hard of hearing students who were currently attending NWTC. The study was descriptive, as a survey methodology was used. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews. The interview schedule was administered and documents regarding academic achievement, including TABE scores and first semester grade point average, were reviewed. The interview schedule was used to gather the data to address the research question regarding social barriers and use of accommodations. The researcher established an interview schedule featuring a series of open-ended topics that were designed to gather information regarding academic preparedness, solicit perception regarding the academic and social barriers faced, and review the accommodations utilized. This study sought to address the following research questions: 1. What are the academic barriers that contribute to attrition or non-completion of program for the DHH population at NWTC? 2. What are the perceived social barriers that contribute to attrition or non-completion of program for the DHH population at NWTC? 3. Determine if the academic and social barriers are being identified during the intake process.

33 33 4. Determine if this population is utilizing the recommended accommodations. The results were used to identify the salient themes, patterns and relationships among academic preparedness, social barriers to education and accommodation utilization. The results were used to propose recommendations that may better serve DHH students who attend NWTC in the future. Discussion Some of the DHH students who have attended NWTC were not prepared for the rigors of a technical college curriculum. After reviewing the TABE test scores of the eight subjects, it was noted that five of the eight students had scores below the college standard 7.8 benchmark for admission to programs in at least one area. Although all students have been admitted to a program, a learning plan requiring some remediation may be beneficial in promoting future success. At NWTC there are options available to students whose reading and writing skills need to be strengthened. The basic skills lab is a facility in which students with low T ABE scores can remediate in a staff monitored self-paced environment. In the basic skills lab, students work through a series of computerized workbooks that focus on aspects ranging from spelling and grammar to reading comprehension. A new progranl has been recently piloted for those students whose TABE scores fall between 4.0 and 8.9 and could be instrumental with remediation for students. The Reading Academy is a four part program that emphasizes alphabetics, fluency, vocabulary enhancement and comprehension. This non-credit course employs lecture, individual workbook lessons, group activities, and learning strategy work as methods for learning. Although the evidence suggests that many of these students have had a long history with issues of trained helplessness and social

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