Expectations of ability and disability at university: the fine art of managing lives, perceptions and curricula

Hammer, Sara and Werth, Shalene ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4113-6823 and Dunn, Peter and Lawson, Kym and d'Abadie, Danielle (2012) Expectations of ability and disability at university: the fine art of managing lives, perceptions and curricula. In: Beyond binaries in education research. Routledge Research in Education. Taylor & Francis (Routledge), New York, NY. United States, pp. 211-220. ISBN 978-0-415-88512-6


The impact of a disability or chronic illness plays a major role in decision making regarding many life choices including education options. Studying with chronic illness or disability is about making choices and decisions. It is also about negotiating the reactions of others to what is a rather personal condition. Research has shown that outward manifestations of chronic ness or disability are often viewed differently by others from how they are experienced by those who experience it. The experiences of a disability or chronic illness at university are influenced by the perceptions of others such as friends' support, academic, and administrative staff members. This in turn complicates the binary, examined in this chapter, of the appearances
and expectations of ability or disability.

This chapter discusses the findings of the first year of a three-year study currently underway at the University of Southern Queensland, Australia. It focuses on the learning journeys of students with chronic illness or disability and the impact of the appearances and expectations of ability and disability on these students. Thirty-three students have been surveyed and interviewed to assess these research questions. The preliminary findings have uncovered two major themes that resonate with students' positioning in relation to the ability/disability binary. Firstly, students in the study regularly transcend the ability/disability binary by actively managing their needs as part of their individual learning journeys. Despite their activism, student responses highlight the inherent difficulty of managing simultaneously their studies, the perceptions of others, and a sometimes unpredictable condition. Unexpected calls for assistance against a background of unproblematic achievement can lead to academic and support staff questions about the veracity and validity of their needs. The second theme relates to academic standards. From responses, it is dear that students in this study operated within the confines of the ability/disability binary where their perceptions of meeting academic standards were concerned.

The chapter concludes by briefly examining two possible strategies to support students in transcending the ability/disability binary. The first is to offer students greater choice in terms of both pathways through curricula and the curricula themselves. The second related strategy is to provide academic staff with greater support to design curriculum and assessment alternatives that provide students with greater choice without undermining desired learning objectives and standards.

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: © 2011 Routledge. Permanent restricted access to paper due to publisher copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Learning and Teaching Support Unit
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2011 03:30
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2017 01:24
Uncontrolled Keywords: chronic illness; disability; education; higher education research
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130312 Special Education and Disability
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3904 Specialist studies in education > 390411 Special education and disability
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939903 Equity and Access to Education
Identification Number or DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203816608
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/19193

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