Ph.D. students create unique disability studies website for classroom teachers


women smiling with computer

Classroom teachers everywhere can access a new website on the topic of disability studies created by a group of doctoral students and faculty from the College of Educational Studies. The team included, from left, Audri Gomez, Aja McKee and Litzy Ruiz. Also on the team but not pictured is Meghan Cosier, Ph.D., a faculty associate in the College of Educational Studies.


Created by doctoral students and faculty from the
College of Educational Studies,
a new website is designed to be a resource for classroom teachers who may not have backgrounds in disability studies but increasingly need those skills.

The Disability Studies in Education Professional Development Website
was recently launched by working educators enrolled in the Ph.D. in Education Program, each with an emphasis in disability studies. As special education specialists and teachers in the community, they were aware that regular classroom teachers were hungry for more information about meeting the unique needs of youngsters who previously would have been placed in separate classrooms and programs.

“A lot of the local school districts are moving to an inclusive model,” said Web team member Audri Gomez, a special education teacher in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and an adjunct faculty member in the College of Educational Studies.

But most teaching programs do not have time to provide more than just an introduction to disability studies, so the free website is aimed at filling “what we felt was a gap,” Gomez said.

The educators assembled a series of 11 modules that users can explore in a suggested order or according to whatever topic may be most timely in their school or classroom. Topics range from individualized instruction strategies to parent-school relations, as well as discussions about the history of and contemporary thinking about disability studies. Videos, podcasts, further reading links and resource lists are offered throughout.

Rather than create a textbook, the team opted for a website because the online availability allows teachers to freely access it and dip in and out as they have time, said Litzy Ruiz, an assistant professor of special education at Azusa Pacific University.

“We felt like it was a good tool that they could access at their convenience,” Ruiz said. “And we can continually update it.”

Indeed, the team envisions the website being a unique home for continuing conversation and information about disability studies, with opportunities for users to submit research, essays and proven classroom practices.

“A lot of teachers are looking online for new strategies and teaching tools,” Ruiz said. “We think it’s important to get the word out there.”

Dawn Bonker

Dawn Bonker

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