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Heap (2013), completed a collective case study, which focused on the perceptions and implementation of self-advocacy from educators of students with disabilities. This study was a qualitative research study, and focused on four educators’ perceptions and implementation of teaching self-advocacy. The educators served different roles within the same school. The study
looked at the time preparation, implementation, and reflection as it pertained to teaching self advocacy of these four educators.
The reason Heap (2013) pursued this research project, was because of the gap currently in the available literature between educators’ perceptions of self advocacy and how the perceptions affected the educators’ practices. Additionally, there was even more of a lack of research around how educators with different roles perceived and addressed self advocacy with students with disabilities. Additionally, the desire to see how the different roles perceived self advocacy resulted in Heap (2013) seeking to thoroughly understand each educators role and an in-depth understanding of their individual experiences, resulting in the desire to conduct a collective case study. According to Heap (2013), the purpose of the study was to
identify the perception of four educators (an administrator, a counselor, a general educator, and a special educator) within a public secondary educational setting on teaching self advocacy to students with disabilities and strategies taught (p. 9). The research collected revealed themes and patters, which explained these four educators’ perceptions and expectation, and how these affected their behaviors in supporting self advocacy of students with disabilities.
Four research questions were used to help guide the research study. 1) What do educators perceive students do in order to self advocate? 2) What are educators’ experiences in developing student self advocacy? 3) What roles do educators perceive they have in developing self advocacy of students with disabilities? 4) What actions and behaviors do educators demonstrate to encourage self advocacy amongst students with disabilities? (Heap, 2013, pp. 10-11). The anticipated benefit of seeking to answer these questions while conducting the research was to be able to help address potential issues educators may have when they seek to implement self advocacy instruction with students with disabilities (Heap, 2013).
The data collected in the research study was collected through interview, observations, and through other documentation which was made available to
the researcher. Data revealed that behaviors either helped students recognize their limitations, wants, and needs, or helped students set goals or act towards obtaining resources (Heap, 2013). Additionally, these behaviors were either directed towards individual students or a group of students (Heap, 2013). The data revealed, the administrator showed both behaviors by almost half of what the counselor, general educator, and special educator did; however, the special educator was the only educator which had considerably more instances of helping students to set goals or act towards obtaining resources than helping students recognize their limitations, wants, and needs (Heap, 2013).
All educators used similar strategies for teaching self advocacy to students. These strategies included “positive reinforcement, direct instruction, graphic organizers, modeling, inventory of performance levels, and inventory of expectation” (Heap, 2013, p. 84-85). While each educator used all of these strategies, it was noted that the counselor used more positive reinforcement, direct instruction, and inventory of performance levels than other educators. Likewise, the special educator utilized graphic organizers and modeling more than other strategies. Heap Dissertation Analysis
Heap (2013) did an excellent job of providing support for the decision to select a qualitative research design over a quantitative research design. Furthermore, the decision to specifically use a collective case study to create a greater understanding of why a phenomenon occurs instead of the decision to use a more quantitative approach to form generalizations about a phenomenon. Heap (2013) also understood in order for this study to be reliable and valid, the potential for bias needed to be addressed.
Heap’s (2013) research study had a lot of detail throughout the document; however, the flow of information was difficult to follow. The table of contents was provided to help guide the reader in identifying where the information was in the document, but the use of headings and subheadings could have been done in a manner which was more effective in helping the reader follow the author’s train of thought and the data being presented.
Doing so would have broken down the information in a manner where the reader could locate what they were looking for and decipher the information better than when presented in a larger section.
Additionally, several of the sections appeared to simply repeat other portions of the document which may not have been necessary. For instance, there were two sections of the document which addressed the matter of limitations. The first section mentioned some limitations of the methodology selected, but the second limitation section in the results portion of the document was vague. This limitations section of the document appeared to simply restate how participants were selected for the study and the setting of the study itself. There was no mention of how this may have impacted the study or its ability to generalize the results to another population, so it is unclear as to why the author appeared to present this information again. Likewise, there was no mention of any specific limitations by the author in this section at all; however, every research study will have limitations despite any precautions put into place which can and should be noted.
One of the limitations Heap (2013) recognized was the potential for information collected in the observation portion of the study to potentially be skewed as a result of the participants knowing they were being observed. While they were observed in their natural environment as much as possible, they was still the potential of this awareness creating some additional level of stress on the participant. Additionally, it is possible for the participants to have altered their behaviors during the times of observation because they were aware of the study being conducted. Heap (2013) did attempt to minimize this by conducting an interview following the period of observation.
Lastly, the information presented by Heap (2013) was written in a manner where the style of the writing was not consistent. For instance, there were a number of times when the information was presented and the author would go back and forth between first and third person. Another example would be the use of headings and subheadings in some sections of the document were not utilized enough, while other sections did use headings more effectively. As
a result of these inconsistencies, the flow of reading the dissertation was difficult to follow at times. Heap Dissertation Personal Application
After reviewing the dissertation completed by Heap (2013), there are a number of things which can be gleaned by the reader regarding completing a dissertation. Most importantly of which is the need to ensure the style and manner in which the information is presented is consistent throughout the entire document. Doing so brings about a level of continuity to the document and makes the flow of the document more readable and easier for the audience to read and process the information. Similarly, the proper use of headings and subheadings can help to further communicate information clearly to the reader about the research.
Another application gleaned from the way in which Heap (2013) wrote this dissertation is the need to ensure the details provided within the document are both thorough as well as precise. Sections which provide too little information are vague and make it difficult for the reader to follow the research process. Ambiguity in the writing also leaves the intent of the research and the relevance of the research to the current literature as well as the field of education as a whole in question.
A final application gleaned from Heap (2013) in the area of conducting a research study is in regards to addressing ethical issues. Heap (2013) acknowledged the potential stress to the participants and the influence this may have on the data being collected. There was an effort made to minimize the impact of this stress on the participants as much as possible and to also preserve the data being collected. This included ensuring the identity of participants remained confidential, and keeping all research data in a locked file. The importance of preserving the rights of the participants was also upheld by informing the participants they could withdraw from the study at any time, and the data collected from the participant would be destroyed. Likewise, when conducting any research, it is important to inform the participants of their rights, including the right to withdraw from the study, as well as the right to privacy, and the steps taken to ensure confidentiality of the data they may share with the researcher.
In regards to application within the academic environment, the research study provides support for the use of self advocacy within the classroom environment when working with students with disabilities. First, educators in various roles can help support students with disabilities through the use of self advocacy strategies. This may include helping a student to identify resources to meet their needs, or encouraging them to effectively communicate their needs and wants to others around them. Secondly, educators should participate in training on self advocacy methods and how to use them within their specific roles. Doing so will help educators to be more confident and effective in encouraging student self advocacy.
A third application, would include helping students and their families by knowing the laws related to the education of students with disabilities, and helping to provide resources for the student and their families on these laws and rights. Doing so helps to build rapport with families and creates a collaborative effort towards helping students to self advocate. Lastly, as an educator, be open to continually research the area of self advocacy both its methods and problems with practice, as well as how self advocacy might be influenced by the cultural differences of students and their families. More specifically, how self advocacy may be communicated as well as received by different cultures can help an educator to better meet the needs of the student without applying his or her own cultural filter.