PODCAST: Incorporating disability studies curriculum in teacher education

February 20, 2020

While Washington has recognized October as Disability History Month for more than a decade — and schools are asked to honor the month in some fashion — teachers have had limited resources available to help them actually enact disability studies curriculum in the classroom.

A recent partnership between University of Washington teacher educators, Washington state’s Office of the Education Ombuds and Disability Rights Washington is working to change that. Last year, the UW Accelerated Certification for Teachers (U-ACT) program piloted a course that embeds robust disability studies into the preparation of teachers.

In a new podcast, doctoral students Sarah Arvey and Boris Krichevsky discuss their work designing that course, which draws on Washington state’s "One Out of Five: Disability and Pride” project and its curricular resources that center the voices and stories of youth with disabilities and disability culture and activism (download transcript). Arvey and Krichevsky will present their work implementing the pilot disability studies course at the 2020 meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

The course was designed for certified K-12 general education teachers, all with two or more years of teaching experience, who were working to earn their master’s degree through U-ACT. At the beginning of the course, teachers discussed conceptualizations of disability both inside and outside classroom settings. Arvey and Krichevsky then introduced five lessons (e.g. disability history in Washington state, the intersection of disability with other social identities) and discussed how the lessons might map best to each teacher’s particular classroom. The teachers then taught and recorded one of the five lessons, followed by reflection on what they and their students learned.

Arvey and Krichevsky noted that U-ACT teachers in the pilot course demonstrated growth in how they think and talk about disability, while videos of teachers using the curriculum with their students showed promising moments of learning and community building.

After one teacher taught his selected lesson, for example, the experience was so powerful for both the teacher and his students that he proceeded to teach all five lessons.

“He then brought that to their principal so there were conversations in the school and more classrooms engaging in bringing the disability lens to their classrooms,” Krichevsky said. “We were really encouraged to hear that the teacher was beginning to impact some transformative change into their setting.” 

Since the pilot of the course, the initiative has expanded to now include U-ACT teachers working on their certification, nearly tripling enrollment. In addition, feedback from the first cohort is contributing to the continued refinement of the “One Out of Five” project.

“One of the exciting things is the way we utilized teacher feedback, both from watching videos and their written reflections, to also support the development of the curriculum,” Arvey said. “So this wasn’t a one-way street but really we were working together to ensure that the ‘One Out of Five” project also developed and was revised, and we added resources so that it better supported teachers based on teacher feedback.”

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Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu