To create more inclusive classrooms that recognize students’ neurodiversity, UB received a $ 293,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to create micro-credit training courses for computer science teachers.
The two-year grant will help improve the educational experiences of neurodivergent students who may have difficulty succeeding in courses designed for neurotypical students.
Neurodivergent people are people with neurological differences that affect the way they process information, communicate, and view the world. They include people with various neurological conditions, some of which are attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia, dyspraxia, and Gilles de la Tourette syndrome.
Micro-accreditations – a miniature course that provides training in specific skills – will be designed and tested by the UB Open Education Research Lab, an initiative to improve and expand the use of free educational technologies and materials.
By displaying micro-accreditations on their faculty profile, IT professors can show their preparation and willingness to learn more about student needs. Micro-accreditations also serve as an indicator of safe space by allowing neurodivergent students to identify faculty who are trained to meet their needs, as well as helping students choose mentors or choose courses, explains. Sam Abramovich, principal investigator of the grant and director of the UB Open Education Research Lab.
Neurodivergent students are often drawn to STEM career paths and possess characteristics that would make them valuable members of the US IT workforce, but drop out before graduation when they encounter practical misaligned teaching or instructors who discourage accommodations and supports for students with invisible disabilities, ”says Abramovich, associate professor of learning and teaching and information science, Graduate School of Education.
“These micro-degrees will give instructors the training they need to transform their practice and create a belonging ecosystem for neurodiverse undergraduate computer science students,” he says.
Additional investigators include Co-Principal Investigator Adrienne Decker, Assistant Professor of Engineering Education, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Rachel Bonnette, postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Learning and Teaching, Graduate School of Education; and Gregory Fabiano, professor of psychology, Florida International University.
The training will be co-designed by UB faculty and students, and build on a previous pilot course that improved the teaching methods of instructors educating students with ADHD.
Once completed, the UB Open Education Research Lab will publish the micro-degrees and curriculum on its website to allow other colleges and universities to freely access and update the tools.