Enhancing Accessibility in the Geoscience: A Field-Based Workshop for Accommodating Students with Disabilities

  • Atchison, Christopher C.L. (PI)
  • Feig, Anthony (CoPI)

Grant Details


Participating in field-based learning experiences is a critically important activity during the preparation and training of future geoscientists, because it allows students to see complex Earth system processes at spatial and temporal scales that are difficult to emulate in laboratory or virtual environments. Participation in field-based activities can be particularly challenging, and in some cases insurmountable, for students with physical disabilities, thus creating significant barriers to the engagement and achievement of such students within geoscience education and career pathways. This project directly addresses the NSF and Directorate for Geosciences priority of recruitment of the future STEM workforce and broadening participation of students - including those with disabilities - in STEM disciplines generally and in the geosciences specifically.

This award is being used to convene a field-based workshop that will provide students with disabilities the opportunity to learn about the Earth in a natural setting, and for geoscience instructors to discover first-hand how to universally design their field courses to be fully inclusive of students with disabilities. There are two main objectives of this project: 1) conduct a completely accessible field workshop where students with disabilities and geoscience faculty work together to define the methods of inclusive field-based learning experiences while in the field; and 2) promote the workshop design, logistical planning, and research-based outcomes as a set of guidelines that will enable the broader geoscience education community to provide accessible field-based learning opportunities for students with disabilities on into the future. Prior research identifies three primary barriers as being: 1) Attitudinal (e.g., personal attitudes of staff, other students and the general public); 2) Organizational (e.g., course requirements, time constraints, institutional regulations); or, 3) Physical (e.g., site access, supporting materials). A group of 15 undergraduate students with disabilities and 15 faculty mentors will participate in the workshop, which is being held in conjunction with the 2014 annual conference of the Geological Society of America (GSA) in Vancouver, BC (October 19-22). Workshop student participants will be recruited from high school and non-declared college students, as well as veterans with acquired disabilities. The workshop will leverage the rich variety of 'sea to sky' geological terranes offered by the Vancouver region, with a focus on natural hazards. An external evaluator conducting pre- and post-workshop assessments will collect data to inform the development of the guidelines, which will be disseminated broadly within the geosciences community in conjunction with the Instructional Approaches to Access, Accomodation, and Inclusion in the Geosciences workshop being offered at a variety of venues. This field workshop will serve to broaden both public and academic awareness of geoscience as an accessible field of study and a viable career option for all students, regardless of physical ability.

Effective start/end date06/1/1411/30/14


  • National Science Foundation: $74,998.00


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