Date of Award



© 2016 Barbara Heard

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor

Brianna Parsons

Second Advisor

Michael Patrick

Third Advisor

Mitchell Levy


Studies show that active participation in science laboratory activities promotes student learning. However, students with blindness and visual impairments (BVI) often confront obstacles to active participation in the required activities of the college biology laboratory. Legislation requires institutions of higher education to provide accommodations for students with disabilities, yet the institutions must also maintain the academic integrity of their courses and programs. While college biology instructors provide specific accommodations, such as tactile models and audible devices, to enable active participation by students with BVI, they do so without research-supported guidelines for best practices. This mixed methods study sought to evaluate the effectiveness of the specific accommodations provided by gathering the perceptions of students with BVI who had successfully completed a college biology course, and college biology instructors who had taught a student with BVI. Data was collected entirely through researcher-developed, anonymous Internet surveys containing both closed- and open-ended questions. Effectiveness was evaluated by determining whether each student was able to meet seven criteria noted in the literature to be associated with active participation and student learning. Five students and 15 instructors participated. Specific accommodations were not provided for three students. Of the students provided specific accommodations, two met all seven criteria, 15 did not. Results of the study provided insight into methods for continued research evaluating the effectiveness of the specific accommodations provided for students with BVI in the college biology laboratory, and in the laboratories of other STEM disciplines. Study outcomes supported the importance of active participation by students with BVI in biology laboratory exercises, and were consistent with the need for advance planning, instructor professional development, and continued research. As more students with BVI realize success in the college biology laboratory, more may choose to pursue degrees in biology or other STEM disciplines, increasing the representation of students with BVI in the STEM professions.


Ed.D. Dissertation