Shelley was one of five students nationwide to win the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Storytellers challenge 2016. Each year this competition asks students to show Canadians how social sciences and humanities research is affecting our lives, our world and our future for the better.
When considering students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, especially as they move into secondary schools, it is not likely that they will be included in content area classes with peers (e.g. science, social studies, etc.). Instead these students are typically taught in separate settings without access to content area specialists or conceptually-rich curricula (Milsom, 2006). When and if students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are included, content area placements are rarely seen as creating learning opportunities with potential to benefit all students. This perception persists even though recent research suggests that inclusive classrooms do not negatively impact typical students (Jameson et al., 2008; Katz & Mirenda 2002; Salend & Duhaney, 2014). In fact, research indicates that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities play a meaningful role in the development of empathy and acceptance in their peers (Copeland et al., 2004, Peck et al., 2004). Additional research is needed to examine how including students with intellectual and developmental disabilities enhances the learning environments in which they are placed. In particular, we need to better understand whether and how meaningful learning of curricula becomes more accessible to all students when students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are included. To that end, my research will contribute by investigating how content area and special education teachers can collaborate to create rich learning opportunities for and with students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their peers in inclusive classrooms.
What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?
The further I go in my education career, I am seeing all the opportunities and doors that have opened that I could never have imagined or anticipated previously. I had no idea that education could have such diversity in paths, and so I'm excited to see what doors open up as I continue beyond my PhD program.
What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?
I have lived in Vancouver for almost 12 years now, and its gifts continue to shine. I have come to call this beautiful place home and am proud to live, work and play on this land. From the landscapes to the rich diversity and appreciation of all the many cultures and languages, Vancouver shows us how we can not just coexist, but value each other for what we bring. This philosophy shows right through to the education system, as we lead in embracing the strengths of learners and head toward changing paradigms to embrace this diversity.
Why did you decide to study at UBC?
UBC has always been a dream of mine to attend. Even in high school I knew that this institution was world class and had such an incredible reputation. I am so lucky to have the chance to work with such incredible supervisors and mentors who are connected to UBC as well. Deborah Butler, Leyton Schnellert, and Joe Lucyshyn are leaders in the field of inclusive education and supporting diverse abilities in all students, and they were another reason why UBC is a perfect fit for me.
What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?
Cross faculty inquiry is a perfect match for me because inclusive education needs to draw on so many areas for my research; special education, curriculum, literacy, self regulated learning and so many others. Being in CFI situates me in a space to be able to draw on these multiple sources of knowledge and expertise, and encourages educational systems to recognize inclusion as not just a special education initiative, but a framework and philosophy for educating all students.
What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?
I feel like education is making a huge shift in paradigm right now. We are evolving to see the value of strength-based learning and the detrimental effects that deficit-based education has caused over the many decades that it has been the norm. With 21st century learning, our definitions of what is success needs to include more people. We can no longer be striving towards a model where the goal of education is to replicate and duplicate "sameness" in individuals. With change, however, comes challenge. This shift will be hard for many - it is what most of us know and grew up in, and so shifting mindsets and practice is where I see a lot of research will be heading towards.
How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?
UBC is a leader in developing programs that support inclusion, diversity and 21st century learning. Whether supporting teachers to develop skills and attitudes to address the diversity of culture, language or ability, to keeping up to date with the role of technology in schools, it is a national hub for cutting edge research in how we can bridge the gap between research and practice of teachers and leaders in our schools and communities.
What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?
To be honest, the best preparation I had was not being successful. I didn't fit into the education box, and barely even made it here. But it is exactly this reason that drives me forward. I represent the many students who also think they don't have something to contribute to the world, and if I can help create more access for students like me to be successful without fitting into the "one size fits all" box of traditional schools, then I will have done my job.
What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?
I have the best dog in the world, who accompanies me to Tofino regularly to listen to the ocean, eat fish tacos and get foot massages. I will never turn down spaghetti and a good movie, and I will always appreciate my friends, who I may not see as often as I like, but will always pick up where we left off in listening to and laughing at the many adventures of Shelley Moore.
What advice do you have for new graduate students?
Time. Give yourself time. Everything takes longer than you think, and as one of my instructors Handel Wright said once, "You need to give yourself time to think!"