Project Adapting College Classrooms to Equally Support Science Students (Project ACCESSS) will take an important and significant step towards increasing the impact of improved instruction in active learning courses, particularly for students with executive function disorders such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder. Active learning techniques have been shown to benefit the majority of students; however, the effects of these strategies have not been extensively explored for students with executive function deficits. Project ACCESS will identify barriers and supports experienced by students with executive function disorders in science courses using active learning. Furthermore, the project will help instructors develop strategies based on a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework that lead to improved learning for students with disabilities, as well as students overall; measure the effects of training on faculty implementation of these strategies; and disseminate successful strategies for supporting the learning of students with executive function disorders in active science classes.

The goals of Project ACCESSS are to stimulate improved instruction for students with disabilities and to generate knowledge about effective teaching strategies as well as effective instructor training models for postsecondary STEM instructors. The project will focus on designing strategies that support active learning in line with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) because UDL responds to the inherent variability among all learners. During the first year of the project, researchers will observe active learning courses and interview students with disabilities about their experiences in these courses to identify existing supports and barriers and develop recommendations for instructors based on UDL principles. In the second and third years, ACCESSS Learning Communities consisting of faculty and graduate teaching assistants in the physics and chemistry departments at the University of Central Florida will learn about and implement these recommendations. The ACCESSS project team will measure the effects of training on instructors’ implementation of UDL-aligned strategies and will examine student learning outcomes for students with disabilities as well as for students in other specific sub-groups, such as women, underrepresented minorities, veterans, and first-generation college students. Successful strategies developed through this project will be disseminated through existing university structures and partnerships, scholarship of teaching and learning projects by Learning Community participants, and scholarly presentations and workshops by the ACCESSS project team.