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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


From Disabled to Differently-abled: Personal Transformations Experienced by Pre-service Teachers Through Virtual Encounters with Children with Special Needs

Dr Kate Scorgie, Lorraine Wilgosh.

Transformational learning occurs when students engage in activities that challenge powerful assumptions about life and practice (Mezirow, 1997). Personal transformations are facilitated when classroom activities simulate actual life experiences, engage feelings and emotions, promote critical reflectivity, and encourage active involvement [Cf., Franquiz (1999), "interactional ethnography"].

This presentation will examine two transformational learning components that were designed for use in university level, special education teacher training courses. The Family Collaboration Project is a 9-week interactive simulation exercise in which Graduate level education students virtually "become" the parents of a child with special needs. The exercises, which involve extensive journaling, follow a developmental sequence in which students personally confront actual parent/family concerns and dilemmas, derived from our research with parents of children with disabilities (Cf., Scorgie & Wilgosh). Examples of powerful personal transformations experienced by class participants will be illustrated through examination of their journal entries.

In the second transformational learning component, secondary-level undergraduate special education students actively engage in developing instructional and curricular modifications, differentiating instruction for "virtual students" with a range of special needs. Examples of personal transformation of teacher attitudes toward the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular classrooms will be presented. Through these two transformational learning exercises, pre-service teachers have experienced transformations of negative attitudes toward inclusion to a realization that all children have abilities; some are just differently-abled.


Dr Kate Scorgie  (United States)
Associate Professor
Dept. of Graduate Education
Azusa Pacific University

Kate Scorgie (Ph.D., Department of Educational Psychology, University of Alberta) is Associate Professor of Graduate Education, Azusa Pacific University. Research activities include qualitative/quantitative studies of transformations experienced by parents of children with a variety of disabilities and transformational learning processes. Kate and Dr. Lorraine Wilgosh have developed an original model describing transformational processes and outcomes.

Lorraine Wilgosh

Dr Lorraine Wilgosh is a Professor, at The University of Alberta, Canada.

  • Personal transformations
  • Transformational learning

(30 min Conference Paper, English)