Dr. Julia Wilkins, assistant professor of education, and Dr. Elizabeth Lilly, associate professor of education at Presbyterian College have co-authored an article with three elementary education graduates recently published in “The British Journal of Special Education.”
The article, “Exploring Elementary Students’ Perceptions of Disabilities Using Children’s Literature,” was based on research conducted by the students, Shelly Rowan, Katherine Howe, and Maddie Seiloff as a part of their education capstone.
The study included 83 third- and fourth-grade students from three elementary schools in Clinton. After receiving parental and guardian permission, Rowan, Howe, and Seiloff read 12 picture books out-loud that featured characters with varying disabilities to the students.
“It was exciting and rewarding to see their growth as researchers during the study,” said Dr. Elizabeth Lilly, associate professor of education. “Additionally, their success as published authors is notable, as they were undergraduates at the time of the study.”
The teacher candidates engaged in four interactive read-alouds with students to determine if the portrayal of characters with disabilities in the books affected the students’ attitudes toward disabilities. They involved the students in a discussion about the characters and plots while reading. The sessions were then filmed and the transcripts were analyzed by the teacher candidates and education professors to identify themes in the students’ comments made during the discussions.
It was found that the students’ familiarity with a disability influenced their interest in the character and the story. Students also had richer discussions about disabilities when the characters were shown having to adapt to the environment as a result of their disabilities.
Rowan, Howe, and Seiloff are currently teaching in elementary schools in South Carolina.
Presbyterian College is located on a striking 240-acre campus in Clinton, between Columbia and Greenville, S.C. Offering challenging academics and a culture of honor, ethics, and service that prepares students to be leaders in communities, PC offers its students the benefit of engaging with an exceptional faculty who take individual interest in their students’ well-being, both personally and in the classroom. The Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy opened in 2010, and is dedicated to the ideals of leadership, honor to the profession, and service to the community. For more information about Presbyterian College, visit www.presby.edu.