Equity in education has become a common concern with a focus on positive attempts to achieve equity in different educational systems. With mixed ability classrooms being more diverse than ever by the increase number of students from several ethnic races and cultures, students with different ability and readiness levels, special education students and students from different socioeconomic background, educational equity gains new meaning and is more prompt than ever.

 

A big part of educational research all over the world aims at identifying effective instructive methods for mixed ability classrooms since mixed ability classrooms are perceived as the means to promote equity. Equity generally has been misinterpreted, its access to educational material and the equal treatment of students can only be a beginning towards equity itself, as equity must be seen in a more holistic way promoting simultaneously equity of results and equity of access, treatment and opportunity. Taking steps to educate students based on their interest, readiness and learning ability guarantees equity in education. Here teachers play the major predominant and crucial role to find develop differentiated strategy and methodologies to address the their diverse students.

 

One of these groups of learners whose access to knowledge and critical learning experiences is marginalized due to lack of research based instructional practices and societal misconceptions about their abilities is the students with Vision Impairment (VI). In spite of several educational policy reforms and progressive movements the doors of certain fields of knowledge have not yet wide opened for these learners. One of such fields is Astronomy a branch of science that address the celestia bodies and phenomenon. This is based from mathematics and physics but is rooted in human observation, an inseparable part of any science. But the same field of knowledge remains largely inaccessible for the VI learners due to societal misconceptions about their abilities on one hand as well as an abstract nature of the subject and high focus on visual representations for its transaction on the other.

 

Dr Kalpana Kharade and Dr. Hema Peese two of our high spirited faculty intervention program in this study was based on quasi experimental research design and took a mixed method research paradigm. 20 VI students of Standard sixth from two special schools for the students with vision impairment in Mumbai (Kamala Mehta School for the Blind girls and Victoria Memorial School for the Blind) were the participants of the study.

 

The students from Victoria Memorial were in experimental group while the students from Kamala Mehata were in control group. Two instructional designs based on four major themes namely:

  • Solar system and the Galaxy
  • Motion of Earth and its types
  • Occurrence of day and night
  • Reasons for the seasons were developed.

The experimental group was chosen for the instructional design based on Technology Based Inquiry Approach (TBIA) while the content for the control group was transacted by the traditional method.

 

 

5 E learning cycle (Engage,Explore,Explain,Elaborate/Extend and Evaluate) each representing stages of inquiry learning was evaluated using TBIA against the traditional method of teaching. The duration of each design was 6 sessions of 2 hours each. The study was conducted in 3 phases

  • Identification
  • Instruction
  • Evaluation

The pre and post test for conceptual understanding and pre and post surveys for the attitude toward Astronomy showed statistically significant differences between experimental and control groups.

 

 

The achievement level of the experimental group with TBIA was found to be significantly higher than the control group with a traditional teaching method; a similar statistics was observed for the attitude towards Astronomy. The results also indicated zero interaction effect of gender and curiosity about science on Conceptual Understanding about Astronomical Concepts and Attitude towards Astronomy.

 

The qualitative analysis revealed several challenges in using TBIA for making Astronomy content accessible for the VI learners at content , process and outcome levels which can be overcome with content accommodations, procedural adaptations, flexibility in evaluation and optimum use of assistive technology. The VI learners found the TBIA based intervention very effective and they attributed the success of the project to unquestioned trust shown by the facilitators in the abilities of the VI learners, enriching learning experiences provided by the research team and the partnering approach adopted by the team in organizing the learning experiences. The team was successful in attaining the set goal of helping the VI learners to reach the dream of journey to the planets and touching the sky.