Using eportfolios to increase job interviews in transitioning adult special education students from the classroom to employment: An Action Plan
As a career-long special education teacher, I see how special education students are taught in a system preparing students for college and career readiness. However, many of the students I have taught have dreams of cleaning, cooking, stocking, bagging, babysitting, or working in a particular store. These are sometimes considered first jobs and not lifelong careers. My responsibility is to facilitate learning and let students know the reality of their choices. This process starts with self-determination, advocacy and, goal setting. Educators have to give students tools to succeed and overcome any challenges, whether physical, psychological, mental, emotional, or intellectual. The students that I have taught through the years were all capable of accomplishing their dream, and my thought is that if they had all the appropriate tools, they could have a better chance at success. I believe eportolios is a way to help students sell themselves and show all of their positive attributes. The first impression will be different than if they had to enter an establishment and use their atypical body language, speech, or social skills to compete for a job. My job is to meet students where they are and help them accomplish their goals no matter their challenges.
Fundamental Research Question
ePorfolios are a tool that adult students can use to even the playing field when competing for employment. Disabled adults are employed at a third of the rate of their non-disabled peers. They are unemployed three times that of their peers as well. (U.S. Department of Labor 2020) Research for eportfolios is perceived as a positive employment tool amongst college students and recruiters. (Kulkarni & Kote 2014; Leahy & Filiatrault 2017) According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), all special education students should start transition planning to career, college, or independent living success at or before sixteen years old. However, if the student has a full course of classes to meet core and elective classes, it leaves very little to address their individual education plan. (IEP) The adult students in the Mosaic Program, an 18+ program that only teaches IEPs to address adult students' transition plans. These students only work on the skills needed to meet their goals. A portfolio is a tool that can increase job offers and career success.
In the research for this study, the assessments were all qualitative. Bryant, Chism, and Kahn all stated the need for more quantitative research to show the outcomes and results of the use of eportfolios. (2013 & 2014) All of the studies showed a positive response to portfolios in various settings. This study will add to the body of work in the realm of employment. I believe the portfolio can be a useful tool for all young adults. However, my focus in this study is only on adult students that receive special education services from ages eighteen through 22. The qualitative information gives me a baseline and format information to help the project's structure based on the methods that worked in the past.
Research Design. This study will be a qualitative study with the number of applications, interviews, and job offers recorded in two different classes. One class will use eportfolios in electronic applications or as a link in a follow-up email. The other class, the control group, will use traditional applications and a phone call or email follow-up as the method. I will take on the role of an instructor in the portfolio class, and a co-worker with similar students will gather the data within two classrooms.
Research Method. This study will use an email to inform my co-worker of the electric data sheet so she will also know the data collected (see Appendix A) in the study and the duration of the study. The questions are simple questions with a record of how many times each student applied, interviewed, and received job offers.
Data Collection and Analysis. The study will compare the data collected in my group and the control group to see if eportfolios increased job offers in my students. The data will compare the difference in percentages to see if there was a positive or negative difference in either category application, interview, or job offer for each student and then collectively as groups. This data will be collected for two nine-week periods before the data analysis.
Other Phases of Research.
After data is collected, I will evaluate the effectiveness of each step of implementation to improve the process the next school year. This reflection will enable me to discover what worked well in instruction, format, and execution to serve my caseload best to accomplish the goal of securing competitive employment.
Sharing and Communicating Results. This study will enable us to start a conversation about using technology to help our students accomplish either transition goals or IEPs in our program. Results will be shared with the Mosaic Leadership Team, my level team group, and my co-researcher.
Final Reflection. This study will give up an opportunity to develop another tool to help students accomplish their competitive employment goals. In my experience, I see employers that see my students as someone who can do one thing in their establishment. However, my caseloads have had spectacular people who became motivational speakers, entrepreneurs, sorters, office workers, housekeepers, Youtubers, fast food workers, retail associates, daycare assistants, exercise instructors, and entertainers homemakers. These jobs and careers may not seem like much, but they are the dream jobs of the adult students that I have and have taught.
The eportfolio is a new technology that has promised to help special education adult students level the playing field in the job. These students have many disadvantages, disabilities, and challenges in life. It is my responsibility to do all I can to help students show their level of ability first to employers to get more interviews and job offers. This study is the first step into developing the practices necessary to make this technology work for special education adult students.
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Bryant, L. H., & Chittum, J. R. (2013). ePortfolio Effectiveness: A(n Ill-Fated) Search for
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Department of Education. 2020, August. POLICY GUIDANCE: A Transition Guide to
Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities (August 2020). IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from A Transition Guide to Postsecondary Education and Employment for Students and Youth with Disabilities (Aug. 2020)
Kahn, S. (2014). E-Portfolios: A Look at Where We’ve Been, Where We Are Now, and Where
We’re (Possibly) Going. Peer Review, 16(1), 1–6.
Kulkarni, M., & Kote, J. (2014). Increasing Employment of People with Disabilities: The Role
and Views of Disability Training and Placement Agencies. Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 26(3), 177. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://doi-org.libproxy.lamar.edu/10.1007/s10672-013-9216-z
Leahy, R. L., & Filiatrault, A. (2017). Employers’ Perceptions of the Benefits of Employment
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