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Image is everything: Educator awareness of perceived barriers for students with physical disabilities in geoscience degree programs

Mol, Lisa; Atchison, Chris


Lisa Mol
Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography

Chris Atchison


This exploratory pilot study builds on the image issues associated with geoscience degrees (namely physical geography and geology) and the potential obstacles this creates for prospective applicants with physical disabilities; departmental faculty may not be aware of the exclusive image projected that is thought to attract more students. While the industry has moved from field-based data collection to more office-based observation and interpretation of those data, universities still heavily rely on “adventurous geoscience” in their marketing, depicting students tackling challenging environments. The context of perception issues within the geoscience discipline is illustrated through selected program promotional materials, and student registration data. These issues were used for the basis of our study survey, sent out to higher education geoscience educators, which asked questions reading fieldwork and accessibility of the curriculum. These surveys were followed up with semi-structured interviews, investigating educator awareness of the perceived importance of fieldwork within the curriculum. The awareness of accessibility issues were connected with opportunities to lower perceived barriers sufficiently to encourage students with disabilities to apply for geoscience degrees. Outcomes of this exploratory investigation are hoped to provide the springboard for further conversations amongst the geoscience community.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Oct 2, 2019
Journal Journal of Geography in Higher Education
Print ISSN 0309-8265
Electronic ISSN 1466-1845
Publisher Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 43
Issue 4
Pages 544-567
APA6 Citation Mol, L., & Atchison, C. (2019). Image is everything: Educator awareness of perceived barriers for students with physical disabilities in geoscience degree programs. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 43(4), 544-567.
Keywords Geography, Planning and Development; Education
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope: http://www.tandfonline....ope&journalCode=cjgh20; Received: 2018-06-06; Accepted: 2019-07-25; Published: 2019-09-11