Factors Influencing Academic Performance of Students With Special Needs in Institutions of Higher Learning
Students with disabilities face diverse challenges in institutions of higher learning which greatly affect their access and full participation in academic programmes. The purpose of this study therefore is to find out factors influencing the academic performance of students with special needs in middle level colleges in Machakos County. The study was guided by the following four objectives: To establish how family background influences the academic performance of students with special needs, to establish how attitudes of students with special needs influence their academic performance, to investigate how infrastructural facilities influence the academic performance of students with special needs and to determine how instructional strategies influence the academic performance of student with special needs in middle level colleges in Machakos County. The study adopted Albert Bandura‟s Social Cognitive Theory which emphasizes on the importance of self efficacy as critical elements in human behavior and motivation and Equivalency theory by Simonson which states that distance education programmes can be designed to provide appropriate learning experiences for each student based on their unique needs. Survey research design was used to gather data from the two inclusive middle level colleges. The sampled population of the study included 79 students with special needs and 72 tutors from the two institutions, a total of 151 respondents. Purposive sampling was used to select the two public middle level colleges that admit students with various special educational needs. Purposive sampling was also used to select all the students with special needs from the two institutions as well as their tutors. The research instruments used for collecting data were mainly questionnaires. For the purpose of this study, three sets of questionnaires were prepared, questionnaires for the sighted students, brailed questionnaires for the visually impaired students and questionnaires for the tutors. The questionnaires were piloted by the use of split-half method. Collected data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version2.0 and reported in form of frequency tables and percentages. Regression analysis was carried out to test the hypotheses. The findings indicated that family background, adapted classrooms and extra notes and hand-outs influence the academic performance of students with special needs in middle level colleges in Machakos County. The study recommends that the various legislations enacted such as the Persons with Disabilities Amendment Bill (2007) be enforced in all learning institutions. It was also recommended that distance education as a flexible mode of study be utilized as one way of addressing the specific and unique educational needs of students with disabilities so as to improve accessibility. Lecturers and support staff be given mandatory basic training on disability training and that library contents be availed in electronic formats as well as braille. The findings will be useful in institutes of higher learning to assist in creating a disability friendly learning and physical environment as well as helping to create confidence as well as a can-do attitude in the students with special needs. This will lead to more students with disabilities enrolling and excelling in higher education.
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