Document Type



The purpose of this qualitative study was to better understand how a community of practice for faculty in higher education might improve interaction and understanding between faculty and students with disabilities, therefore supporting engagement and retention. In this context, a community of practice is defined as a group of individuals who will come together to learn and support one another regarding use of accommodations for students under the current Americans with Disabilities Act (Section 504) and resources for students with mental health disorders. Research has shown there is an increase of students who have mental health disorders in higher education. Faculty wish to assist students but do not always have the resources to do so. While the literature often identifies the knowledge gap and the lack of engagement and retention of students who have mental health issues, limited solutions are offered. Faculty were placed in a four-week community of practice with a resource expert guiding them to better understand the needs of students with mental health disorders and their rights under the Disabilities Act. Analysis of transcripts of the sessions and member checking revealed that faculty felt more comfortable learning in the save space of the community of practice and felt that the resource sharing component was helpful. They were also noted to express a culture of acceptance toward students with mental health issues. On the basis of this initial study, it is recommended that community of practice models be used for higher education training. The safe space learning environment encourages sharing of ideas and concerns and assists faculty in working through nuances of their questions while providing ongoing support for one another, therefore benefiting the student population with their new and reinforced learning.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.


Published by ProQuest LLC. Copyright of the Dissertation is held by the Author. All rights reserved. This work is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code Microform Edition © ProQuest LLC. ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway P.O. Box 1346 Ann Arbor, MI 48106 - 1346