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Experiential Learning in the McKay School: Special Education

What is experiential learning in the McKay School of Education?


Many of the professors in the McKay School do research on various topics in education.

They often invite undergraduates to be part of their team of research. These students have opportunities to analyze and collaborate about research articles, design and conduct research projects, and attend research conferences. This form of learning emphasizes hands-on, practical experiences as a primary means of acquiring knowledge and skills.


Let's hear about some experiences with experimental learning from students in the Special Education program! All these students do research with Dr. Beth Cutrer in the Counseling Psychology and Special Education (CPSE) department here at BYU!


Jessica Jespersen:

"BYU recently granted me the opportunity to attend the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities Conference in Hawaii. I have been doing research with Dr. Beth Cutrer for a while and when some of her research projects were accepted into the conference, I was blessed to attend. While I was there I viewed research and attended lectures given by professors and principals from around the world. Spending an entire 3 days learning from others about their research and experience within special education was the most eye-opening and fulfilling learning experience I have ever been given. 

The research presented by BYU students was about culturally adapted bibliotherapy. They had studied stories and their impact on children in American Samoa and analyzed the effects culturally adapted stories had on the learning and growth of these children. With this research in mind, we attended the Polynesian Cultural Center, where it became even more evident that culture matters, stories matter, and most importantly, individuals matter."


Ashley Roberts:

"I have been doing research with Dr. Beth for a few months now, and I love it! One of the projects I am assigned to work on is to create behavioral trainings for special education teachers. These trainings are specifically on the best procedures to help change problem behaviors in students with disabilities. We are planning to present and practice this information with special education teachers and students in American Samoa this upcoming summer!

I served the majority of my mission in Micronesia, and I often saw the way that children with disabilities were hidden and shunned from others in the islands. I am excited to have an opportunity to help children on America Samoa reach goals that others may not have seen possible for them."


Mary Crawford:

"Doing research for Dr. Beth has been an enlightening job. Not only is she a fantastic professor by organizing her class well and teaching excellently, but she also knows so much about about research and leads many research projects in our program because everyone wants her to be their mentor.

I have learned about the different types of research and specifically work on interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) projects. I have been working on projects related to women’s studies. My day to day looks like analyzing transcripts from focus groups and pulling quotes that align with common topics. We take those common topics and draw conclusions about groups of women based on shared experiences. We hope to publish the results and make a difference for this group of women by demonstrating their needs for certain accommodations.

I also gathered every IPA article imaginable about a topic and organized them to begin a meta-analysis of the existing literature. I have learned so much from reading about the experiences of women from my same demographic and hope to be able to make a difference with the research we are doing."


If you are interested in learning more about experiential learning or anything in the McKay School, reach out to a student ambassador here!

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