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Unpacking disability-related curriculum in the Language Arts classroom

Christa S. Bialka (Department of Education and Counseling, Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA)
Gina Mancini (Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School, Englishtown, New Jersey, USA)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 4 September 2017




The purpose of this paper was to understand what disability-related curriculum (DRC) looked like in the middle school Language Arts classroom. DRC refers to any curricular material and related pedagogical approach intended to address students’ understanding of disability. The authors drew on the experiences of three in-service middle school Language Arts teachers to understand what disability-related texts they selected, and why they chose to incorporate DRC into their classrooms.


The authors used a qualitative, exploratory multi-case design to understand the what and why underlying three middle school language arts teachers’ use of DRC.


Findings from this study revealed that teachers leveraged DRC to broaden students’ understanding of diversity, increase empathy and provide exposure to disabilities; teachers gathered resources both online and within existing curriculum; and DRC varied in curricular and pedagogical structure.

Research limitations

The results of this study are exploratory. Although the aforementioned findings are promising, they are limited, due to the small sample size and relatively homogeneous participant demographics. Additional research that incorporates a larger and more diverse sample of participants would serve to broaden, or potentially confirm, the results of this study.

Practical implications

The results of this study provide insight into current practice around DRC while illustrating some of the limitations that teachers may encounter when integrating this practice.


While Language Arts curriculum often explores diversity in relation to race or class, it rarely focuses a lens on disability. This study fills a void in current research by providing empirical data on how educators approach the design and implementation of disability programming in their respective classrooms.



Bialka, C.S. and Mancini, G. (2017), "Unpacking disability-related curriculum in the Language Arts classroom", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 161-177.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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