2018 IDEA Award Winner Q&A: Chad Nichols

Every year, the Curry School of Education awards grant funding to select students as part of the Curry Innovative, Developmental, Exploratory Awards (IDEA) Competition. Funded through Curry’s Research and Development Fund, this grant helps students advance both their careers and the field of education through the development of innovative research. This article is a part of a series that explores the winning 2018 IDEA projects and their potential impact on education.

Program Area: Kinesiology (Adapted Physical Education/Pedagogy)
Project: Using an Online Training Module to Improve Self-Efficacy of Physical Education Teachers Toward Inclusion

Can you give me a brief overview of what this project is about? 

For my dissertation, I created an online training module that provides practicing physical education teachers with practical knowledge and skills to help them include students with disabilities in their general physical education class. My dissertation research will focus on whether or not the online training module that I created was effective at (1) increasing knowledge on the characteristics of certain disabilities and how to make accommodations in physical education for those characteristics, and (2) increasing the teachers’ self-efficacy (essentially, their confidence in themselves) regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general physical education class.

Why are you passionate about this area of research?

I taught Adapted Physical Education for nine years, and one aspect of my job that I enjoyed the most was taking my students with disabilities into the general physical education class. It was great to see them interacting with other students and having a good time.

Where did the idea for this particular project come from? 

While I thoroughly enjoyed taking my students with disabilities to the general physical education class, I quickly realized that most of the physical education teachers in the schools, especially those at the elementary level, did not know how to make accommodations for my students so that they could be successful in the general physical education class. They lacked the knowledge and confidence to successfully include my students with disabilities into their classes. 

How did you decide to submit a proposal to the Curry IDEA competition? 

I was learning about writing grants with Dr. Michael Kennedy. He suggested that, in order to recruit a sufficient number of practicing physical education teachers to participate in my training model, it would be a good idea to compensate them financially. He suggested I look into ways to find funds that could be used to entice busy, overworked physical education teachers to take a few hours out of their time to participate in my online training module. Shortly after we talked about this I received an email from Curry announcing the IDEA competition, and I immediately knew I needed to apply.

What other people and organizations will be involved? 

In order to create the online training module I took three instructional design classes through Curry. These amazing professors taught me so much about how to create an effective, research-based online training module. My mentor, Dr. Block, has also been instrumental in the creation of the online training module. The online training module must go through a formative evaluation process before it can be used and a number of my professors and fellow students will assist me with this process.

What goals do you have for this project?

I would love for this online training module to improve the knowledge of disabilities among the participants, but more than anything I would love for the people participating in the online training module to feel more comfortable and confident include students with disabilities in their general physical education classes. An increase in knowledge and self-efficacy would make them more willing to include students with disabilities and would make them better at providing appropriate instruction for those students with disabilities once they are included.

How will the idea grant help you achieve those goals?

The IDEA grant will be a big help recruiting a sufficient number of practicing physical education teachers to participate in the online training module. The more physical education teachers that take the online training module, the more physical education teachers that have the knowledge and skills to include students with disabilities in physical education. It is a win for everybody!