Shattered Assumptions: Examining Discrepant Perceptions of "Reasonable" Accommodations Among Faculty and Student Nurses with Disabilities

Friday, 28 July 2017: 2:50 PM

Rose Schwartz, PhD
School of Nursing, Widener University, Chester, PA, USA
Geraldine Bloemker, PsyD, MA, MS, MA
Undergraduate Academic Affairs, Widener University, Chester, PA, USA


The purpose of this study, which combined case study and content analysis methods, was to examine and begin to highlight features characterizing the interface between the assumptions of faculty members and student nurses with disabilities (SNWDs), as those assumptions regard implementation of academic accommodations.


The investigators used explanatory case study method and content analysis to examine how the Theory of Shattered Assumptions (Janoff-Bulman, 1992) helped to explain the responses of both faculty and SNWDs endeavoring to address teaching and learning from their respective viewpoints. Used to categorize data emerging from a systematic review of the literature, the steps in the process included investigator identification of ; the assumptions of both faculty and SNWDs; the character of the ‘traumatic events’ precipitating clashes of assumptions; the process of disillusionment and change often seen to demarcate the experiences of both faculty and SNWDs; the ways both faculty and SNWDs might process newly recognized data about the accommodation process; and routes to rebuilding relatively more congruency between and among faculty and SNWD assumptions.


Systematic literature review suggested that both nursing faculty and SNWDs processed their academic accommodation experiences through the steps outlined in the Theory of Shattered Assumptions (Janoff-Bulman, 1992). The ‘traumatic event,’ that is, the process of implementing formally-defined accommodations, challenged the fundamental assumptions of both groups. Both faculty and SNWDs described disillusionment with the changes to their personal perceptions of what constituted the status quo in the nursing classroom. For both faculty and students, lack of knowledge about the Americans with Disabilities Act and conjoint interpretation of the term ‘reasonable accommodation’ interfered with abilities to modify fundamental assumptions. Moreover, as staff in disabilities services sought to support both faculty and students, they found themselves in the tenuous position of identifying and understanding the sometimes disparate needs of each group, while adhering to the law. Analysis demonstrated that although assumptions are not immediately changeable, nursing faculty and SNWDs are able to address concerns that will support them in negotiating reasonable accommodations. Review of literature suggests that faculty and SNWDs work through the steps outlined in the Theory of Shattered Assumptions as they address implementation of academic accommodations.


Although the original premise of the Theory of Shattered Assumptions addressed recovery from traumatic events, it has broad applicability in characterizing the struggle engaging nursing faculty and SNWDs as they try to engage with recommended academic accommodations. Through this presentation, the applicability of the theory of shattered assumptions will be highlighted, demonstrating how historical, hard-wired beliefs can be rebuilt through education, communication, interpretation, and resource support.