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New Seton Hill degree only fully online master’s degree in inclusive education offered in the country

The only fully online Master of Art in Inclusive Education degree offered in the country will be available to Seton Hill students beginning in January 2007. With the recent revisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, the impact of the No Child Left Behind legislation, and with the trend toward full inclusion of special needs students in the general curriculum, teachers are anxiously seeking skills to adapt curriculum to address the cognitive levels of all of their students. Seton Hill’s unique Master of Art in Inclusive Education will prepare teachers for classrooms that include students who are cognitively, ethnically and socially diverse through an online course of study that accommodates the schedules of working teachers across the country.

“When the Pennsylvania Department of Education asked for fully inclusive classrooms in the mid-90’s, Seton Hill responded immediately by creating classes and master’s programs – such as the Master of Arts in Special Education and the Master of Education in Instructional Design – to help teachers meet the needs of all of their students,” says Dr. Terrance DePasquale, dean of Graduate and International Programs at Seton Hill. “Now we’re seeing the first generations of students who attended inclusive classrooms in elementary school moving on to high school. While many programs have focused on the elementary school teacher, we’ve designed our new master’s in inclusive education to support teachers in all grade levels, from K- 12.”

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, the need for teachers trained in inclusive education is on the rise. Statistics taken from the Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis show that the need for K- 12 teachers equipped with the types of special education skills needed in a diverse classroom will increase 19% by 2012 nationwide. In Pennsylvania, the need for teachers equipped with the skills needed for inclusive classrooms in secondary schools alone will increase by 11%, only slightly less than the projected 12% increase in the preschool, kindergarten and elementary school levels combined.

Another distinctive aspect of Seton Hill’s new master’s in inclusive education is its focus on universal design instructional techniques. Universal design – sometimes referred to as design for all, inclusive design or barrier-free design – is an approach to the design of all products and environments to make them as usable as possible by as many people as possible, regardless of age, ability or situation.

“Universal design for learning was developed to extend the concept of instruction that embraces the diverse ways in which individuals learn,” says Dr. Sondra Lettrich, chair of Seton Hill’s Division of Education. “It does not imply ‘one size fits all’ but rather acknowledges the need for alternatives to suit diverse students. Teachers should select instructional materials that are supportive and inclusive of students who have wide disparities in their abilities to see, hear, speak and read. Universal design produces better solutions for all users by providing multiple choices.”

While master’s programs in inclusive education in the United States are exceedingly rare – only three others currently exist – no other programs are offered completely online. The online format of the Master of Arts in Inclusive Education is a perfect fit for educators as it allows for flexibility in an already busy personal and professional schedule. Experiencing first hand the instructional strategies and technologies utilized in a virtual classroom also provides educators with a pedagogically sound model they may emulate in the integration of technology in their own classrooms, whether those classes are taught in a traditional face-to-face format or at a distance.

“Teachers today have students who can podcast but don’t know what a rotary phone is,” says Dr. Mary Ann Gawelek, professor of psychology and dean of the faculty at Seton Hill University. “Not only do we need to help create a generation of teachers who are comfortable with the technology their students use, we need to help them to understand how indispensable a teaching tool technology is in the inclusive classroom.”

The new Master of Arts in Inclusive Education will be available at Seton Hill University beginning in January 2007. For more information on this program, or any graduate program at Seton Hill, please visit www.setonhill.edu, e-mail gadmit@setonhill.edu or call 724-838-4208 or 1-800-826-6234.

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Contacts:

Dr. Sondra Lettrich, Chair of the Division of Education
724-830-1010 / lettrich@setonhill.edu

Becca Baker, Associate Director of Media Relations
724-830-1069 / 724-689-3599 (cell) / bbaker@setonhill.edu