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Continuing Education

[Online] Disability Studies: Investigating the Social Model for Disability and its Implications for Education

Date: April 6 Location: Online


Every educator will encounter disabled students and grapple with how to successfully foster learning, equity and inclusion in diverse classrooms and schools. This online course introduces Disability Studies in Education – a liberation movement discipline distinct from Special Education that offers unique insight into these endeavors.

Disability Studies, also called Critical Disability Studies, proposes that disability is contextualized in particular social, cultural and political environments, according to the acceptable limits of human variability in those environments. This contrasts with the “medical model,” which positions disability as a deficit inherent in an individual, to be rehabilitated, remediated or cured.

Disability Studies grew from a civil rights struggle and it intersects with other critical disciplines such as Critical Race Studies, Feminist Studies and Queer Studies, all of which foreground lived experience and de-center dominant narratives that cast particular individuals or groups as the “Other”. Disability Studies in Education (DSE) specifically investigates applications of Disability Studies to the field of education. With this in mind our inquiry will focus on how we may create embracive learning environments where all students feel equally valued and empowered, and how we may work to dismantle systemic barriers to equity and inclusion in education.

“One of the goals of Disability Studies in Education is to foster classroom communities to become purposeful in supporting how children find identity and value in themselves.”

- Read our Q&A with Instructor Denise Harrenbruck

Through assigned readings and communal online discussion among professional peers, we will investigate philosophical, pedagogical, and pragmatic approaches to dis/ability, equity, and inclusion in education.

Teachers, counselors, administrators, psychologists, specialists, and academics should all emerge from this course with the historical context, intellectual framework, and practical skills to deepen their professional practice and help promote social justice—both within the sphere of education and in the wider world.


Week 1: What is Dis/ability? The social/contextual vs. medical model.
Week 2: Historical Perspectives: Historical characterizations, ableist hierarchies, the disability rights movement.
Week 3: Analyzing Disability Narratives: Education law, school culture, curriculum and instruction. 

Week 4: Nothing About Us without Us: Lived experience narratives and counter-culture activity.
Week 5: Course Reflection: How Disability Studies in Education informs practice, Universal Design, embracive vs. remedial instruction, disability and diversity, inclusion successes and challenges, future directions.

Students will be expected to complete assigned readings and post written responses to an asynchronous discussion forum three times per week, but may do so on any three days and times of the week that best fit their schedule. 

Course Details & Registration

Dates: Monday, April 6 - May 10, 2020, Online
Instructor: Denise Herrenbruck

Graduate Continuing Education Credit: CEED-866, 1 semester hour, $350 (generally considered equivalent to 30 Professional Development Units for licensure requirements or salary scale advancement in education) 

Continuing education credit registration form (PDF)

  • *Please note: Completed registration forms containing social security numbers and/or credit card information should not be submitted via email. If you choose to pay by credit card, please mail or fax your registration to the Center for Community Engagement, using the contact information on the right-hand side of this webpage.

About the Instructor 

Denise Herrenbruck has been at the forefront of fostering inclusive education, in practice and in policy, for over 35 years. She earned her Master’s degree and dual licensure in General and Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Shortly afterwards she moved to Berkeley, California – a center of Disability Rights Movement Activity – and began her career working as a teacher, resource specialist, special education program specialist and adjunct college instructor during the 1980s and 1990s. After moving to Portland, OR, in 2000 she became an online college instructor for UCLA and University of San Diego, where she taught teacher licensure courses on inclusive practices before coming to Lewis and Clark. Denise is passionate about Disabilities Studies in Education as a liberation movement discipline that offers unique insight for inclusive practice and social justice work in education. She enjoys guiding students to clarify and strengthen their own passion and purpose as educators.


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