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Resident Directors' Understandings of Disability
Data Collection and Participants
Participants were recruited from small and medium private colleges and universities
on the West Coast that have liberal arts traditions and house at least 25 percent of
enrolled undergraduates in campus housing. A total of 32 RDs, from 17 different
higher education institutions, participated in individual semi-structured (Marshall &
Rossman, 2016) interviews. A table of pseudonyms and demographic information for
the RDs is included in Appendix A (see pages 69-70). The interviews averaged 84 minutes
and ranged from 50 to 98 minutes. After the interviews were audio recorded and
transcribed, transcripts were then coded iteratively, as described by Charmaz (2014).
Initial line-by-line coding was followed by rounds of focused and theoretical coding.
Memos were utilized to generate categories, and theoretical sampling was employed
to test for saturation of concepts and to assist in the development of themes.
Trustworthiness and Credibility
As suggested by Mills and colleagues (2014), memoing was conducted throughout the
data collection and analysis and assisted in documenting the fit and rigor of the analytical
process. Additionally, thematic and theoretical memos (Marshall & Rossman,
2016) lent credibility by encouraging constant reflexivity and analytical testing of the
ideas that emerged. Triangulation (Marshall & Rossman, 2016) was also conducted
throughout the later portions of the analysis by reviewing the available literature as
ideas were generated. Themes were also triangulated through conversations with RDs
and other campus housing professionals to assess whether the analysis was coherent
based on their experiences in the field.
FINDINGS
The study revealed an emergent theory of active tension marking the ways that RDs
think about, and work with, concepts and issues related to disability. These tensions
existed particularly at points of conflict between individual RDs and the RD role and
responsibilities. Through the analysis, the theory of active tensions between individuals
and systems emerged in five distinct themes: (1) resident directors' development
of their understandings of disability, (2) reactive approaches to disability, (3) the incongruity
of requirements related to students' needs and accommodations, (4) questions
of accommodations, and (5) siloed disability expertise.
Developing an Understanding of the Breadth and Individualization of Disability
The resident directors described their understanding of disability as having expanded
over time and explained that their work with individual students helped them develop
a broader understanding of what might constitute disability and the ways in which it
might appear. Though they described their past educations as limited in the extent
to which they engaged with topics of disability, they credited a variety of experiences
within their RD positions as having contributed to more developed understandings
of disability.
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