Using a thinking skills system to guide discussions during a working conference on students with disabilities pursuing STEM fields

  • Audrey C. Rule
  • Greg P. Stefanich
Keywords: students with disabilities, thinking skills, Edward de Bono, accommodations


Students with sensory or motor disabilities are often dissuaded from pursuing science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) careers. They are frequently under-prepared to succeed in post-secondary STEM coursework because of inadequate high school preparation and limited post-secondary accommodations. A two-day working conference stimulated dialog to improve attitudes toward, to better support, and to plan accommodations for students with physical disabilities in STEM areas. Discussion questions during the five small group dialog sessions that followed panels of speaker presentations were based on Edward de Bonos CoRT ten Breadth thinking skills. These thinking skills broaden perception so that thinkers might see beyond the obvious, immediate, and egocentric, precisely the type of thinking needed when addressing issues related to students with disabilities in STEM careers. These ten strategies encouraged conference participants to consider all factors (CAF), rate the plus, minus, and interesting aspects of ideas (PMI), think about other peoples views (OPV), generate alternatives, possibilities, choices (APC), list aims, goals and objectives (AGO)and then prioritize them (FIP), determine rules (Rules), consider consequences and sequels of actions (C & S), make a plan (Planning), and come to decisions (Decisions) in the context of the issues addressed by the conference. The CoRT Breadth thinking skills provided a robust structure for guiding meaningful discussions and are recommended for generating discussion questions for future working conferences. The ideas that were generated during discussions are reported so that readers who are secondary or post-secondary STEM instructors might consider implementing them in their classrooms and programs.