Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Michael M. Grant

Second Advisor

Tammi D. Kolski


Students with disabilities are struggling to meet expectations in science at the national and local level. Many studies have linked difficulties with science content to difficult and technical vocabulary, and this has been evident at the local level, too. To try to improve science instruction for students with disabilities, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the implementation of computer-assisted science vocabulary modules with students with an intellectual disability and autism in an adapted environmental science class. This study aimed to answer how the implementation of computer-assisted vocabulary modules, which adhere to evidence-based practices of special education vocabulary instruction, affected the acquisition and application of science vocabulary terms with students with an intellectual disability and autism in an adapted environmental science class, as well as how the students were engaged in the computer-assisted instruction activities.

This study implemented an action research design. The participants in this study included three students (n = 3) who were diagnosed with a moderate intellectual disability, autism, and a speech/language impairment who attended a weekly adapted environmental science class at their self-contained school. The students participated in computer-assisted vocabulary modules which included computer-assisted instruction features, vocabulary strategies including keyword mnemonics and graphic organizers, and the special education evidence-based practice of explicit instruction. The modules were developed surrounding the topic of photosynthesis, using Gagne’s nine events of instruction, psycholinguistic/schema theory, and dual coding theory, as well as South Carolina-Alt performance level descriptors. The effectiveness of the computer-assisted vocabulary modules was measured through data collection which included a pre- and posttest, formative assessments in each module, the Classroom Measurement of Achievement Engagement, and a researcher’s journal. The data collected were analyzed using a convergent parallel mixed methods design. The findings of this study suggested the use of computer-assisted instruction and evidence-based explicit vocabulary instruction could improve science vocabulary acquisition and active engagement in instruction for students with an intellectual disability and autism.