The Hub Research explores barriers to K-12 education for sick children in Alberta

Research explores barriers to K-12 education for sick children in Alberta

By: Bryan Alary

Athabasca University partners in One Child, Every Child research collaboration

New research led by Athabasca University will explore ways to support the education of Alberta children dealing with serious illnesses, especially those from marginalized communities.

Dr. Marti Cleveland-Innes is leading a new research program that will explore how to improve access and limit learning disruptions for K-12 students living with chronic and complex illnesses. The study will look at barriers students currently face, while also evaluating potential supports such as learning accommodations and technological innovations.

“Education is critical not only as a knowledge developer, but also for whole-person development and socialization,” explained Cleveland-Innes, a professor of open, digital, and distance education in AU’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. “In many cases, there’s significant education deprivation that can occur for children who are ill.”

Focus on marginalized children

The initial two-year study, funded by the One Child, Every Child initiative, will focus on sick children from marginalized populations, including remote, rural, and Indigenous communities, as well as those experiencing or at risk of poverty or dealing with issues related to gender identity or race.

Cleveland-Innes and AU colleagues Dr. Levina Yuen and Dr. Eliana El Khoury, and Dr. Jennifer Lock of the University of Calgary, plan to work with the College of Alberta School Superintendents and home-school liaison officers to identify current barriers for students and to better understand existing policies related to longer-term learning disruptions.

Cleveland-Innes said little research exists about the effects of chronic and complex illnesses on learning.

“Anecdotally, if you speak to teachers, we’re hearing that there are higher rates of things like mental illnesses, but we don’t know yet whether those fall into the category of complex illnesses that stay with someone, or if it’s more of an emotional response to a particular situation like anxiety about a divorce, or when a parent is sick, or a family is financially strapped.”

Once the team has a better understanding of current barriers, they’ll explore possible accommodations as well as the role of technology in improving access so students succeed academically and socially.

“There’s no question that artificial intelligence will be on our radar as a potential consideration for support for some of these students,” Cleveland-Innes said.

One Child, Every Child

Funded by a $125-million Canada in First Research Excellence Fund grant, One Child, Every Child is a collaboration between Alberta’s research universities—University of Calgary, University of Alberta, University of Lethbridge, and Athabasca University—and more than 132 organizations from 25 countries.

Learn more about One Child, Every Child.

  • July 3, 2024
Guest Blog from:
Bryan Alary