Essential support service components for students with learning disabilities at postsecondary institutions in North America: A consensus-based determination

Date of Completion

January 1998


Education, Special|Education, Higher




The number of students with learning disabilities (LD) accessing postsecondary institutions in both the United States and Canada has increased dramatically over the past several decades. Although similar types of services and service delivery practices exist across many campuses, little systematic planning has been incorporated into the development of these services for students with LD. Identifying the support service components that experts agree are essential for students with LD at the postsecondary level is a critical first step toward forming the empirical basis for developing a more cohesive service delivery system.^ This study employed a modified Delphi technique to systematically collect the opinions of a panel of experts over three iterations to validate components and procedures essential to the delivery of services to postsecondary students with LD. A questionnaire containing 113 service components was disseminated in Round 1 to a panel of 162 experts. The third round was completed by 131 participants for a total response rate of 81%. The experts included 49 Canadian participants and 82 U.S. members. Fifty-seven panelists represented two-year institutions and 74 were from four-year institutions. Descriptive data related to the expert panel was presented.^ Panel experts reached consensus on 89 support service components and validated over half of those components (55) as being "essential" (i.e., mean score $\geq$4.4 and at least 75% consensus). In addition, panel members rated three service components as nonessential. This Delphi technique also provided the opportunity for the expert panel to more clearly define areas of disagreement with regard to the 24 service components on which consensus was not achieved.^ The specific ways in which the consensus opinions of U.S. and Canadian experts and experts from two- and four-year institutions agreed or disagreed with respect to essential LD support service components was also examined. Results indicated that there were no significant differences. Findings related to this study and suggestions for future research were presented, including the use of these results to develop program standards for LD support services at two- and four-year postsecondary institutions throughout the U.S. and Canada. ^