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Understanding our Differences is a nonprofit organization based in Newton, Massachusetts and a national leader in disability awareness education with a mission to educate communities to value and accept people of all abilities through school-based, interactive disability awareness programs.

Understanding Our Differences provides unique, interactive disability awareness curricula that teach children to see the whole person and better understand the disability. The Understanding Our Differences program educates schools and communities and fosters respect and inclusion for people of all abilities.

The curriculum covers Blindness and Low Vision, Deafness and Hard of Hearing, Autism, Physical Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, and Chronic Medical Conditions including Allergic Conditions, Asthma, Diabetes, and Epilepsy.

Each unit is organized around fundamental components including: informational session; support video; small group activities; guest speaker.

100 Walnut Street | Newton, Massachusetts 02460

Project Summary:

Project Title - Program Evaluation: Changing Children's Attitudes About Disability

Project Description (text in blue summarizes the goal of the project):  

Understanding Our Differences provides in-class programs to elementary school children to build respect for fellow students and others with physical, sensory or developmental disabilities and to reduce bullying, name-calling and intolerance.

UOD's half-day programs address Blindness and Low Vision, Deafness and Hard of Hearing, Autism, Physical Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Learning Disabilities, and Chronic Medical Conditions including Allergic Conditions, Asthma, Diabetes, and Epilepsy. These programs feature people with personal experience with these conditions who speak with students, describe their life experiences and answer students’ questions.

Educational experts such as Dr. David A. Fleishman, Superintendent of Schools, Newton, MA, Jen Price, Head of School, Buckingham Browne & Nichols and parent volunteers have testified that Understanding Our Differences helps build inclusive schools and communities. In an era of increased intolerance and incivility, UOD knows that teaching our children to value others with different experiences, conditions and capacities can enable them to be better students and to make their schools better places.

However, Understanding Our Differences wants to go beyond testimonials to more precisely and carefully measure the impacts of its programming. By doing so, it can learn what aspects of its activities are most effective, and the environments and audiences where its programs are likely to have the greatest impact. 

Quantifying the effects and impacts of programs is an important activity for nonprofit organizations, and it is especially challenging in this case to conduct program evaluation with young children. UOD seeks to develop a methodology for measuring and analyzing the efficacy of its educational content and programming on attitudes and values.  Data could be collected from students, classroom teachers, UOD adult volunteers and school administrators through surveys, interviews and focus groups, in-person observations and administrative records. The overall goal is to design an ongoing data gathering and analysis process using both qualitative and quantitative data that will inform program design and demonstrate impact on the understanding of disabilities and related social behaviors of elementary school students.

This work is relevant to decision science and analytics professionals for two reasons. First, the expansion of data analytics to uncertain and dynamic contexts in which data collection has been challenging is increasingly providing insights not previously available.  After all, much of the data we generate in order to support processes are generated by humans, whose understanding and awareness is not always mediated by technology. Second, while methods for modeling and supporting individual decision-making using qualitative data have been a part of the decision analysis literature for over 40 years, the growing use of, and demand for, rigorous measurement and sophisticated decision making tools is increasingly important for value-driven non-profit organizations as they seek to both demonstrate and expand their impact.

To this end, Understanding Our Differences seeks capable, experienced, compassionate, creative and empathetic decision science and analytics professionals to collect data, build processes and perform analyses that will enable UOD to broaden, deepen and generalize its work with young children on behalf of those with disabilities.


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