Tara Mason, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Inclusive Education
I am an Assistant Professor of Inclusive Education with over 15 years of special education and assistive technology teaching experience. I teach and advise students in the special education certification program here at Western. My special education public school background encompasses self-contained and resource classrooms working across K-12 special education. Additionally, I am a co-director for our Center for Teaching Excellence at Western. I came to Western to enjoy a mountain lifestyle with my family and work alongside a thoughtful and engaged university community.
My research interests are related to learning, accessibility and student empowerment; technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL); trauma-informed teaching practices; and equitable assessment practices used to diagnose student learning needs from a strength model framework. We need to celebrate student strengths and identities. One way we can achieve this is having tough conversations with teacher candidates about diversity and inequity in our schools, thereby empowering future educators to be student advocates and teacher leaders in their buildings.
I am primarily interested in collaborative research projects which partner with K-12 classroom teachers. I am well versed in mixed methods research with a solid foundation in quantitative and qualitative research methods and the design thinking process. My overarching research goals are to work with teaching teams to positively impact student achievement and engagement by implementing evidence-based special education instructional, curriculum and assessment practices and assistive technology using the framework of Universal Design for Learning (UDL).
Q&A With Professor Mason
How did you discover Western?
We were fortunate enough to move to Colorado six years ago from Austin, Texas. We love being in the mountains and enjoy outdoor sports. We feel lucky to have moved to Gunnison. It truly is the most beautiful place we have ever lived.
What are some of the highlights of your career?
I have been in the field of special education for over 15 years. During that time, I have worked with hundreds of amazing students, teachers and educational leaders. Some highlights from my career thus far would be securing a Steelcase Active Learning Center grant outfitting my previous special education program with a new classroom valued at $67,000! That classroom grant includes a two-year research study related to literacy and growth mindset. In Texas, I taught at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), which prepared me for the complexities and problem-solving that are inherent in any special education program. My previous students were an inspiration. One student in particular who has a traumatic brain injury inspired me to research students with low-incidence disabilities and visual impairments using assistive technology. I conducted a mixed-method research study surveying 371 participants nationwide in Phase I. Next I implemented a Phase II with a cohort of 30 teachers working in a learning module, where I evaluated the effectiveness of a distance learning course related to assistive technology (AT). The study was impactful in showing the benefits of online learning for educators.
What most excites you about your field?
I love finding what will work for a student. Being a special educator is one of the best jobs in the field of education. We are a passionate, loyal group of professionals who are not afraid to advocate for our students. We are always problem-solving. Our students come into our classrooms with different learning styles, needs and personalities. There are student breakthroughs and aha moments throughout our work, and we excel at continuing to build on that student momentum. Special educators can address the whole student (i.e., I knew when my students needed a little care and understanding). As special educators, we get to find openings that solve learning problems that others may have believed were not possible. What is truly exciting is that we have come so far in providing equity and access for our students. Our field keeps building on the great ideas of students, teachers, parents and leaders who have brought our work to where it is today. I am inspired and honored to be part of the continued work in special education as we keep growing our mission.
What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?
Growing up in Texas, where it is hot and full of traffic, I am grateful for the beauty and ease of life here in Gunnison! We wake up in the morning to elk in our backyard and enjoy the fresh, clean mountain air! The natural beauty and friendly Gunnison locals have been so welcoming. We have lived in lots of places, even internationally, and have never felt so welcomed as we have in Gunnison. The Gunnison Valley is a magical place!
Previous Adjunct Professor, University of Northern Colorado’s Center for Urban Education
Course: Support Systems in Special Education, EDSE 443
Previous Adjunct Professor, Fitchburg State University
Course: Preparing for Transition from School to Adult Life- Starting the Process Early!
- Mason, Tara (2005). Confines and Collaborations: Where Arts Education Meets the Discipline, M.Ed. Thesis, Published on ERIC, Link: ED 494913
- Mason, Tara (2013). Assistive Technology: Does the Law Translate to Practice for Students with Visual Impairments? Volume 57 (4), DVIQuarterly, p. 25-33
- Mason, Tara (2013) Teaching with iPads for Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments. Closing the Gap, p. 9-12
- Mason, Tara (2014). Transforming Teaching: Implementing Mobile Learning Strategies Serving Students with Visual Impairments (Doctoral Dissertation), 1-287.
- Mason, Tara (2014). TVI Transformative Teaching Using iPads: A Ph.D. Study, Howe’s Now, p. 28-29, Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB).
External Professional Affiliations
- Member - Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), 2010-Current
- Member - International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), 2011-Current
- BVSD Special Education Advisory Committee (SPAC), 2018- 2019
- BVSD District Technology Advisory Board, 2016-2019
- Statewide Assistive Technology, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (SWAAAC) Advisory Board, 2015- 2016