Including Special Needs Students in Ag Ed

Article excerpt

AS REPORTED IN APRIL, A 2008-2009 DOCTORAL DISSSERTATION

research study of secondary agricultural education teachers was conducted in Washington, Texas, Iowa, Kentucky, Tennessee and Delaware to determine how often the educators in the study sample use each of 26 identified strategies in serving students with mild to moderate disabilities. This second pan of the article looks at teacher confidence levels regarding inclusion, and how inclusion practices in agricultural education can be improved.

Are We Effectively Working with Special Heeds Students?

The next part of the study analyzed teacher confidence levels when working with students with special needs in their classes. Teachers were given 12 different statements and asked to respond whether they strongly disagreed, disagreed, agreed, or strongly agreed. Teachers overall were very positive about their abilities to provide a positive classroom atmosphere (M = 3.39). Teachers also generally agreed that they were capable of following the requirements found in special education legislation (M = 3.15), involving students with disabilities in their local FFA chapter (M = 3,14), managing the behavior of students (M = 3.13), and modifying assignments or activities according to a student's IEP (M = 3.11). Of the 12 statements, teachers were least confident that their teacher training programs prepared them to work with students with disabilities (M = 2.45) and that they received adequate education and training through in-service opportunities (M = 2.46).

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Despite being less confident in some areas, teachers were very positive about their ability to provide a positive classroom atmosphere for students with special needs. This indicates a willingness to provide an atmosphere that will be beneficial for students with special needs in their classes regardless of their confidence in specific areas of special education. They were also positive in following special education legislation and modifying assignments of activities according to students' IEPs. Because of accountability and legal issues involved in education, it is good that teachers generally feel confident in these areas.

However, with the increased focus on accountability and diversity, teacher education programs should ensure that all teachers understand special education requirements and are confident in their knowledge about special education disabilities and the IEP process. Teachers also agree that they can involve students in their local FFA chapters. Because of the unique social needs for some students with special needs, this is a very important area that, should be strengthened through educational programs. CTE programs can help to reinforce this connection to students with special needs by-involving them in the many clubs and organizations that are offered.

Despite the strengths that teachers reported, the majority of respondents disagreed that their teacher training programs prepared them to work with students with special needs and that they had received adequate in-service opportunities. It is during these in-service opportunities and courses that teachers could be provided with different strategies to work with students with special needs. Teacher training programs should provide opportunities for teachers to be exposed to special education techniques that will help teachers be more confident in their abilities to educate all students. Teacher training programs should ensure that numerous opportunities are available to provide experience working with students with special needs, and quality in-service opportunities should be provided to agriculture and other CTE teachers that focus on special education since this contributes lo total teacher confidence.

What Can We Do to Improve?

Training should be provided to help teachers learn recommended strategies within the field and how these can be used effectively to benefit students with special needs. …