Improving Literacy Instruction of Special Education Teachers through Additional Course Work and Support

Article excerpt

The purpose of this article is to report the outcomes of literacy instruction used by special education students in a * federally funded master's degree program known as Project LEAD: Leadership for Educators Amid Diversity. Participants in the project reported specific projects completed, new methods used in their classrooms, and additional strategies and modifications utilized as a result of Project LEAD.

Project LEAD: Leadership for Educators Amid Diversity was a four-year project designed to provide a master's degree in Collaborative Teaching (Special Education) to 30 teachers in a large urban city. One of the major goals of the project was to improve literacy instruction at the school, home, and community levels. The purpose of this article is to report participants' perceptions of the literacy component after completing their literacy training.

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The article is divided into three sections: (a) a description of the literacy component of Project LEAD, (b) the major question asked concerning the literacy component at the end of the project, and (c) the changes that occurred in literacy instruction as a result of Project LEAD.

Literacy Instruction in Project LEAD

Students enrolled in Project LEAD were required to take two literacy classes, complete a supervised tutoring program with a student in special education, and demonstrate changes in their teaching of reading and writing in their own classrooms. During the two literacy classes, five broad objectives were used. Students will be able to demonstrate:

1. specific approaches to teaching beginning readers and non-readers.

2. specific approaches for teaching more advanced, struggling readers.

3. strategies and modifications for teaching beginning and non-readers.

4. strategies and modfications for teaching more advanced and struggling readers.

5. implement a literacy project in the classroom that reflects approaches and strategies learned during the two classes.

During the 2001-2002 year of Project LEAD, the literacy faculty supervised the implementation of literacy approaches and strategies in the participants' individual classrooms. Teachers enrolled in Project LEAD demonstrated these approaches and/or strategies and the instructor made suggestions for adapations and modifications. These suggestions were documented and presented to the students during the next faculty visit to their classrooms.

Evaluating the Literacy Component

At the end of the Literacy Component for Project LEAD, students were given a qualitative evaluation in which they responded to one major question. What literacy related project(s) and modifications did you attempt as a result of Project LEAD? A content analysis was completed to determine the projects, modifications, and changes students made in their classrooms. Listed below is a summary of the three categories of changes that occurred: (1) specific projects that were completed, (2) new methods used in the classrooms, and (3) strategies and modifications utilized.

Specific projects completed. Each Project LEAD candidate implemented a literacy project in the classroom. The following three projects are examples:

1. Increasing parental involvement in students' reading. "My project was designed to increase parental involvement in my students' education. I felt that this was an important component of teaching literacy ... The first thing I did was invite the parents to a meeting held during the school's open house. The purpose of this meeting was to familiarize the parents with the Voyager Literacy program that was being implemented and show and explain to them the items that would be coming home for them to complete with their children ... During the school year I had various family members come to the class to read. A the end of the year ... parental responses were encouraging and positive."

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