Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Relationship of Personnel Preparation to the Competence of Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments in Turkey

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Relationship of Personnel Preparation to the Competence of Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments in Turkey

Article excerpt

Abstract: The study reported in this article sought to determine the degree to which the professional standards for Turkish teachers of students with visual impairments were addressed during preservice training and the degree to which in-service teachers of visual impairments implemented these professional standards. The results of the nationwide survey showed that teachers faced problems in both attaining and implementing certain important knowledge and skill areas for teaching students with visual impairments.

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The past decade has seen wide public interest in teacher education issues in developed countries. This interest has led authorities to improve teacher education by linking the quality of teachers and professional development with performance standards that define the knowledge and skills that are needed to become a qualified teacher (Brownell, Rosenberg, Sindelar, & Deutsch Smith, 2004). Countries such as Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States have developed national professional standards in collaboration with national authorities (Teacher Training Agency, 2003; Tuning Educational Structures in Europe, 2004; Turkish Education Association, 2009). Although special education was not identified in these endeavors (Brownell et al., 2004), professional education standards now exist in that field as well.

Special education teachers must master a variety of skills prior to entering the field to establish a knowledge base from which to draw when faced with challenges. This is why personnel preparation programs in special education are the first and perhaps the most important step in ensuring teachers' competence as measured by professional standards that are endorsed by national authorities (Brownell, Ross, Colon, & McCallum, 2005; Pogmnd & Wibbenmeyer, 2008; Turkish Ministry of Education, 2008).

According to Brownell and colleagues (2005), little evidence exists on the effectiveness of personnel preparation programs in special education. This also holds true for the field of visual impairment, with its unique roles and responsibilities required of teachers of students with visual impairments (Spungin & Ferrell, 2007). In several countries, such as the United States and United Kingdom, professional standards have been addressed and, together with empirical evidence, have helped shape personnel preparation programs. In the United States, several efforts have been made to identify the roles and responsibilities of teachers of students with visual impairments and the professional standards that clearly define them. For example, in their position paper, Spungin and Ferrell (2007) identified the roles that a teacher of students with visual impairments is required to play, including assessment, educational and instructional strategies, guidance and counseling, administration and supervision, and school-community relations. A position paper by Erin, Holbrook, Sanspree, and Swallow (2006) stated that teachers of students with visual impairments need to acquire skills that are specific to the field of visual impairment, such as braille, the use of optical and nonoptical devices, and orientation and mobility. In 2003, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) established professional standards for teachers of students with visual impairments, with 10 professional standards for first-year teachers (CEC, 2009). These standards are being used by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education to accredit programs in visual impairment (Pogrund & Wibbenmeyer, 2008).

Pogrund and Wibbenmeyer (2008) stated that a qualified teacher of students with visual impairments is one who has taken essential courses and has had supervised practicum experiences that lead to effective teaching practices. Erin and colleagues (2006) claimed that one criterion that an agency has to look for when recruiting teachers of students with visual impairments is that the candidate has met the standards established by such authorities as the CEC. …

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