Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Development and Design of a Merged Secondary and Special Education Teacher Preparation Program

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Development and Design of a Merged Secondary and Special Education Teacher Preparation Program

Article excerpt

I want to be able to teach health to every student that comes into my classroom, can you teach me to do that? (SDEP Health Education Applicant).

Public schools, spurred by federal education reform (NCLB, IDEA 2004), strive to increase the performance of all students through standards, accountability, inclusive classrooms, access to the general education curriculum, and providing teachers qualified in the subjects they teach. As middle and secondary classrooms become increasingly inclusive, some special educators may not be prepared to teach content (Brouk, 2005; Washburn-Moses, 2005), and some general educators may not be prepared to address diverse learning needs (McClanahan, 2008; Ness, 2008) . This mismatch between the reality of today's schools and traditional teacher preparation (Hardman, 2009) has led to the development of new models for teacher education that integrate or merge special education and general education. Teacher education programs fall into three categories: discrete, integrated, or merged (Blanton & Pugach, 2007). Most teacher preparation is provided via the discrete model of separate general and special education programs. Recently professional organizations have questioned whether discrete programs adequately prepare either special or general education teachers for today's schools (Blanton & Pugach, 2007).

Integrated and merged models are two approaches to combining special and general education pedagogy for teacher education. In an integrated model, separate general and special education licensure programs are retained but faculty work together to develop a set of courses and/or field experiences in which special education candidates learn about general education curriculum and instruction and vice-versa. Elementary and/or secondary education and special education programs are coordinated in such a way that candidates can readily add special education licensure to their general education licensure (see for examples Dieker & Berb, 2002; Hardeman, 2009; VanLaarhoven, Munk, Lynch, Bosma, & Rouse, 2007). In merged programs, faculty in general and special education collaborate to develop one program in which all candidates receive licensure in both general and special education. Merged programs are developed through the extensive and deliberate collaboration of general and special education faculty to redesign the teacher education curriculum and field experiences. However, while several merged programs have been developed to prepare elementary candidates, programs for middle/secondary candidates are scarce (Griffin & Pugach, 2007).

When faculty from Curriculum and Instruction and Special Education consider creating a merged secondary program, many questions and issues arise. For example, what varied concerns do faculty members from these respective departments have regarding the preparation of secondary educators and can those concerns be addressed in one merged program? Coming from different disciplines, faculty may have misconceptions about one another's views of learning and pedagogy (Robinson & Buly, 2007) and if so, how will these be clarified and resolved? How do faculty members reach a shared vision of what teacher candidates need to know and be able to do in order to be effective in today's diverse, inclusive classrooms? Once reached, how is that vision translated into coherent curriculum and field experiences, that are hallmarks of quality teacher education (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005)? How can teacher candidates gain a depth of knowledge and experience in content-specific pedagogy (Shulman, 1987) along with instructional strategies for teaching the full range of adolescent learners? How can field experiences be designed so that candidates can teach and collaborate across general and special education? How do faculty coordinate the many facets of program delivery across university departments? And finally, how will faculty learn from the early years of implementation and improve upon the initial design? …

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