Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Multi-Site Analyses of Special Education and General Education Student Teachers' Skill Ratings for Working with Students with Disabilities

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Multi-Site Analyses of Special Education and General Education Student Teachers' Skill Ratings for Working with Students with Disabilities

Article excerpt

Historically in the United States, teacher education programs have prepared personnel for separate areas of teaching, such as general education or special education (Hardman, 2009; Pugach & Blanton, 2009). However, the increasing diversity in classrooms requires that all teachers, including general and special educators, acquire skills to teach students with a range of learning needs, including students with disabilities (Florian, 2009; McHatton & McCray, 2007; Sobel, Iceman-Sands, & Basile, 2007). Many professional organizations and accreditation entities, including the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC) and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), call for beginning teacher candidates to demonstrate knowledge, skills, and dispositions to help all students learn (Shippen, Crites, Houchins, Ramsey, & Simon, 2005). However, many general educators feel they lack the preparation to serve students with disabilities in general education settings (Laarhoven, Munk, Lynch, Bosma, & Rouse, 2007; Loreman, Earle, Sharma, & Forlin, 2007; Shippen et al.). Conversely, special educators may lack the content-area knowledge traditionally considered the expertise of the general educator. Some teacher preparation programs have been redesigned to prepare dual-certification educators, which can merge the critical knowledge and skill sets from general and special education (Sobel et al.).

Serving students in the general education setting is sometimes the least restrictive environment (LRE) for students with disabilities (i.e., the general education setting is not the LRE for all students with disabilities all of the time), and sometimes the practice of students with disabilities receiving education in general education settings is called "inclusion." The ability to successfully instruct students in any setting requires personnel to have not only knowledge and skills, but also to have high self-efficacy skills. Theorists and researchers alike note the importance of student teaching experiences as a critical opportunity to shape effective teaching skills, leading to a higher self-efficacy level (Bandura, 1997; Cook, 2007). Educators with high self-efficacy skills believe they have the ability to perform the action that will lead to an outcome. Related to instructing students with disabilities, educators who have high self-efficacy beliefs are educators who strongly believe their instructional actions in the general education setting leads to desired educational outcomes for the learning of students with disabilities.

Martinez (2003) identified three areas as being the core values underlying the philosophy of inclusion of students with disabilities in general education settings: (a) positive attitudes toward increased inclusion of students with disabilities; (b) high sense of teaching efficacy; and (c) willingness and ability to adapt one's teaching to meet the individual educational needs of students with disabilities. Furthermore, researchers have suggested several additional competencies become integral components of teacher preparation programs for both special and general educators including: (a) collaborative teaming and teaching skills; (b) skill in making curricular and instructional accommodations; (c) knowledge and skill in areas of assistive technologies; and (d) positive behavioral support (Laarhoven et al., 2007). While many teacher preparation programs are modifying their programs to better meet the needs of these inclusive environments, there is little empirical evidence to support specifically which knowledge, skills and attitudes pre-service programs need to enhance (Loreman et al., 2007).

Another issue impacting teacher preparation programs is the quantity of highly-qualified and fully-certified special educators. The ongoing critical shortage of special educators has led to less traditional pathways to teacher certification so that students with disabilities are more likely to be taught by fully-certified special educators. …

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