Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Suggestions for Preparing Ininerant Teachers: A Qualitative Analysis

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Suggestions for Preparing Ininerant Teachers: A Qualitative Analysis

Article excerpt

Increasing numbers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing receive educational services in general education classrooms. This placement shift has altered the way teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing work, causing an increase in the number of itinerant teachers. As placement trends for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and teachers' job responsibilities have changed, the field of deaf education has only slightly modified professional standards for licensed teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Most teacher preparation programs continue training preservice teachers to work in self-contained classrooms, leaving itinerant teachers feeling underprepared. Interviews were conducted with 25 experienced itinerant teachers to determine which content and experiences should be included in preparation programs for preservice teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing who plan to become itinerant teachers. Results indicate that changes in course work and practices are necessary to best prepare these teachers.

The world is changing faster than ever. Advances in technology, biology, medicine, and international relations continue to improve the quality of life, while simultaneously making it more complex. Similar positive and challenging changes are occurring in the field of education. Currently, there is a demand for higher standards, greater accountability, and the requirement to prepare individuals to live and work in a rapidly changing society. At the same time, there is an expectation that students with disabilities will participate and progress in the general education curriculum as appropriate, participate in extracurricular school-supported activities, and in general learn and develop with their nondisabled peers.

These educational changes have affected the field of deaf education both nationally and globally. Evidence of these changes can be seen in the increasing number of students who are deaf or hard of hearing who receive educational services in general education classrooms (Higgs, 1998; Smith, 1997). For example, the U.S. Department of Education (2000) recently reported that approximately 83% of students who were deaf or hard of hearing were being served at least on a part-- time basis in general education classrooms. This shift in placement has altered the way teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing work. Specifically, there has been an increase in the number of itinerant teachers and a comparable decrease in the number of self-contained classroom teachers (Miller, 2000).

As described in the literature (e.g., Luckner & Miller, 1994; Schmidt & Stipe, 1991; Smith, 1997; Yarger & Luckner, 1999), itinerant teaching is very different from working as a self-contained classroom teacher. Briefly, the areas of difference include (a) the percentage of time spent collaborating and consulting with professionals and family members; (b) the amount of time spent directly serving students; (c) the range of student ages and the variety of communication modes used by students; (d) the content, procedures, and strategies used in teaching; (e) the locations where teaching occurs; (f) the required scheduling and organizational skills; and (g) the degree of supervision, independence, and isolation that exists.

Unfortunately, as placement trends for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and the job responsibilities of teachers have changed, the deaf education field has made only minor modifications to the professional standards for being a licensed teacher of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Most teacher preparation programs continue to train preservice teachers to work in self-contained classrooms (Ferguson & Ralph, 1996; Smith, 1997). For example, an examination of the professional standards suggested by the Council for Exceptional Children, or CEC (1998), and the Council on Education of the Deaf, or CED (1996), which are often referred to as the "CEC/CED Standards" (Easterbrooks, 2001), reveals that very limited attention is given to some of the specialized skills required of itinerant teachers. …

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