How Effectively Are We Preparing Teacher Educators in Special Education? the Case of Deaf Education

By Schirmer, Barbara R. | American Annals of the Deaf, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

How Effectively Are We Preparing Teacher Educators in Special Education? the Case of Deaf Education


Schirmer, Barbara R., American Annals of the Deaf


THE STUDY assessed how well the field of teacher education in special education is preparing the next generation of teacher educators to be stewards of the discipline by exploring the particular case of deaf education. Assuming that preparing doctoral graduates who are able to conduct valuable and quality research requires mentoring by faculty who conduct such research, the study examined the scholarly productivity of 127 teacher educators in deaf education at U.S. postsecondary institutions. Results showed that most had published relatively little during the past 6 years, greater than half had published relatively little over the course of their careers, and less than half of their dissertations had been published. If this case study of one special education field is representative of the others, it suggests that special education needs to broaden the dialogue to address not only the shortages but the quality of faculty.

Concern that demand for special edu- cation faculty far outpaces the numbers of qualified candidates has been a topic within the ranks of teacher educators for more than a decade. In 2003, a special issue oí Teacher Education and Special Education was devoted to re- porting the results of a comprehensive study on special education leadership personnel, which showed that current and future demand for special educa- tion faculty and other leadership per- sonnel far exceeded the number of doctoral graduates; that the pool of ap- plicants was not robust enough for pro- grams to maintain consistently rigorous admissions standards; that the age of doctoral students was increasing, and these students were more likely to select a program based on location than on the characteristics of the program and its faculty; and that graduates were increasingly less likely to accept faculty lines (Pion, Smith, & Tyler, 2003; Sindelar & Rosenberg, 2003; Smith, Pion, Tyler, & Gilmore, 2003; Tyler, Smith, & Pion, 2003).

Just as research indicates shortages of leadership personnel in special education, it appears that qualified faculty leaders in deaf education are also in short supply. When LaSasso and Wilson (2000) conducted a survey of teacher preparation programs in deaf education, they found that more than 80% had conducted a faculty search within the past 3 years, and 97% indicated that they were not satisfied with the pool of applicants. Among the programs LaSasso and Wilson surveyed, almost half of the faculty were projected to retire in the next decade. Andrews (2003) suggested that the short supply of doctoral-level leaders in deaf education is related to the lack of educational options because so few universities offer doctoral programs in deaf education. Indeed, a parallel situation in the field of blindness and visual impairment led to the establishment in 2004 of the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (2006), which consists of 14 member universities and funnels grant funding from the U.S. Office of Special Education Programs for approximately 25 doctoral students to complete their doctoral study at one of the consortium universities. Following this example, Johnson (2008) obtained grant funding to pursue development of a collaborative infrastructure among doctoral programs with faculty involved in the education of deaf and hard of hearing students in order to increase the numbers and quality of doctoral graduates prepared to assume leadership roles.

The issue of a leadership shortage is not just a matter of numbers, however. Of equal if not greater importance is how well doctoral education is preparing the next generation of teacher educators in special education to take on the role that the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching calls "steward of the discipline" (Golde, 2006, p. 5). According to this idea of stewardship, the purpose of doctoral education is to "educate and prepare those to whom we can entrust the vigor, quality, and integrity of the field. …

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