Teacher perceptions of working with children with specific special education exceptionalities in the general education classroom
The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which general education teachers in elementary schools believe they are prepared to teach children/students with specific special education exceptionalities in the general education classroom. The study addresses the exceptionalities of: autism, speech/language disorder, specific learning disability, and emotional disability and using a multiple method quasi-experimental design that yielded quantitative and qualitative data. The study used an original instrument entitled the General Educators Preparedness for Inclusive Education (GEPIE). The instrument used a vignette/scenario design to assess levels of perceived preparedness. Third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers in South Mississippi were asked to participate in the study. An original instrument was developed because there was not one available that followed the vignette/scenario format. For the quantitative phase, study data showed that general education teachers appear to be largely uncertain about their preparedness to meet the needs of students with special needs. There was a difference in general educators' level of perceived preparedness to work with students with disabilities based on the child's eligibility category; educators perceived they were better prepared to address the educational needs of students with specific learning disabilities than those who were in one of the other three disability classifications. Furthermore, data revealed that the level of perceived preparedness of general education teachers is related to selected background characteristics that include level of education, the number of special education classes taken during their training, years of experience, and the amount of professional development in special education they have attended. Qualitative results revealed that educators do not believe they are prepared to teach students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Respondents indicated the need for more special education classes during the teacher preparation experience, including more practical hands-on experiences. Respondents expressed the need for more collaboration with special education personnel and assistance with resources, materials, and making modifications/accommodations in the classroom. Of the four exceptionalities addressed in this study, teachers perceived they are most prepared to serve students with specific learning disabilities and least prepared to serve students with autism and emotional disabilities.