Charting the Dispositional Knowledge of Beginning Teachers in Special Education

Spring 2008

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, Volume 31, No. 2, (2008) 

When graduate students enter special education programs, they arrive with dispositional knowledge that can assist or hinder them in their professional development.

The goal of this study was to explore the dispositional knowledge special education certification candidates bring with them when they enter a special education program in order to better understand and enhance the teacher education process.
Teacher candidates enter special education programs with personal philosophies about the purposes of education and a vision about how those purposes can be realized.
At the time they begin their studies, their visions are often unarticulated and incomplete.
By asking students to clarify and articulate their beliefs, teacher educators will be able to better guide them in their development as teachers.

Over the course of two years, the researchers in this study assessed the dispositions of beginning teachers in a special education program at a west coast state university.



Graduate students in three introductory classes on professional, legal, and ethical practices in special education, who were beginning a special education certification program, and who were graduate students from one advanced class preparing to graduate participated in this study.

All 146 students from the four classes participated by describing in writing why they chose to enter the field of special education.
Students were also asked to describe their visions of teaching in written assignments for those courses.
Fifty-nine out of the 113 new students and 15 out of the 33 advanced students also participated by submitting their vision statements for analysis. In addition, a small number of the new students (i.e., 10) who provided vision statements for analysis were also interviewed individually.

The researchers gathered data using qualitative methods, which included analyzing vision statements, survey questions, and interviews.

The results of this study describe how students entered the program with a variety of perceptions and attitudes and how course work and clinical experiences in these programs affected students' attitudes, as instructors began building on students' prior experience and knowledge.

Updated: Dec. 23, 2008