An Exploration of Pre-Service Teachers' Expectations for Their Future Roles

Feb. 20, 2009

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, Volume 32 Number I, (February 2009). P. 5-16

The diversity of teacher roles has been a long-standing concern in the field of special education. Role complexity has been implicated in teacher burnout and attrition and in the inefficiency of service delivery models. Recent evidence suggests that new policy may be further complicating teacher roles and that teachers may not be prepared for such change.

This study explores the awareness of preservice special education teachers about their future roles. The authors compare pre-service teachers' expected roles with the current roles of practicing teachers and focuses on both teacher roles (in terms of amount of time spent in various settings) and their perceptions of those roles. Four questions to compare the experiences of practicing teachers with the expectations of future teachers:
1. Where are practicing special education teachers spending their time?
2. Where do pre-service special education teachers expect to be spending their time?
3. What are practicing teachers' perceptions of their roles?
4. What do pre-service teachers expect their perceptions of their future roles to be?


184 pre-service teachers represented 13 of the 31 institutions of higher education that offer an undergraduate degree in mild and moderate disabilities in the state (Council for Exceptional Children, 2003). Pre-service teachers were enrolled in undergraduate K- 12 mild and moderate licensure programs. Of the 13 institutions of higher education in the state whose pre-service teachers responded to the survey, seven were private and six were public. Five were doctoral, three were master's, and five were baccalaureate institutions (McCormick, 2000). Five institutions were rural, four suburban, and four urban. The majority of participants were in their 4th year of college (79%); 19% were in their 3rd year, and 1.6% were in their 2nd year.
133 practicing teachers were special education teachers throughout the state. On average, they had 17.8 years of teaching experience, with a range of 3 to 37 years, and a standard deviation of 9.2. Over half (53.4%) of their schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress the previous year. About 38% taught in schools with less than 50% minority population, and about 47% taught in schools with a majority economically disadvantaged population. About 40% taught in schools where greater than 10% of the students were considered Limited English Proficient.

In general, pre-service teachers' expectations appeared to be quite accurate. Significant mismatches are revealed in several areas, particularly with respect to collaboration and the settings in which teachers work. Implications are presented for policy makers, administrators, and teacher educators.

Council forExceptional Children. (2003). Undergraduate programs in special education. Retrieved December 11, 2003.
McCormick, A. C. (2000). The Carnegie Classification of institutions of higher education. Stanford, CA: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Updated: May. 11, 2009