Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 33 no. 4, p. 335-351. (November 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to identify events in the field experiences of Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) preservice teachers that were perceived by the preservice teachers as influencing their thinking about intervention practices.
In this study, the author utilized qualitative research methodology to analyze data from three sources: preservice teachers' weekly reflective journals, university supervisor observation notes, and preservice teachers' overall evaluations of the field experience.
Information provided by 15 preservice teachers enrolled in a junior-senior-MS degree initial teacher preparation program and specializing in ECSE in their graduate year of study was used.
Comments were coded into one of the five direct services strands or one of the two indirect supports strands of the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) recommended practices strands: assessment, child-focused practices, family-based practices, interdisciplinary models, technology applications, personnel preparation, and policy, procedures, and systems change.
The assumption was that preservice teachers would write and talk about those experiences that most affected them during their field experience.
The majority of data were coded into the strand of child-focused practices.
Preservice teachers most likely provided the most information in this strand, as the focus of their fieldwork related to interventions with individual children. Preservice teachers were quick to recognize when their behaviors positively affected a particular child, when cooperating teachers were using effective intervention techniques, and how the environment created by an inclusive service delivery model could positively influence children's development.
The strand that received the second largest number of codings was assessment.
Similar to the child-focused intervention practices, preservice teachers were able to recognize, value, and respect the application of best practice in conducting ongoing assessments of children within the typical activities of the preschool.
Family-based practices had the third highest number of codings. Preservice teachers spoke and wrote about family-based practices less than about child-focused practices and assessment, possibly a function of limited contact with families in their field experience sites.
Finally, preservice teachers wrote and spoke minimally about technology applications and interdisciplinary models, having had little experience with either in their field experiences.
Findings from this study have three implications for the preparation of ECSE teachers.
The first implication is that preservice teachers must learn effective intervention strategies that can be used in field experiences.
Preservice teachers in this study wrote and spoke more about the DEC recommended practices strands that related most directly to their fieldwork requirements and experiences. This finding suggests that field experiences must be carefully structured to provide the learning desired and the learning that encompasses all aspects of the professional role of ECSE professional.
The third implication centers around the themes that emerged from the family- based practices strand. Preservice teachers were torn between recognizing the difficulties of parenting a young child with disabilities and their desire for parents to be involved in their child's education. As this study showed that preservice teachers are most affected by the experiences in fieldwork in which they are most successful, it is critical that university personnel work diligently to provide positive experiences in family-centered intervention.