Source: Psychology Research, Vol. 6, No. 8, 455-465, August 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The goal of this study was to examine how pre-service teachers with learning disabilities (LD) perceive their professional training during their first years of Teacher College and whether perception will change during the course of the first term of their undergraduate studies.
The participants were 31 college pre-service teachers who had been formally diagnosed with LD and/or ADHD and had registered to the disability support center of a Hebrew-speaking college in central Israel.
Seventy nine percent of the students were in their first or second year of post-secondary education, and the remaining 21% were in their third or fourth year of education working toward a BEd degree.
Data were collected through a questionnaire, which examined four main aspects of the teaching profession and teacher-education training both at the beginning of the semester and again at the end of the semester: roles of teachers, various components of teacher-education, training agents, and the connectedness between classroom training and teaching practice.
The findings reveal the unique perceptions and needs of pre-service teachers with LD as well as common perceptions of pre-service teachers during their training. For example, the pre-service teachers with LD who participated in the current study pointed to the roles of “delivering universal values” and “demonstrating sensitivity to special needs” as the two most important ones. This result is partly consistent with the results of a prior study on pre-service teachers in their 4th year of study (Ezer et al., 2010). While the pre-service teachers in both studies ranked “delivering universal values” the most important teacher role, those with LD ranked “demonstrating sensitivity to special needs” the second most important. This result of the current study is consistent with a previous study demonstrating that teachers with LD perceive their mission to be supporting diversity in schools by providing pupils with the positive experiences that they themselves had been denied as youngsters (Ferri, 2001).
According to the results of the Ezer et al. (2010) study, 4th-year pre-service teachers ranked the practicum as one of the most important components of the training. This group also ranked education studies courses relatively low. These two preferences are very similar to those of the pre-service teachers with LD who participated in the current study. Notably, the pre-service teachers with LD gave a very high ranking to the adapted courses, a program component not available to the participants in the prior study of 4th-year pre-service teachers. This finding lends support to the conclusion that the adapted courses for students with LD have a significant impact on their teacher-training.
In addition, participants gave the highest average rankings to the adapted course instructor and the mentor teacher, both at the beginning and again at the end of the term. The high ranking by the pre-service teachers with LD in this study of the instructor of the adapted course exhibits the vital role the adapted courses play for students with LD. The instructor of the adapted course is in a unique position in that he or she must teach challenging content while simultaneously fostering the supportive elements of the adapted course, such as the close instructor-student interaction. Its specialized instruction provide pre-service teachers with LD a more effective learning environment for this mandatory course.
Other noteworthy involves the significant increase in average ranking that the pre-service teachers with LD gave to student peers from their pre- to their post-term responses. That the pre-service teachers ranked student peers significantly higher at the end of the term suggests that in addition to academic support, this social-emotional support is a meaningful element in the overall training experience; apparently, this is particularly valuable for students with LD.
In conclusion, the authors argue that close interactions with the course instructors as well as the safe environment provided by the small-group peer network combine to foster a highly valuable training tool for these students and future teacher educators.
Ezer, H., Gilat, I., & Sagee, R. (2010). Perception of teacher education and professional identity among novice teachers. European Journal of Teacher Education, 33(4), 391-404.
Ferri, B. (2001). Teachers with learning disabilities: A view from both sides of the desk. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34, 22-33.