Source: Teacher Education Quarterly, Volume 38, No. 2 Spring 2011
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This study examines special education intern teachers’ perceived levels of teaching efficacy and the important roles of teaching resources, teachers’ backgrounds, and support from school districts, teacher preparation programs, and pupils’ parents.
The participants were 154 special education teachers possessing intern credentials in a teacher preparation program offered by a medium-size state university in California. An intern credential is given to inservice teachers who meet multiple requirements, including subject matter competency and a baccalaureate degree.
Eighty four participants in this study were enrolled in a base-campus and seventy participants enrolled in a satellite-campus of the state university, which serves students in five counties in central California.
All participants answered on a survey, which examined : (a) the participants’ perceptions on teacher efficacy, (b) their perceived level of knowledge and skills (e.g., behavior management, content knowledge, and assessment), (c) their perceived level of support from various sources, and (d) their perceptions on various issues in special education.
The findings reveal that the relationship between the quality of support and the level of personal teaching efficacy (PTE) was statistically significant for intern teachers. The authors explain that teaching context in the form of lack of support from school districts, lack of resources, and heavy workloads present grave perils to teachers’ self-efficacy and can weaken the ultimate success of special education teachers. Low levels of self-efficacy combined with increased stress brought about by the emphasis on test scores can contribute to teacher burnout and high rates of attrition for special education intern teachers.
The authors argue that in order to increase levels of self-efficacy and reduce stress, school districts and teacher education programs must find creative ways to support intern teachers. Unlike preservice teachers in traditional teaching programs, special education intern teachers do not have opportunities to receive extensive supervision from master teachers. They have limited opportunities ensue to: observe a master teacher; practice their skills under a master teacher’s supervision, and receive frequent feedbacks from a master teacher.
To alleviate these unique conditions, school districts can assist intern teachers to enhance their self-efficacy by providing more opportunities to observe model classrooms and teachers. Furthermore, school districts need to provide more positive interactions between intern teachers and mentor teachers. At the same time, mentor teachers should be encouraged and rewarded for increased visits and interaction with intern teachers. Supportive and healthy relationships with them strengthen new teachers’ self-efficacy. Additional formal supports can include professional development workshops, longer planning periods, and provision of classroom resources by local school districts.
Reduced class size and the provision of effective paraprofessionals are also recommended for novice teachers. Another important source of support is from parents or caregivers. Local schools and teachers should actively build strong bridges by providing family friendly school environments. In addition, teacher preparation programs and school districts should assist intern teachers to experience and build successful working relationships with families (Garcia), which also improve the teaching context.
Considering the unique needs of intern teachers, university instructors are encouraged to present content knowledge through carefully balanced pedagogies. Furthermore, university programs need to assess intern teachers’ knowledge and instructional experience in order to deliver instruction that closes gaps while broadening and enhancing teaching skills.
In addition to content knowledge and teaching pedagogy, current research suggests that teachers’ problem solving skills should be emphasized. University field supervisors will need to have close contacts with district mentors to provide adequate support. Intern teachers are the product of collaboration between a teacher preparation program and a local school district.
Also, increased workloads and class sizes have decreased time devoted to faculty development at school sites. Therefore, teacher preparation programs must be creative and innovative in educating teachers to be pedagogically proficient, technologically savvy, and be able to pursue networks with peer and expert support.