The Impact of a College Course Where Pre-Service Teachers and Peers With Intellectual Disabilities Study Together

Nov. 10, 2009

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 32 no. 4 (November 2009) p. 351-364.  
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In 2006, the authors' college joined the ranks of those offering programs for young adults with intellectual disabilities on campus. The program includes several inclusive courses in which typical students study together with their peers with intellectual disabilities.

This article describes how 12 pre-service teachers who participated in an inclusive liberal learning understood their experience.

Research Questions

Over the course of the first semester, the authors became interested in the experiences of the pre-service teachers who became part of the class and began to wonder about their beliefs and attitudes concerning inclusion and disability. The authors defined the following research questions to guide them in tapping into their experience:

1. What value did participants see in their involvement in the GC class?
2. What value did participants see in CCS students' involvement in the GC class?
3. What views did our participants express about effective inclusive practice?
4. What did our students believe about inclusion in their future careers?
5. What attitudes did our participants express about individuals with IDs?


12 pre-service teachers who had attended the course on at least a semiregular basis agreed to be involved in the interviews.

This group included three graduate special education majors who designed and delivered course modules and attended several additional classes;
A secondary education undergraduate who had designed and delivered a module and attended a second;

A secondary education/history major who with the secondary education undergraduate to design a module and attended almost every class for the entire semester;

Four special education undergraduates who attended the class on a semiregular basis as part of their work as mentors in the program;

and three secondary education majors who attended the class regularly as an alternate field experience in their psychology of learning class.

The analysis of interviews with these pre-service teachers suggests that they emerged from the course with a commitment to the idea that students with intellectual disabilities have a right to a challenging liberal education.
Most emerged with a stronger commitment to inclusive teaching practice and felt that the use of small group activities and discussions was the best way to build classroom community, create relationships among participants, and maximize learning. All of the interviewed pre-service teachers considered this course a positive academic experience.

Updated: Jan. 12, 2010