Meeting the Professional Development Needs of Special Educators in 21st Century Classrooms

Meeting the Professional Development Needs of Special Educators in 21st Century Classrooms

Elizabeth Hardman (Northcentral University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0267-8.ch005
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Abstract

This chapter describes the challenges personnel preparation programs meet when preparing pre-service special educators for service in today's technology rich classrooms. The author used action research methodology to explore the feasibility of developing a virtual Professional Learning Community (PLC) for the purpose of building a collaborative culture of learning in special education and providing pre-service and novice special educators access to networks of support. A wiki and Ning provided the basic infrastructure for the virtual PLC and the data collected from the websites were analyzed using the eight essential characteristics of PLC development. The results showed that the PLC membership participated in community work primarily as observers only, relying almost entirely on the teacher educator to direct and manage all facets of community work. The implications of the research are discussed with respect to how personnel preparation programs prepare teachers for service in in 21st Century classrooms.
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Inclusion: A Student Centered Practice

Inclusion defines the practice of special education and is the term widely used to describe how students with disabilities and at risk peers can achieve full member status in a learning community that values everyone for the unique contribution each can make toward realizing the community’s purposes (Farrell & Ainscow, 2002; Vaughn, Bos, & Schumm, 2011). The principle of inclusion is best satisfied when general and special educators engage in a shared practice for the purpose of maximizing every student’s access to the critical content defined by the general education curriculum (Friend & Bursuck, 2012). Neither general nor special educators have the depth of content knowledge or pedagogical expertise required to meet the learning needs of every student in today’s academically diverse classroom but in a shared practice, the general educator provides content expertise while the special educator adapts the delivery of that content using evidence based practices (EBPs) specifically designed to meet the individualized learning needs of students with disabilities and typical peers who may be at risk for academic failure (Lenz & Deshler, 2004; McLeskey & Waldron, 2000).

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