Teaching the Teachers to Educate Students With Severe Disabilities in Inclusive Classrooms: How Are Teacher Training Programs Preparing Preservice Teachers?

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The inclusion of students with severe disabilities (SWSD) in general education classes is becoming increasingly prevalent. Consequently, general education teachers need to have adequate training to meet the unique learning needs of this population. While general education teachers have professed a willingness to include these students, many of them feel underprepared and undertrained to meet the needs of SWSD in inclusive settings. This study investigated the current ways in which teacher training programs are preparing preservice general education teachers to educate SWSD in inclusive classrooms. The directors of teacher education programs in New York State completed surveys about the knowledge, skills, and professional dispositions of teacher candidates related to SWSD. The results of the study indicate that most programs in the study require courses on special education, inclusive education, universal design, and exceptionalities. Additionally, most programs in the study required inclusive practicum experiences and provided some practice using evidence-based inclusive techniques. That said, the data also indicate a lack of course work and practicum experiences specific to preparing for work with SWSD, as well as a lack of prioritization of certain inclusive professional dispositions. As such, teacher training programs in NYS should consider taking steps to alter their coursework and field experience to incorporate more information about SWSD, greater opportunities to practice inclusive techniques, and more extensive opportunities to interact with SWSD during practicum experiences.
Dissertation completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Doctor of Psychology degree in School Psychology at Alfred University, Alfred, NY.
Teacher education, Higher education, Educational psychology