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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Kristen Peterson
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Educational Leadership, Research, and Technology
Title: A Qualitative Study of Instructional Strategies Used by Elementary General Education Teachers in Inclusive Classrooms
Dr. Patricia Reeves, Chair
Dr. Walter Burt
Dr. Sandra Imdieke
Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Northern Michigan University, Bresnan 2810, West Science
It has been discovered in recent years that it is not the placement in the general education classroom that makes the difference for the education of students with disabilities, but it is the instructional strategies used by general education teachers (King-Sears, 1997; Vaughn & Schumm, 1995; Zigmond, 2003; Zigmond & Baker, 1995). In the last two decades, considerable progress has been made in designing, implementing, and evaluating effective interventions for students with learning disabilities. Although the research on effective instruction is abundant, studies continue to reveal general education teachers minimally change their instruction when students with learning disabilities are present (Baker & Zigmond, 1990; McIntosh et al., 1993; Schumm et al., 1995).
This qualitative phenomenological study collected data through fifteen in-depth interviews with elementary general education teachers from across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to better understand general education teachers’ deeper perspectives, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about their instructional strategies. This study found that general education teachers perceive their instructional planning and strategies as meeting the needs of their students with learning disabilities. The participants did not express needing additional training, collaboration with colleagues, or assistance to plan or provide instruction and accommodations. The participants interpreted additional staff members and volunteers as providing the most support for inclusion and parents as the biggest barrier to the inclusion of students with learning disabilities.
This study found that general education teachers are open and willing to teach students with learning disabilities, but they lack an awareness of the need to improve and expand their instructional practices for teaching students with learning disabilities. The teachers in this study did not interpret or recognize their reliance on whole group instruction with little differentiation, lack of collaboration with the special education teacher, planning instruction in isolation, and absence of using student assessment data when planning instruction as barriers to the inclusion of students with learning disabilities in their classroom. Additional support and training is needed to further develop general education teachers’ knowledge and teaching skills in order to improve the education and inclusion of students with learning disabilities in the general education classroom.