In this study factors preschool teachers perceive as influencing their referral decisions for young children with severe behavior problems were investigated. Research questions focused on 1) teacher factors such as teachers' knowledge, beliefs and concerns; 2) program-system factors such as availability of services and inter and intra-agency referral systems; and 3) other factors not previously identified in the literature.
Thirteen preschool teachers were interviewed about their experiences and perceptions of young children with challenging and severe behavior problems to identify what factors promoted or impeded their referral decisions. Participants were lead teachers in a several different Head Start programs. Prior research identified programs and referral systems issues and teacher characteristics as factors influencing preschool teachers' referral decisions, therefore specific program and teacher information was gathered.
Interview transcripts were analyzed by the researcher and doctoral-level research assistant. Data was coded using a constant comparative iterative process and sorted into categories based on the three research questions.
Study results supported prior research identifying teacher knowledge and perceptions of child behavior and program and referral systems issues supporting or impeding teacher referral decisions. Intra and inter-agency collaboration, service availability, and other staff were perceived as facilitating teachers' referral decisions. Teachers' knowledge and perceptions of child behavior as either challenging or severe varied, resulting in a tendency for some teachers to delay referrals for a longer period of time. All teachers perceived parents as a major factor supporting or impeding their referral decisions. Other factors not previously identified in the literature influencing teachers' decisions to delay referrals were 1) teachers' perceptions of child risk factors and 2) teachers' other responsibilities competing with their primary role as a classroom teacher.
Implications for research include 1) extending the study into preschools, particularly those lacking a mandate for identification and referral; 2) identifying the nature of teachers' concerns about communicating and collaborating with parents; and 3) investigating the other factors not previously identified in the literature. Practice implications include providing training and support addressing 1) teacher concerns about children's challenging behavior and 2) teacher concerns about parent communication and collaboration within a family centered practice framework.
|Commitee:||Gallagher, Kathleen C., New, Rebecca S., Palsha, Sharon, Reznick, J. Steven|
|School:||The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill|
|School Location:||United States -- North Carolina|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Early childhood education, Teacher education, Developmental psychology|
|Keywords:||Behavior problems, Challenging behavior, Preschool children, Referral decisions, Teacher perceptions|
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