Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Head Start Instructional Professionals' Perceptions and Practices: Facilitators and Barriers for Including Young Children with Disabilities
by Muccio, Leah Schoenberg, Ph.D., George Mason University, 2012, 233; 3521920
Abstract (Summary)

Inclusive education, where children with disabilities receive services in general education settings, is complex, is influenced by a variety of factors, and presents itself in unique ways in different inclusive settings. The Head Start program is currently the largest provider of inclusive services for young children with disabilities in the United States (Gallagher & Lambert, 2006). However, there is a significant lack of research focused on Head Start inclusion and the quality of inclusive experiences for preschool-aged children with disabilities. Although research asserts that inclusion is beneficial for children with and without disabilities (e.g., Hundert, Mahoney, Mundy, & Vernon, 1998; Rafferty, Piscitelli, & Boettcher, 2003), a variety of inclusion facilitators and barriers influence successful inclusion.

The purpose of this research was to examine the facilitators and barriers of successful inclusion in Head Start classrooms. Because instructional professionals are the key personnel implementing inclusion (Kucuker, Acarlar, & Kapci, 2006; Zindler, 2009), the study examined their perceptions and practices. The research questions were as follows: 1) What are Head Start instructional professionals' perceptions of the needed facilitators for the successful inclusion of children with disabilities? 2) What are Head Start instructional professionals' perceptions of the availability of facilitators for the successful inclusion of children with disabilities? 3) In what ways do Head Start instructional professionals provide access, participation, and supports for children with disabilities? 4) What facilitators and barriers appear to influence Head Start instructional professionals' perceptions of including children with disabilities in their classrooms? 5) What facilitators and barriers appear to influence the ways that Head Start instructional professionals provide access, participation, and supports for children with disabilities?

The study utilized a mixed methods design that combined survey and qualitative methodologies. Survey data were collected from 71 Head Start instructional professionals teaching in three Head Start programs. Observations and interviews took place in a subset of nine classrooms. Two observations of the practices of 20 instructional professionals were conducted using an observation rating scale and a qualitative observation protocol. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 instructional professionals in these classrooms.

The major findings were (a) participants identified a high level of inclusion needs and that a wide variety of inclusion facilitators were needed; (b) participants believed they were not able to facilitate successful inclusion completely or in the most optimal fashion; (c) the inclusion facilitator/barrier categories of professional development, teacher knowledge, skills and practices, and personnel were found to be the most significant barriers to successful inclusion in these Head Start classrooms; and (d) targeted practices that specifically address the needs of the children with disabilities and build relationships were most effective for facilitating successful inclusion.

Results indicated that instructional professionals were the key to successful inclusion in Head Start settings and supported a multidimensional inclusion quality framework based on a variety of inclusion factors interacting. Study findings suggested that further study of inclusion, additional professional development for instructional professionals to effectively enact inclusion practices, and program evaluation of inclusion perceptions and practices would support high-quality inclusion for children with disabilities in the Head Start program.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kidd, Julie K.
Commitee: Burns, M. Susan, White, C. Stephen
School: George Mason University
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- Virginia
Source: DAI-A 73/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Early childhood education
Keywords: Children with disabilities, Head Start, Inclusion, Preschool, Special education, Teachers
Publication Number: 3521920
ISBN: 978-1-267-53489-7
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