Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Voices of Special Educators Teaching Students with Emotional Disturbances (ED): Examining the Marginalized of the Marginalized
by Ruich, Lawrence Joseph, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2016, 378; 10244144
Abstract (Summary)

This qualitative study examines the identities of three secondary special education teachers in self-contained classrooms. Nationally, there is a serious shortage of special educators interested in and successful working with students exhibiting emotional and behavioral disorders. An understanding of teacher identity and the personal and professional contexts that contribute to it is critical to the retention of these teachers in the field and the preparation of future special educators. Interviews, observations, and the use of image elicitation provided data to examine each participant’s identity in relation to the students they taught, the school setting, and their sense of self. Analysis of collected data emphasized their historical past, present relationships (e.g., family, colleagues), professional development, and lives within the school.

Cross-case analysis findings illuminate each teacher’s reasons for working with students who exhibit challenging behaviors and how their personal experiences shaped their identity and approach to teaching. Findings demonstrate how teacher-participants addressed student autonomy through empowerment or control via an instituted behavioral model. Social and relational aspects of teaching effected collaboration within the classroom and school setting.

Findings from this study indicate several implications. Due to the stressful and emotional work environment, the field has both a quantity and a quality shortage. Preparation programs must offer prospective teachers the chance to observe and participate in daily work within restricted settings while cultivating and recognizing a network of supports. Well-planned mentor and field-based programs offer on-the-job resources that help incoming teachers with classroom practice and the stimulation of identity development. Schools should implement strategies to improve the consistency of instructional aide support for special education teachers.

It is important to recognize the systemic structures that shape teacher identity. Institutional settings rarely challenge the status quo; so it is important that teachers resist, otherwise practices appear fixed and unalterable. While working with students who are emotional, aggressive, combative, and traumatized, teachers should detach from maladaptive conduct and not associate the student with their behavior. It is essential for special educators experiencing the effects of a school system and the challenges brought by students to practice a method of self-care.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Butera, Gretchen D.
Commitee: Anderson, Jeffrey A., Kunzman, Robert, Lackey, Lara M.
School: Indiana University
Department: School of Education
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 78/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social research, Special education, Teacher education
Keywords: Case study, Emotional and behavioral disorder, Marginalization, Special education, Teacher preparation, Teaching
Publication Number: 10244144
ISBN: 978-1-369-72702-9
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