This study examines the teacher visions, or idealized images of classroom practices, held by second-year alternatively certified special education teachers. In particular, it explores the range of visions maintained by New York City Teaching Fellows who begin teaching in "hard-to-staff" subjects and schools after minimal pre-service training, noting gaps which emerge between vision and practice. Given the brevity of the Fellows' preparation and the context of their schools, I sought to discover how Fellows navigated these gaps, and the role played by on-the-job learning in this process.
The study consisted of a larger cohort of 47 second-year special education Teaching Fellows and a smaller cohort of five. I distributed a questionnaire to the 47 Fellows, both to uncover the range of visions and gaps within that group, and to find five Fellows for a more in-depth study. The Fellows from the in-depth study, all of whom noted gaps between vision and practice, participated in three semi-structured one-hour interviews over the course of one school year. In addition, I conducted two classroom observations of each Fellow and analyzed classroom documents.
I found that none of the 47 Fellows mentioned special education when describing their teacher visions on the questionnaires. Following up with the smaller cohort, I discovered visions of special education which were blurry or inaccurate—leading to substantial gaps between vision and practice. These gaps, in turn, let to feelings of guilt and frustration. On-the-job learning was little help in navigating gaps, given the conditions of the participants' "hard-to-staff" schools. Fifty-four percent of the larger cohort said they were unlikely to continue teaching in New York in five years, while in the smaller cohort, two teachers had left their original placements within two years. Participants from the smaller cohort also discussed the difficulty of achieving their visions within special education as it was implemented at their schools.
This study concludes that the design of the New York City Teaching Fellows program practically ensures the presence of gaps between the vision and practice of special education, and at the same time does not do enough to help its teachers negotiate them.
|School:||Teachers College, Columbia University|
|School Location:||United States -- New York|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/02, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Education Policy, Special education, Teacher education|
|Keywords:||Alternative certification, Induction, New York City, Special education, Teacher vision, Teaching fellows|
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