Date of Conferral

1-1-2011

Degree

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

School

Education

Advisor

Thomas Schnick

Abstract

The increasing populations of students with special academic needs included in general education classrooms in American public schools are providing a growing teacher preparation challenge. The purpose of this study was to analyze both strengths and weaknesses in how general education teachers perceived their pre-service preparation for teaching in mixed-ability classrooms. A constructivist learning theory paradigm was used to interpret shared experiences of general education teachers working in mixed-ability public elementary schools. The research question was centered in how this group of teachers assessed preparation to provide instruction for Autism Spectrum Disorder, English Language Learners (ELL), general education, gifted, and Inter-Related Resource students. A sequential explanatory mixed methods research design was used in the study, and a teacher survey and interviews with teacher focus groups served as data collection instruments. Triangulation of data sources and peer review ensured reliability and validity of findings. Comparison of categorical sample data using percentages revealed that teachers did indeed identify differences in their perceived training. Teacher focus group data was then coded and analyzed to reveal; a need for more in-depth training for general education certification to better meet the specific needs of Autistic, ELL, gifted, and Resource students; sustained environmental support; and comfort in essential professional knowledge and abilities. Recommendations include the addition of specific special education coursework for general education certification in higher education and ongoing in-service training for public school teachers. Adopting these recommendations in both arenas may affect positive social change by increasing the likelihood of retaining general education teachers in American public schools.