Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

McIntyre, John

Abstract

This qualitative dissertation research explored the case studies of four novice special education teachers who were the primary instructors for English language arts for students in grades three through eight with an I.E.P. This study addressed the teachers' perspectives, beliefs, practices, and related induction needs concerning their construction of exemplary practice in the teaching of wtiting. Exemplary writing instruction is defined by the inclusion of (a) the professional standards found in the state of Illinois Professional Teaching Standards, Illinois English Language Arts Standards for All Teachers and (b) the Exceptional Needs Specialist Standards of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Data were obtained over the course of three months from audio-taped, semi-structured interviews, three full class period non-participant observations, and an open-ended written questionnaire addressing the following primary research questions: (1) How do the descriptions by special education teachers of exemplary practice in the instruction of writing align with the professional standards? (2) What do special education novice teachers percieve as the role of teacher educators, mentors, other teachers, administrators, as well as classroom and school contexts, in learning and applying the professional standards in their writing practices? (3) How do novice special education teachers' beliefs about the learning and instruction of writing influence their acquisition of pedagogical knowledge pertaining to the professional standards in their writing practices? All data were transcribed and analyzed from a theoretical perspective of socially situated constructivist learning first by open coding and then coded by research question through cross-case analyses. Data were then analyzed by open-coding, followed by the coding of each research question utilizing a case-by-csae analyses. Data were further analyzed by comparative analyses of data collected by interviews, observations, and open-ended questionnaires to determine emerging patterns, categories, themes, and discrepencies. Findings indicated five emergent themes or issues and associated sub-themes of teacher as learner as common across cases and within- case findings were distributed throughout. These five major themes were (1) k-12 experience in learning to write, (2) learning to teach writing in teacher education programs, (3) learning to teach writing as practicing teachers, (4) preferred ways to learn to teach writing, and (5) novice special education teachers' beliefs about the learning and instruction of writing. The novice special education teachers' need for professional development induction support networks pertaining to the acquisition of pedagogical content knowledge for writing was another emergent category that was addressed in the findings for research question two. The findings were presented and discussed to illuminate the novice teachers' perspectives, beliefs, practices, and needs concerning teacher education, induction, and professional development in constructing exemplary writing instruction. Implications for teacher education, induction, professional development and further research were also discussed.

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