Date of Award

12-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Professional Studies in Education

First Advisor

Mary Renck Jalong, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Beatrice Fennimore, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Joann Migyanka, D.Ed.

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to explore the teacher self-efficacy beliefs of early childhood preservice educators and their preparedness to teach students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Phase One of this mixed-methods approach asked preservice early childhood educators (N = 34) to complete the short form of the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (Tschannen-Moran & Woolfolk Hoy, 2001) as well as an open-ended vignette survey which described common academic, behavioral, and social challenges of students with ASD. Respondents were assigned the task of identifying goals, resources, and strategies to address each scenario. In Phase Two of this research, participants from the larger population (N = 6) discussed their perceived preparedness to teach students with ASD in semi-structured interviews. Results indicated preservice educators have moderately high levels of self-efficacy in instructional practices, student engagement, and classroom management. However, reported goals, resources, and strategies for students were broadly defined and lacked ASD specificity. Further, interviewees recognized the positive influence of experience with students with ASD on their preparedness to teach this population of students, but were cognizant of deficits in their knowledge and skills. Consequently, respondents expressed plans to pursue ASD-specific professional development. This study demonstrated that early childhood educators complete teacher training with high self-efficacy, but are underprepared to address some of the challenges of teaching students with ASD. Implications of this research suggested several modifications in teacher preparation. First, preservice educators should have greater experience with ASD embedded into course assignments, discussions, and fieldwork. Second, novice educators need to learn to seek teacher-centered resources, such as collaboration with colleagues and families, to help address gaps in ASD understanding. Third, beginning teachers must commit to ongoing ASD professional development. The combination of these experiences encourages the reflective practices that foster mature teaching repertories.

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