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Design features and components of a graduate program in special education

Denise DeMagistris, Johnson & Wales University


This study is a descriptive, applied research design, which answers the following major research question: What are the components of a model secondary special education teacher preparation Masters program to be implemented by a career-oriented university? The study was initiated for the following reasons: (a) the projected shortage of special education teachers (Feistritzer, 1997; The Urban Teacher Collaborative, 2001; Canadian Teacher's Federation, 2002); and (b) the recent criticism of the preparation of secondary special education teachers (Council for Exceptional Children, 2002). The collection of data for this research study focuses on those factors that describe or influence the preparation of special education teachers at the Master's degree level. Interviews of 3 groups of educators, including administrators, regular education teachers and special education teachers were conducted and a survey based on the Likert scale provides quantitative data from the same 3 groups. Standards espoused by professional organizations and accreditation agencies are reviewed and course offerings at selected college and university special education Masters degree programs are analyzed. The following four themes emerge through the data reduction process: (a) current educational reform; (b) curriculum, instruction, and assessment perspectives; (c) perceptions toward clinical practice; and (d) teacher collaboration. The findings result in recommendations for a model secondary special education teacher preparation program, which includes (a) establish a philosophy of education; (b) use constructivist approaches to learning; (c) focus on teaching and learning; (d) provide clear expectations and continuous feedback; (e) incorporate a flexible time frame; (f) require evidence of achievement through performance-based evaluation; (g) provide a cohort for students; (h) provide classes on-site; (i) provide instruction in modules; and (j) provide content through distance education.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Special education

Recommended Citation

DeMagistris, Denise, "Design features and components of a graduate program in special education" (2003). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI3106405.