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IDEAlly Prepared: Special Education Teacher Preparation for Online Instruction


Posted on Aug 12, 2016

On August 12, 2016, the Center released IDEAlly Prepared: Working toward Special Education Teacher Preparation for Online Instruction. This report emerged from Center-sponsored discussions with representatives from institutions of higher education who prepared teachers for instructing students with disabilities. The discussion issues focused on their preparation programs for teachers to enter online learning environments (fully online, blended, and supplemental) and implement Individualized Education Programs sponsored through the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

Report contents include:

  • An overview of online teaching competencies according to research;
  • Methodological strategies for inviting and learning from teacher educators in this discussion group, including participant invitation, instrument development and discussion protocol, and data analysis procedures;
  • Findings from the discussion groups around the challenges of preparing teachers for online learning environments including the lack of models and resources, inconsistencies in institutional support, difficulties in building relationships with virtual schools for student teaching and practicum placement, and grappling with the conceptualizations of IDEA that the online learning environment demands;
  • Findings from the discussion about promising practices including the use of virtual observations and other remote practicum experiences, advocacy for the development of online learning curriculum, and increased access to online courses as initial preparation, as well as advanced degrees.

In addition, this report provides an assessment of critical next steps to ensure that more teachers who enter the virtual classroom are truly prepared to meet the demands of students protected and served under IDEA legislation. These steps include:

  • Attention to the needs of students with disabilities and their teachers in standards from agencies such as the International Association for K12 Online Learning (iNACOL) and the Information Society for Technology in Education (ISTE);
  • Attention from the organizations that accredit institutions of higher education around the preparation of teachers not just with online learning, but for it.
  • Increasing the access to online course taking experiences for both prospective and practicing teachers;
  • Increasing research funding for the development of models of teacher preparation for online learning and for the identification of best practices for children and teachers;
  • Policy guidance from federal and state entities and identification of local policies that are effective for meeting the demands of IDEA in online settings.

Readers who come to this report with questions about the reality of preparing teachers to support students with disabilities in virtual environments will gain understandings about the intricacies of teacher preparation as well as an appreciation for the efforts of teacher educators as they take up this work.

To download the entire report, click HERE.

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