Date of Award

1-1-2001

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Carmel Maloney

Abstract

Trends to integrate students with disabilities into general education schools, rely on early childhood teachers utilising their knowledge and skills to provide successful induction into the education system, and fully including students with disabilities in the teaching program. This study describes early childhood teachers' knowledge of children with disabilities, and the teaching of these children, through teachers recounting their sources of knowledge and experiences in teaching children with disabilities. This study was conducted in the northern metropolitan teaching districts of Perth, Western Australia. Using both quantitative and qualitative methodology, 22 early childhood teachers completed a survey involving open-ended questions, followed by 5 teachers participating in taped in-depth interviews, disclosing their thoughts and lived experiences of teaching children with disabilities in general education settings. Data were analysed to identify shared teacher knowledge significant to the effective teaching and inclusion of children with disabilities. Findings indicated that early childhood teachers' knowledge of children with disabilities developed through the experience of teaching a child with disabilities and was relative to the particular children they had taught. Interview participants indicated that caring dispositions and knowledge of the individual, not the disability, was essential knowledge for teaching a child with disabilities. Being proactive and seeking support, as well as planning ahead, organizing time, adapting the learning environment and modifying existing teaching practices and expectations were considered to be critical elements of teaching a child with disabilities. Early childhood teachers also found that teaching a child with disabilities was a shared experience, where they were required to collaborate with various agencies and parents to ensure successful inclusion took place. The process of inclusion caused early childhood teachers to question their self-efficacy and the adequacy of their practical teaching knowledge. As one interview participant stated, "it's all a huge learning curve."

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