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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A framework of support for teachers of mentally handicapped students : a case study Stark, Shirley Patricia Kathleen


The purposes of this case study were: to ascertain the beliefs held by teachers of mentally handicapped students toward the concept of integration; to determine the perceptions of teachers about their program planning practices, in particular the development of Individual Education Programs and their use of the Special Education Core Curriculum Supplement; to elicit teacher opinions regarding their job-related needs for administrative and instructional support and personal professional development; and to generate, in the form of recommendations to the school district, a framework of support combining teachers' perceived needs and district objectives. The setting of the case study was the anonymously named Burrard School District—a medium-sized school district located in the metropolitan Vancouver area. The participants in the study were fourteen teachers of students with mental handicaps located in five different school settings and members of the District's administrative and consultative staff. Data for the study were obtained through open-ended "reflective" interviews with the study's participants during the period of May and June 1985. Interviews were tape-recorded and transcribed and condensed into major categories related to the questions posed for the study. Among the major findings of the study were: 1. Integration is judged to be an appropriate goal for mentally handicapped students in that it results in: more normalized behaviour, greater skill acquisition, improved self-concept, and access to more facilities and activities. 2. Positive attitudes among regular classroom teachers, administrative support, and the degree of co-operation between specialist and general classroom teachers were the factors judged to be minimally required for successful integration. 3. Teachers of mentally handicapped students endorse the development of Individual Education Programs (IEP's) as a part of program development activities, regardless of program type and actual use. 4. Individual Education Programs are used most by teachers of moderately and severely handicapped students and least by teachers of students with mild handicaps. 5. Specific program concerns varied considerably from program to program. 6. Teachers were positive about the structure and philosophy of the Special Education Core Curriculum Supplement and, with the exception of teachers of the severely/profoundly handicapped, judged it to be a useful guide for program planning. 7. Teachers indicated a desire for more professional development opportunities to gain more expertise, to be reassured of the soundness of their own practices, and to maintain professional affiliations with colleagues. The findings of the study suggest that teachers of students with mental handicaps have three general concerns: opportunities for expanding their skills, feelings of professional isolation, and the ambiguities of program ownership. The study presented several recommendations for the amelioration of these concerns.

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