Perceptions of Novice Elementary School Teachers on Their Preparedness for Teaching in Inclusive Classrooms
Researchers have reported that preservice teachers are unprepared for teaching in inclusive classrooms (Gilmour & Wehby, 2020; Swindlehurst et al., 2019; Texas Education Agency, 2019). The purpose of this qualitative study was to analyze novice elementary educators’ perceptions on their preparedness to teach inclusive classrooms. For this study, a qualitative phenomenological approach was used to highlight the experiences of novice teachers in inclusive classrooms. The six participants were novice teachers who graduated from the same four-year university and were teaching in a general education classroom at the time of this study. Using Clark Moustakas’s 1994 modification of van Kaam’s approach for analyzing phenomenological research, I analyzed the transcripts of the interviews to identify invariant constituents. From these experiences, I identified four core themes: Teachers Wanted More from Preservice Preparation, Mentor Support is Critical for Preservice and Novice Teachers, Novice Teachers Feel Inadequately Prepared for Special Education, and Pandemic and Mental Health Impacted Preservice Preparation. The findings of the study indicate that novice teachers believe their educator preparation experience provided a basic understanding of special education concepts. However, the novice teachers’ perceptions of their educator preparation program was that it did not provide adequate firsthand experiences to foster a greater sense of self-efficacy in their ability to teach in inclusive classrooms. Implications for practice include educator preparation programs reviewing and revising current coursework to allow for more field experience pertaining to special education. Programs in Texas should consider creating opportunities for special education faculty to collaborate in core content methods classes to create inclusive classroom environments within a higher education setting. Additionally, educational policymakers should consider adopting additional language to Rule §228.35 of the Texas Administrative Code to specify field-based experiences must include time in an inclusive setting and with special education staff. The results of this study add to a growing body of research conducted to improve upon educator preparation.