Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Special Education

Major Professor

David Allsopp, Ph.D.

Keywords

Pre-service teacher preparation, Content area instruction, Mixed methods design, At-risk students, Instructional framework

Abstract

For students with learning disabilities, positive academic achievement outcomes are a chief area of concern for educators across the country. This achievement emphasis has become particularly important over the last several years because of the No Child Left Behind legislation. The content area of mathematics, especially in the higher order thinking arena of algebra, has been of particular concern for student progress. While most educational research in algebra has been targeted towards remedial efforts at the high school level, early intervention in the foundational skills of algebraic thinking at the elementary level needs consideration for students who would benefit from early exposure to algebraic ideas. A key aspect of students' instruction with algebraic concepts at any level is the degree and type of preparation their teachers have received with this content.

Using a mixed methods design, the current researcher investigated the usage of the Developing Algebraic Literacy (DAL) framework with preservice special education teacher candidates in an integrated practicum and coursework experience. Multiple survey measures were given at pre-, mid-, and post- junctures to assess teacher candidates' attitudes about mathematics, feelings of efficacy when teaching mathematics, and content knowledge surrounding mathematics. An instructional knowledge exam and fidelity checks were completed to evaluate teacher candidates' acquisition and application of algebraic instructional skills. Focus groups, case studies, and final project analyses were used to discern descriptive information about teacher candidates' experience while engaging in work with the DAL framework.

Results indicated an increase in preservice teachers' attitudes towards mathematics instruction, feelings of efficacy in teaching mathematics, and in the content knowledge surrounding mathematics instruction. Instructional knowledge also increased across preservice teacher candidates, but abilities to apply this knowledge varied across teacher candidates', based on their number of sessions working with students within their practicum site. Further findings indicate the desire of preservice teachers to increase the length and number of student sessions within the DAL experience, as well as the need for increased levels of instructional support to enhance their own experience. This study provides preliminary support for utilizing the DAL instructional framework within preservice teacher preparation experiences for future special educators.

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