Special education preservice teachers' perceptions of their readiness to serve culturally and linguistically diverse exceptional students



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The provision of effective special education services for exceptional students from culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds requires teachers to consider a student’s disability in the context of his or her sociocultural and linguistic characteristics. Although research in special education documents the perceptions and beliefs of preservice teachers about diversity, studies are needed which examine the perceptions of preservice teachers about their readiness to work with diverse exceptional learners as they prepare to enter the profession. In view of the fact that teachers’ instructional decisions are influenced by their perceptions and assumptions about their CLD students, such v research has the potential to inform teacher education program content and design. This qualitative study employed naturalistic inquiry methods to examine the perceptions of four special education student teachers’ about their preparation to teach in multicultural settings. Specifically, guiding questions explored participants’ understandings about culture, their multicultural knowledge and skills, and their readiness to work successfully with CLD populations. Participants were student teaching in culturally/linguistic diverse classrooms in a large, urban school district in the Southwest. Two formal interviews, and weekly observations and debriefings over the duration of their placement comprised the primary sources of data. Student teaching evaluations and written feedback from the cooperating teacher and university supervisor, and self-evaluations were also reviewed. Interview and observation data were analyzed for common themes using the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Trustworthiness was established by using prolonged engagement, persistent observation, peer debriefing, the maintenance of a reflexive journal and member checks. All four participants felt prepared to work effectively in classrooms with CLD exceptional students. Though they affirmed the importance of experiences in diverse settings, they demonstrated a limited awareness of culture or its influence on teaching and learning. Their limited cross-cultural competence appeared to be reinforced by their positive evaluations and the instructional behaviors of their cooperating teachers. These findings illustrate the complexity of preparing teachers to work with CLD exceptional students. Implications for future research and teacher education are presented, including recommendations related to program design, the selection of cooperating teachers, and the evaluation of student teachers.