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Can Disability Studies in Education Really Help? A Framework of Action for Teacher Education

Mon, April 20, 2:15 to 3:45pm, Hyatt, Floor: West Tower - Gold Level, Regency AB


As a relative young discipline, Disability Studies in Education (DSE) often enjoys (and needs) a certain freedom to offer critiques and engage in arguments and explanations without, as it were, getting its hands dirty in the details and realities of teacher education. These include the push/pull of politically driven policies (e.g., Ravitch, 2013), increasingly complex new accreditation evidence requirements (e.g., CAEP, 2013), and the restrictions imposed by state licensure standards. For example, in order for special educators to successfully support inclusive practices in general education classrooms, it is important for them to be well prepared in schooling content, including the new common core. However, many state licensure systems require special educators to be prepared to teach students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Teacher educators are faced then with ensuring careful preparation on a full age range of academic content that is not required of any other teacher. This need combined with other licensure requirements for special educators force teacher education programs to pick and choose often in ways that ill-prepare their graduates for some assignments.

All of these pressures and issues together challenge even the most progressive and committed teacher educators to prepare educators for public schools that can respond to a wide range of student diversity with effective inclusive practices and outcomes. If DSE is going to be able to genuinely influence education, or teacher education, rather than just offer new ideas and vocabulary, it will need to engage more fully the existing structures that control the operations of teacher education. This includes figuring out how disability studies principles and values offer alternatives for teacher educators and practical ways in which they might be realized as they respond not only to the needs of students and schools, but also to the pressures facing teacher education.

This paper will do three things. First, it will provide a brief description of the current context of complex pressures facing teacher education. Second, the paper will explore both licensure systems and emerging accreditation requirements in light of efforts to respond to the demands and needs of effective inclusive education for all students including students of poverty, students with cultural and language disabilities, and students with learning difficulties and disabilities. Third, the paper will explore ways teacher educators might respond to issues in licensure and accreditation that are informed by disability studies perspectives and might better result in better prepared teachers who can effectively teach all students in inclusive ways and settings.


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