Teaching About Disability and Special Education in a Secondary Social Studies Teacher Education Program: A Self-Study

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Virginia Tech

The civic mission of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) affirms the need for teachers to meet the unique and diverse learning needs of students with disabilities. However, scholarly work within social studies is limited regarding effective teaching practices for students with exceptional learning needs. Moreover, the research that does exist rarely aligns with the NCSS position statement addressing powerful teaching and learning as meaningful, integrative, value-based, challenging, and authentic. This study examines how one teacher educator with a background in both social studies and special education facilitates understanding about disability, special education, and the instructional needs of exceptional learners in an introductory special education course for pre-service secondary social studies teachers. Using data collected through course evaluations, assignment artifacts, weekly blog journal entries, colleague observations of class sessions, and student interviews, the author uses Professional Working Theory to analyze how practice (What I do), theory (How I understand), and ethics (Why I do) impacts course design and delivery. The author raises questions beyond improving personal practice by challenging others to consider how their teacher preparation programs address special education and disability for social studies pre-service teachers, suggesting that an accumulation of knowledge through similarly themed studies provides an opportunity for a beneficial comparison of practices. The author discusses recommendations to improve research intersecting special education and social studies education.

Professional Working Theory, Secondary Education, Social Studies Education, Special Education, Teacher Education