Date of Award

Winter 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


Literacy Leadership

Committee Director

Charlene Fleener

Committee Member

Linda Bol

Committee Member

Leigh Butler


Significant changes in requirements for reading instruction and special education teacher preparation have occurred in recent years due to provisions found in the No Child Left Behind legislation of 2001 and the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act. This study examined the preparation for reading instruction that prospective special education teachers received during their teacher preparation and their beliefs concerning their preparation. Reading instruction preparation was examined in the context of the knowledge and skills associated with reading instruction acquired in two required university reading courses. Using a mixed methods sequential explanatory design-participant-selection model (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2010) , the role of reading courses taken by current and prospective special education teachers on their knowledge and beliefs related to reading instruction was investigated. Multiple choice and constructive responses on a reading credentialing exam described the knowledge prospective special education teacher have in four knowledge domains. Further, an additional literacy related course did not significantly predict reading knowledge as measured by the credentialing exam. A questionnaire (n=28) on special education teachers' beliefs concerning their preparation was conducted with follow up semi-structured interviews (n=10) with two extreme case cohorts that represented teachers with high knowledge and low knowledge of reading instruction. Quantitative findings suggested that prospective special education teachers acquire significant content knowledge of reading instruction in their reading courses, but may lack the procedural knowledge to apply their knowledge. Moreover, responses to questionnaire items on teachers' beliefs concerning their reading courses suggested that teachers believed their preparation resulted in a lack of procedural knowledge related to creating flexible grouping and differentiating reading instruction for struggling readers. Follow up semi-structured interviews identified similar concerns with delivering the reading instruction necessary to address emergent literacy across grade levels and disability categories. Additional reading instructional courses, field experiences, and practicums are recommended to address the need for differentiated special education preparation in the area of reading instruction.


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