Dispositions for Special Educators: Cultivating High-Quality Traits for Working with Students with Special Needs

By Barbara S. S. Hong, W. Fred Ivy and Don P. Schulte.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The quality of education our students with disabilities receive depends significantly upon the quality of our teachers. However, classrooms are not always conducive for learning. The key question is: “Are the adults [in school] interacting in a way that creates a climate where children feel comfortable, safe, and protected, where they can identify with and attach to adults” (Comer, 1988, p. 9)? Teachers need to cultivate appropriate dispositions for working with students with special needs in terms of temperament, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, sensitivity, compassion, caring attitude, mental preparedness, frame of mind, values, beliefs, easiness, anxiety, composure, to say the least. We have systematically identified three domains of developmental profiles that can be summed up as caring attributes of teachers: (a) Dispositions of Empathetic Teachers (b) Dispositions for Working with Students with Special Needs; and (c) Dispositions in Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Competence. The central idea here is to challenge educators to start reconceptualizing their own dispositions and become more cognizant of the effects negative dispositions can have on students. It is hoped that novice as well as veteran teachers will utilize these developmental profiles to reflect on how to create a classroom that is caring, fair, and conducive for all students, with and without disabilities.

Keywords: Dispositions, Characteristics, Special Education, Disability, Teacher Quality, Student Outcome, Caring, Learning Environment, Teacher Training

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp.75-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.213MB).

Dr. Barbara S. S. Hong

Associate Professor, Education, Human Development & Social Sciences, Penn State Altoona, PA, USA

Dr. Barbara Hong is an Associate Professor of Education at Penn State Altoona. She obtained her Ph.D. from Columbia University in New York City after receiving three Masters from the same institutions. Her areas of research include teacher quality, special education, ethics of caring, self-empowerment, and educational leadership. Dr. Hong has been working with students for over 20 years, particularly students with special needs. She has been a national and international speaker and consultant throughout her career. She has worked with schools in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, New York, Texas, and now Pennsylvania. Dr. Hong is a certified special educator and school administrator.

Dr. W. Fred Ivy

Associate Professor, College of Arts & Science and Education, Texas A&M University-Texarkana, Texarkana, Texas, USA

Dr. Ivy started in ‘special’ education back in the early ‘70s in Texas and realized early on that if he were to impact others in a major way it would have to be through supervision of ‘general’ educators; he would need to represent everyone on campus (and eventually stand for the rights of all stakeholders in the entire school district). He finished a doctorate in supervision and educational administration from the University of Houston in 1976 and subsequently has served as Campus Principal in six districts and has experience as District Superintendent in thee independent school systems. Fred has also taught at the university level off-and-on for over 25 years full-time faculty in Special Education, School Leadership, and a combination of both in the following states in America: Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and began his administrative career in the State of New Mexico. [His interests in restoring vintage sports cars, an old farm house, and periodic camping, keep him grounded in the ‘grime of life’....]

Dr. Don P. Schulte

Assistant Professor of Educational Administration, Department of Educational Leadership and Foundation, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA

Don Schulte is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership and Foundations at The University of Texas at El Paso. Before assuming his current position, he served as an associate professor and director of the Educational Administration Program at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. Prior to his work in higher education, Dr. Schulte spent about 27 years in public education and held many different positions, including teacher, assistant principal, principal, curriculum director, assistant to the superintendent (government relations), assistant superintendent for instruction and superintendent. During his tenure as superintendent, Schulte’s district was academically recognized for its high student performance by the State of Texas. He received the Outstanding Dissertation Award for the social and behavioral sciences from the University of Texas El Paso Graduate School in 2001 and the 1991 Gold Nugget Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of UTEP alumni.


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