School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Gail Collins


higher education, low-incidence disabilities, severe disabilities, teacher preparation


Special Education and Teaching


The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological study was to describe the participants' perceived effectiveness of their teacher preparation program and their experience of teaching students who are identified with a low-incidence disability. The theory guiding this study was the experiential learning theory. Kolb's experiential learning theory is based on the belief that meaningful experiences and reflection promote enhanced learning. The research questions for this study focused on teachers' perceptions of the effectiveness of their special education teacher-preparation programs. Eleven participants who have completed a special education teacher preparation program and currently teach students who are identified with a low-incidence disability were recruited for this research. Data collection for this study included individual interviews, focus groups, and a prompted written letter. Data analysis included the development of the themes after coding and the identification of the significant statements. Four themes were identified from data analysis: (a) levels of preparedness, (b) reality of the field, (c) opportunity to reflect, and (d) worthy components. Results indicated that a majority had some sense of their program being effective in relation to teaching students with low-incidence disabilities, but once in the field they found there were areas that were lacking. All participants found there to be benefits to their field experience and felt that it plays a big part in the preparation. The use and benefits of meaningful reflection were mixed but tended to result in future personal growth. Every participant expressed one piece of their field experience or reflection that was beneficial and shared useful suggestions for teacher preparation programs.