The Roles and Professional Relationships of Special Educators Relative to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Implementation in Four Wisconsin School Districts
Kilmurray, Felicity Rose
School of Education, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Lewis, Marcus F
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Within general education settings, students with disabilities may not gain maximum benefit from the use of emerging inclusive pedagogical frameworks unless the role of special educators is reconfigured so that their expertise can be applied to instructional design and delivery. The purpose of this study was to investigate how special educators experience their role within the context of systems and relationships in Wisconsin schools with varying levels of UDL implementation. Study participants included eight general education teachers and eight special educators from four Wisconsin school districts. Two of the sites were Wisconsin UDL demonstration sites and two were not. A phenomenological design was used to gain insight into how the role of special educator is understood and experienced. Data was collected via semi-structured interviews and analyzed from the perspective of critical constructivism. The findings highlighted a shared definition of the duties, functions, and attributes associated with the role of special educator within and outside of a UDL school, as well as an understanding of collaboration as a key element of professional relationships. However, differences emerged in terms of role enactment connected to systemic barriers and facilitators for collaboration. These differences have implications for how educational leaders and policy makers can support teacher collaboration in inclusive schools. Recommendations are made for future research related to ongoing evaluation of the special educator role and for improved practice in schools.
universal design for learning