Semester of Graduation

Spring 2021

Degree

Master of Agricultural Education (MAgEd)

Department

Department of Agriculture and Extension Education and Evaluation

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Each year, the number of students who have a documented disability in public schools in the U.S. has increased. However, SBAE instructors continue to identify a lack of confidence when teaching students with exceptionalities. This lack of confidence is exacerbated by a lack of professional development opportunities and preservice training offered by teacher preparation programs regarding teaching students with special needs. To better understand this complex issue, this mixed methods investigation sought to describe Louisiana SBAE instructors’ previous educational experiences focused on accommodating students with special needs and describe their desired professional development opportunities regarding accommodating students with special needs. This study’s quantitative strand employed a Borich style online survey in which participants indicated their perceived relevance and ability when accommodating different disability categories as well as utilizing specific strategies when teaching students with special needs through mean weighted discrepancy scores (MWDS). Concurrently, in the qualitative strand, participants completed semi-structured interviews to share their lived experiences central to the phenomenon. Following data collection, the point of interface occurred when I interpreted findings to compare existing convergences and divergences of the data. Overall, the strands converged regarding the need for additional professional development for Louisiana SBAE instructors when accommodating students with exceptionalities, specifically concerning the disability types of blindness or a visual impairment, deafness or hearing impairment, autism, and emotional or behavioral disorders. In addition, inclusion strategies arose as the agricultural teachers desired to better understand the legal regulations of teaching students with special needs in the classroom as well as through FFA and SAE activities. As a result of the investigation, I provided recommendations for tailoring professional development events for Louisiana SBAE instructors in ways that feature the key findings of this investigation.

Committee Chair

Stair, Kristin S.

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