Staff development activities influencing bilingual special education teacher practices

Veronica Eugenia Talley, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to identify bilingual special education teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and perceptions, through reflection, about learning they acquired as a result of their participation in professional development activities. One way to achieve changes in teacher practices is to engage practitioners in a reflective process to identify job related knowledge, skills, or attitudes. This reflection leads teachers to new awareness and of the context in which educators work. The 8 participants of this study were selected from a pool of volunteer bilingual special education teachers working in different public schools in New York City. Data collection for this study was gathered through a reflective essay, a teacher self-reflection on teaching practice, and an interview. The study sought to identify teachers learning and growth by looking at (a) the long-term goals of staff development, (b) the benefits of staff development, (c) staff development influence on teaching practice, (d) the role of staff development on student learning, and (e) teachers' professional planning and how it supports students' academic and language learning. Participants' responses were organized and measured using epistemological theory of knowledge, which lists ways of individual knowing. The knowing highlighted in this study was mainly in the procedural and constructed areas. An analysis of the findings of this study showed that all participants demonstrated procedural and constructed knowing that they perceived to have influenced their practice. Participants indicated that attending staff development activities had long-term effects on their practice, and gave them more knowledge and expertise to support their students' academic and language learning. Teachers' learning, following staff development, evolved through the use of negotiating different points of view, seeking accuracy when forming new knowledge, and using prior knowledge during dialogue with students and peers. Staff development needs to be an ongoing, collegial, and collaborative endeavor to create a sense of efficacy in teachers to help them grow professionally. The findings of this study have implications for teaching and learning. One implication is that staff development needs to be an ongoing activity that ensures that teachers develop and continue dialogue to stay abreast of current best practices. Some schools and districts offer staff development workshops or series that are either grounded in special education theory and needs or bilingual education theory and practices. There is no clear bridge of these two disciplines to accommodate the unique population of educators who teach culturally and linguistically diverse special education students. Staff development can have a sustainable influence in the classroom when there is a central focus on the needs of the students, the teachers, and the school program in which these individuals work or study. Staff development activities that implicitly expose bilingual special education teachers to current best practice on the use of skills and strategies that are effective on the various developmental levels of children; language acquisition theories; and pedagogical content knowledge to assure equal access to the curriculum to all culturally and linguistically challenged students can be beneficial. Teacher learning, reflection, and growth could therefore take place in every classroom.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Adult education|Special education|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

Talley, Veronica Eugenia, "Staff development activities influencing bilingual special education teacher practices" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3373833.