CO-CONSTRUCTING KNOWLEDGE, DISPOSITIONS, AND CAPACITY FOR SUPPORTING YOUNG CHILDREN WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER IN URBAN COMMUNITIES THROUGH ONLINE REFLECTIVE PRACTICE GROUPS
The George Washington University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Communities of Practice (CoP) have emerged as a tool for addressing current issues in the fields of early childhood education and special education, including 1) reducing barriers that perpetuate the research-to-practice gap in the provision of evidence-based instructional strategies; 2) building knowledge of preservice and inservice educators on timely topics that impact practice; and also 3) increasing retention of teachers through the development of supportive, collegial networks (Cashman, Laflin, Paliokas, 2007; Wesley & Buysse, 2006). Faculty at a US university situated in an urban environment have developed a CoP model for addressing barriers to effective practice in early childhood special education. The preservice personnel preparation program's CoP, called Reflective Practice Groups (RPGs), provide an online venue for master's level ECSE students to connect with program alumni and other practitioners serving young children with disabilities in local educational systems as they work together to build knowledge and dispositions required for implementing evidence-based strategies in multi-stressed neighborhoods (Jarrett & Emma, 2009; Spencer, Jarrett, & Emma, 2009). RPGs are embedded within required courses as an alternative instructional approach for bridging knowledge to practice through collaborative, facilitated reflection that connects knowledge and beliefs to critical practices in the field. Program faculty have evaluated RPGs for individual topics, such as supporting young children with disabilities in natural environments and culturally responsive instruction, and determined that RPGs have been an effective instructional tool. Currently, program faculty are developing, implementing, and evaluating a programmatic approach to building increased knowledge, dispositions, and capacity in the provision of evidence-based strategies to support young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families residing in urban, multi-stressed neighborhoods. The purpose of the proposed presentation is to share the RPG approach at a programmatic level for training educators who are equipped to provide high-quality services for young children with ASD and their families, as well as to consider important issues in design, implementation, and evaluation of the online RPG instructional method in the preparation of highly-qualified early childhood special educators. The presenters will also include resources that would enable other universities to implement this online instructional strategy.
Keywords: Preservice teacher development, online instruction/curriculum, early childhood, early childhood special education.