Preparation of High School Modern Language Teachers for Having Students with ASD

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Preparationof High School Modern Language Teachers for Having Students with ASD

CaliforniaSouthern University

Table of Contents

Introduction 2

Problem Statement 3

Background of the Study 4

Purpose of the Study 6

Significance of the Study 7

Theoretical Framework 8

Research Questions 10

Limitations of the Study 11

Delimitations of the Study 11

Definition of Key Terms 12

Structure of the Research 16

References 17



Teachersin many parts of the world are getting more and more students withautism flocking into the foreign languages lessons(Boyer &amp Lee, 2001).Such people have high likelihood of being diagnosed with highfunctioning autism or Asperger Syndrome. However, many teachers havelittle or no skills in handling these groups. The increased number ofsuch people is now becoming a global concern. Autism can beconsidered as a lifelong disorder associated with impairment ofpersonal development, and in most cases include the AspergerSyndrome. The disorders related with spectrum impair socialinteraction, affects social communication and interfere with flexibleand imaginative thinking(Yell, Drasgow, &amp Lowrey, 2005).

TheAmerican Psychiatric Association identifies the vital features of thedisorder as including difficulty in communication, interaction, andusually restrictive and repetitive interests and activities. Thecommon therapies recommended include physical therapy, behaviortherapy, language and speech therapy, social skills training as wellas occupational therapy. The therapies are often recommended for some40 hours weekly (Hayes et al, 2013 Wire, 2005). Such a large numberof hours are indicators that teachers of inclusive classrooms shouldbe knowledgeable and skilled in behavioral techniques andevidence-based instructions to assist the child to achieveeducational and therapeutic goals.

Currentscholarly researches have indicated that some 27% of individuals withASD use up some 79% of their time during a typical school day in a“general-education classroom.” Additionally, 44% spend 40% of thetime in the same kind of classroom (Hayes et al, 2013). Therefore, asa majority of ASD pupils use up most of their time during a typicalday in school within “general-education” settings, all teachers,not just special-education teachers, should be well-informed of theappropriate evidence-based teaching strategies and the generalstrategies for teaching the ASD children in an inclusive classroom(Kamps, Barbetta, Leonard, &amp Delquadri, 2004).

Thisstudy seeks to understand how high school teachers in Modern Languagedepartments are prepared to teach students with ASD. To ensure this,this study hypothesizes that there are significant benefits ofinclusive education. At the same time, it has a high perception ofthe empirically researched needs of the ASD pupils and the many hoursthey need to complete the therapies(McLeskey, Rosenberg, &amp Westling, 2012).By exploring the preparedness of high school teachers in ModernLanguage departments are prepared to teach students with ASD helpsgain an informed understanding of teacher’s needs towards enhancingan all-inclusive learning environment, especially in their day-to-dayengagement with students with ASD.

Problem Statement

Areview of current scholarly research rationalizes a need forincreased emphasis on training of teachers for children with autismspectrum, particularly those learning a foreign language (Denning &ampMoody, 2013 Wolfberg et al, 2009). The present movement in the fieldthat emphasizes application of evidence-based practices to designinstructional methods needs to be called to attention during teachertraining and preparation as this will increase their effectivenessspecifically in modern language departments. As further emphasized bycurrent literature, teachers’ sense of self-efficacy hassignificant effects on their performance and that of their students(Hayes et al, 2013 Wolfberg et al, 2009).

AsDenning and Moody (2013) showed, most of the teachers who haveacquired some or little training in appropriate evidence-basedteaching strategies have poor readiness to handle the ASD children.This is a concern. This is specifically so despite the fact thenumber of pupils diagnosed with ASD who come into mainstream foreignlanguages classes may be uncertain, as the number of ASD children inthe United States studying foreign language is yet to studied (Hayeset al 2013 Wire, 2005). Still, the number of bilinguals in theUnited States chaos been on the rise since the 1990s, from 11% in1980, 14% in 1990, to 20% in 20152 (Grosjean, 2012). It is thereforepossible to argue bilingual children with ASD are likely to rise.

Anunderlying problem of concern is teacher’s perceptions regardingtheir self-efficacy and preparation after training usingevidence-based practices. This is based on the earlier discussionthat teachers who have acquired some or little training inappropriate evidence-based teaching strategies have poor readiness tohandle the ASD children. The proposed study seeks to examine andexplain the perceptions of teachers regarding their self-efficacy andpreparation after training using evidence-based practices.

Background of the Study

Autismwas identified between 1960s and 1970s. During this period, manycountries trained teachers on how to handle students with suchsyndrome(Buggey, 2005).Currently, only a small niche of these teachers is remaining sincethere has been relaxation in such trainings. Many pupils joining themainstream schools have high likelihood of being diagnosed ofAsperger Syndrome(Grosjean, 2012).

TheIndividualswith Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004defined ASD as a developmental disability that emerges before or atage 3, and extensively affects the communication ability, educationalperformance and social interaction of a child. Historically, littlehas been known as regards the status of teacher preparation forteachers of students with ASD (Denning &amp Moody, 2013). Still,current studies show that offering teachers with training related tothe needs of ASD students improves student outcomes (Hayes et al.,2013 Wolfberg et al., 2009).

Asignificant turning point in special education history of the UnitedStates was the introduction of Public Law No. 94–142 in 1975, whichcodified classes of the processes associated with addressing theneeds of children with disabilities. Before this, special educationwas for the most part uncoordinated. Additional governmentinvolvement as evident from initiatives like No Child Left Behind(NCLB) also pressured the teacher educational programs to improvestudent outcomes through effective teacher preparation. These havehad profound effects on the manner in which teachers work with ASDstudents in special education. For instance, teachers became moreresponsive to the needs of ASD students leading to better learningoutcome (Hayes et al, 2013).

However,during the last decade, more children have been diagnosed with ASD,even as the rate of teacher preparation continues to be held inquestion by interest groups (Denning &amp Moody, 2013). Statisticsby the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that ASDhas increased to one birth in each sixty-eight births (Denning &ampMoody, 2013 CDC 2015). In a majority of cases, the disorder hasbeen reported to begin after the birth of a child (Hayes et al,2013).

Thestudy is framed around previous studies that established thatteachers who have reportedly obtained professional training in areaslinked to inclusive classroom are still likely to feel they areunprepared to teach pupils in inclusive classroom settings (Denning &ampMoody, 2013 Hayes et al., 2013 Wolfberg et al., 2009). Therefore,the proposed study seeks to understand the perceptions of teachersregarding their preparations for teaching ASD children in ModernLanguage departments and to determine a correlation with theirknowledge as regards ASD.

Purpose of the Study

Evidence-basedpractices (EBPs) consist of practices identified to be of qualityresearch and apt to generate consequential outcomes (Denning andMoody 2013 Hayes et al. 2013). The need for identification of highquality research is critical for effective teaching. This maycomprise making a discovery of what happens in classroom whenteachers interact with ASD pupils, and whether their teachingpractices lead to effective learning outcomes for both teachers andpupils. As Denning and Moody (2013) explain, because of theubiquitous absence or reluctance of teachers to employ EBPs, thisstudy is justified as regards identification of the relationshipbetween teacher preparedness and effective learning outcomes for ASDpupils. Consequently, this study investigates the perceptions ofteachers regarding their self-efficacy and preparation after trainingusing evidence-based practices. This will include gathering data onwhat is presently happening in ASD classrooms for foreign languagelearners, in addition to the teaching practices or strategiesteachers are more willing to use in these classrooms.

Mostteachers in different parts of the world have very little or nospecial education on how to meet the needs of students with specialneeds(Robertson, Chamberlain, &amp Kasari, 2003).With the increase in number of students with ASD, many teachers havebeen experiencing challenges in meeting the needs of such students(Morrier, Hess, &amp Heflin, 2011).The study documents the skills and requirements necessary to preparehigh school teachers on how to handle students with ASD. Ifimplemented, the recommendations in this research will see aturnaround in the teaching programs, equip the teachers with skillson how to handle students with special needs, and consequently, thelearning amongst students with ASD will be enhanced.

Significance of the Study

Thisstudy recommends positive aspects of an autistic person’s style oflearning to help teachers in Modern Language departments handle ASDstudents to enhance classroom relationships, motivation, andbehavioral issues. It is expected that concerns that this researchwill raise will promote the importance to students with autism whoare learning a foreign language. The findings will also suggest theeffective teaching approaches for addressing the learning needs ofASD pupils.

Thisstudy is significant in various ways as shown below

Contributionto existing research:Thefinding of this study will help fill the existing gaps in existingresearch regarding the ways through which high school teachers can beprepared to meet the needs of students with ASD. Currently, theresearch on teacher’s preparedness in having students with ASD isminimal.

Equiingpteachers with knowledge on how to effectively handle students withASD:There are various ways through which teachers can be empowered on howto teach students with ASD. The study attempts to illuminate theconnections existing between modern language programs and how toteach students with special needs. The study investigated theteachers’ understanding on how to effectively meet the specialneeds of students in classroom. Despite the inclusion of courses onworld language as one of requirement for graduates aspiring to beteachers, there have been little follow-ups on how effective thegraduates can conceptualize relationship between special educationand world languages. This paper attempts to document teachers’perspective in a way that informs the larger education fraternity ontheir roles in ensuring that they meet the needs of students withASD.

Policymaking on teacher preparation program:This study authenticates the policies and practices relevant inshaping development of special programs for teachers. The mandatefrom Department of Education on teachers’ preparation programs isincluded in this research to enhance identification of programs thatare complaint with existing regulations in preparation and award ofendorsements and certifications to teachers. This is crucial sincethe practices, accreditation and policies mandates play a major rolein shaping overall education program for teachers.

Thoseaspiring to become teachers:The current study tries to document ways through which freshgraduates are supposed to be prepared as they embark on theirteaching career. By interviewing teachers who have just graduated,this study wanted to describe ways through which graduates areprepared to handle students with special needs. The findings of thisresearch help in filling the existing gaps in knowledge on how highschool teaching programs prepare teachers to handle students withspecial needs.

Theoretical Framework

Thisstudy is qualitative in nature and it adopted a constructivisttheoretical framework to clearly illustrate the preparedness of highschool teacher in modern language department to have students withASD. A constructivist approach assumes a social construction of therealty through understanding and meanings developed through ontologyor relativism. In this case, people cannot be separated from whatthey already know. This implies that the understanding of people ofthe world around them is critical and the reality cannot be separatedfrom the world around them. Truth in negotiated and there is noobjective truth.

Vygotskyis the most renowned socio-constructivist theorist(Nelson &amp Fivush, 2004).He managed to systematically bring together the notions ofdevelopment, culture and learning. He hailed from Soviet Union andhis wrote during the early 20thcentury. He died in 1934 at the age of 38. This theoreticalperspective is motivated by the increase in diversity of the objectsand perspectives related to study(Richardson, 1997).For instance, the natural science approach emphasized on study ofbiologically endowed or elementary mental processes that human beingsshared with other mammals while the humanistic approach emphasized onprocesses like voluntary attention and memory, planning,meaning-making and rational thought(Dubinsky &amp McDonald, 2001).

Humanmind composed of a lower-level neurobiological base, though thedistinctive dimension entailed the capacity for voluntary controlusing the higher-level cultural tools such as language, logic andrationality. These higher-level tools act as buffer between theenvironment and the person in roder to mediate the relationshipexisting between the social-material world and a person. The modernhuman beings barely engage in non-mediated activities. Rather, theymediate through activities that involve use of physical energy(Zahorik, 1995).

Thistheoretical perspective conceptualizes development of children as aprocess that entails appropriation of and participation in culturalmeanings that are socially situated and historically determined. Thisinvolves a complete transformation of the natural modes ofdevelopment such as elementary functions or inherited capacities soas to enable a person function as per their cultural context.Participation of children in cultural activities enables them shapetheir behaviors and open avenues for development of more advancedpsychological functions(Sivan, 1986).

Vygotskyargues that the preparation of people in guiding the children towardsdevelopment of speech acts as the principal platform for developmentand mainly targets the instructions given in schools. He indicatedthat Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is crucial in assessingwhether the student has been supported fully to solve problemswithout assistance of other people(Schwanenflugel, Fabricius, &amp Noyes, 1996).According to this theory, students with disability can have limitedacquisition as well as use social skills, a factor that makes themacquire knowledge at a much slower rate. Nevertheless, the socialmilieu of a child can play a major role in limiting the course ofdevelopment as well as lead to delays.

ForVygotsky,some traits like lack of social skills and passivity are impacts ofintellectual disabilities, which are in most cases as a result ofpoor accessibility to socio-cultural information and lack ofopportunity to interact socially and gain psychological skills. Thechange in attitudes and expectations as a result of primarydisability may lead to secondary disability. In order to remediate orprevent this from happening, Vygotsky propositioned the importance ofchanging the social attitudes as a main goal for the specialeducators(Mallory &amp New, 1994).Inoverall, this theory by Vygotsky is informative on connection betweendevelopment of a student and the cultural influences. The ideas fromthis theory are critical especially because the nature of the topicis about learning of students with ASD and the effect of preparednessof their teachers.

Thefocus throughout the entire analytic process was to reveal theessential of equipping teachers with skills in order to prepare themon how to handle students with ASD. This is a reflection of ultimategoal of constructivist approach.

Research Questions

Inorder to achieve the objectives of this research, I’ll need toexamine the preparedness of teachers in high school within the modernlanguage department, in teaching students with ASD. This will requireassessment of the skills required to handle ASD students,determination of whether teachers possess those skills anddetermination of their perspectives in teaching students with ASD.

SpecificActions Research Questions

  1. Are High school teachers in Modern Language departments prepared to teach students with ASD?

  2. What skills do high school modern language teachers need to teach students with ASD?

  3. How many high school modern language teachers have the skills necessary to teach students with ASD?

  4. What are the attitudes of high school modern language teachers about teaching students with ASD?

Limitations of the Study

Someof the limitation experienced during this study included size of thesample. Because of time and cost constraints, the sample size wastaken from ten schools in the district. The findings would have beenmore accurate if the entire country was included. Another limitationwas poor response from some of the particpants. Despite the fact thatmany teachers accepted to take part in the study, some of them didnot return their questionnaires. Furthermore, the capacity ofresearcher to determine the most appropriate respondents was achallenge. It would have been better if the respondents were strictlythose who have had experiences in handing students with ASD.

Delimitations of the Study

Thisstudy did not include parents and students. This is because in mostcases, teachers have been entrusted with the students by the parentsto teach them, hence the need to determine how prepared the teachersare in handling such students. Also, by the nature of the researchtopic, the researcher was seeking the information on how prepared theteachers are as regards their handling of students with ASD.Therefore, it seemed honorable enough to seek firsthand informationfrom the teachers themselves.

Definition of Key Terms

Someterms have been used in this study to describe, question or explainthe concept of teachers’ preparedness in having students with ASD.These terms are explained below.

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): This refers to a set of developmental and behavioral disorder. Persons diagnosed of ASD have difficulties in socializing, communicating and playing. The use of word spectrum implies uniqueness of characteristics that combine to give a distinct behavioral or communication profile. The nature and expression of ASD may change as a person grows. Nevertheless, a person having ASD may have differences in behavior throughout their lives. ASD diagnosis depends on what psychologists or medical doctor observe from the behavior of a person.

  • Asperger Syndrome (AS): This is a condition that is strongly related to autism but for AS, early development of language may be precocious and is not delayed. However, a person with ASD has stereotyped and stilted language. Intellectually, persons with ASD will function within the normal range of abilities.

  • A teacher: For the sake of this study, a teacher is explained as a professional whose main responsibility is to deliver an educational program evaluate the student’s performance and assess the participation of the students in that program. A teacher is entrusted to provide and administer substantial and consistent leadership towards an educational program.

  • Applied behavior analysis (ABA). ABA refers to the evidence-based modification of social behavior by analyzing and manipulating the variables in the environment in order to determine the ones that maintain and reinforce behavior. The variables undergo systematic alterations in order to achieve behavioral changes. ABA is mainly used as an intervention for persons with ASD.

  • Behavior intervention plan (BIP). BIP is a proactive and individualized plan to change problematic behaviors. This is done after analysis and recommendations of behavioral assessment. The behavior intervention plan requires proper replacement of emergency and behavioral procedures.

  • Clinicians. This is a medical professional whose primary responsibility is to offer guidance and treat students with ASD. They are either private or work for the school. They can be psychiatrists, psychologists or any other mental professionals. Clinicians can offer treatment for diagnosed disorder or give referrals to other professionals.

  • Cognitive flexibility. This refers to ability of changing a person’s thoughts or problem-solving capacity based on changing environmental demands. This requires successful monitoring of situations as well as restructuring of reasoning of person accordingly. The cognitive flexibility is impaired in individuals having developmental disabilities like ASD.

  • Comorbidity. This refers to simultaneous existence of two chronic but independent diseases or disorders in a person. In most cases, one of the two conditions is considered as primary with more severe conditions.

  • Discrete trial training (DTT): This refers instructional technique that is based ABA principles. DTT entails direct and programed teachings for various interactional, academic and social skills. DDT elicits some specific target behaviors using techniques of prompting, reinforcement and feedback. The discrete trials comprise of four sections presentation of task, response of the student, consequences and short pause to show the end of trial. The tasks in DDT are presented using concise and simple instructions. The response of the child plays a major role in eliciting reinforcement for corrective feedback for any incorrect response.

  • Discriminative cues: Discriminative cues have been used in this study to represent the visual and auditory cues that are provided during the DDT in order to secure attention and give feedback on performance of the students. The delivery of the cues can be done nonverbally.

  • Executive function. Executive function is also known as cognitive control. This refers to state of mental processes that regulate and control abilities like memory, motor skills and attention. Some of the sub-skills of executive function include organizing, planning for future behavior, changing the behavior, strategizing, problem solving and strategizing.

  • Functional behavior assessment (FBA). FBA is the behavior analysis that determines the overall purpose and function of a behavior and variables in the environment which sustains it. The information gotten through checklists, interviews, data reviews and observations is compiled and summarized in a report. The report should include recommendations on behavioral intervention.

  • Generalization: This is the ability of apply different skills and knowledge across a population, setting, time or behaviors.

  • Higher order cognitive skills: These are the skills involving a more complex reasoning using brain. This entails fluid reasoning and problem solving skills. The high level cognitive skills are critical in measuring intelligence and can be used in predicting academic success.

  • Special education: This refers to the practice of teaching students with special needs that addresses their individual needs and differences.

  • No Child Left Behind (NCLB): This is an Act of U.S. Congress enacted in 2001. NCLB supports the standard-based education reforms that are based on establishment of measurable goals and setting of high standards to improve outcome of students in education. The provisions of the Act allow States to develop assessments for basic skills. In order for a school to receive funding from the federal, it should present the assessments to all students. However, there was no emphasis on national achievement standards, and this meant that each state had to establish its own standards.

  • Critical Social Theory (CST): CST is a multidisciplinary knowledge whose main goal is to advance emancipatory role of knowledge. This is achieved by promoting the function played by criticism in quest for quality education.

  • Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD): This refers to distance between actual level of development influenced by potential development level and independent problem solving skills under the guidance of an adult or in collaboration with peers who are more knowledgeable. According to Lev Vygotsky, the most effective method in developing strategies and skills is through interaction with peers. He proposes the need to use cooperative learning to allow less competent children learn from their more competent peers. Vygotsky claims that any student in ZPD has the potential to improve considerably if given a little ‘boost’.

  • Modern Language: This refers to any human language that is in use currently. Majorly, the term is used in educational environment to distinguish languages used for daily communication such as English and some dead classical languages like Chinese and Latin amongst others that are mostly studies for their linguistic and cultural effect.

Structure of the Research

Thisdissertation is composed on five chapters. The first chapter is theintroduction that introduces the problems addressed in the research.The second chapter is the literature review which contains importantinformation from previous researches relevant to the currentresearch. Chapter three is the methodology where the differentprinciple methods, postulates and rules employed in the researchprocess is presented. The fourth chapter is the results and analysisthat presents the data collected and explanation for the findings.Finally, the fifth chapter presents the discussion, conclusion andrecommendations for future research.


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