Open Access
Choi, Eunjung
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 09, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Dr James Johnson, Dissertation Advisor
  • James Ewald Johnson, Committee Chair
  • Vivian Yenika Agbaw, Committee Member
  • David Lee, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • inclusion
  • teacher professional development
  • teacher collaboration
  • early childhood education
  • early special education
  • pre-service training
  • in-service training
Today the issue of how young children with and without special needs play and learn together is getting more and more attention and support from a variety of sources. Although many educators and parents realize the importance of having effective early childhood programs that serve children with all abilities and their families, less clear are data about the essential knowledge and skills of early childhood practitioners needed to be effective. In addition, academic merger of the fields of Early Childhood Education (ECE) and Special Education (SPLED) has occurred in response to issues of inclusion; but the practical side to this merger is still not fleshed out very well (Darragh, 2007). This study focuses on what we might learn about a set of teachers in an early childhood inclusive program with regard to teacher professional development and collaboration of the teachers who come from diverse academic backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of six teachers concerning their professional development and collaboration within an early childhood inclusive program context. This study provides an empirical basis for examining the experiences that early childhood inclusive educators need to have in order to construct a deep and complex understanding of the early childhood knowledge base and skill sets required for providing meaningful educational experiences for children with and without special needs and their families. To accomplish the research purpose and to describe the research questions appropriately, this study employed qualitative methodology to chronicle the experiences of six teachers in early childhood inclusive program in Northeastern U.S. This study adds to the literature on ECE and SPLED by in-depth interviewing of teachers in both ECE and SPLED; teachers come from different academic backgrounds. A focus was on professional development, and t collaborative team work for successful inclusion. The participants for this study were two experienced general education teachers, three experienced special education teachers, and the Director of the program (N=6), all in inclusive classrooms in one program site . All participants had more than 5 years of teaching experiences in early childhood inclusive settings. Four data sources provided the basis for this study: 1) focus group interview, 2) individual interview, 3) observations, and 4) documents. With a lengthy and interactive process of data collection and processing that involved describing, analyzing, and interpreting data, the researcher synthesized perceptions of teacher professional development and collaboration from the participants’ perspective. Research questions specified four different interests regarding teacher professional development and collaboration in early childhood inclusive program: 1) How do teachers perceive inclusion and their roles in inclusive program?, 2) How does the program practice ECE and SPLED for teaching children with and without special needs?, 3) How teachers develop their knowledge and skills to meet the needs of children in all abilities?, and 4) How teachers collaborate with other members in the program? Though the analysis, the participants revealed the complexity of their practice of teaching in an early childhood inclusive program; and the themes identified were: 1) inclusion, 2) operations of ECE in relation to SPLED, 3) professional development, and 4) collaboration. Each theme generated several sub-themes which had strong connections with one another. The issues that participants experienced as teachers in early childhood inclusive program were: 1a) the definition of inclusion was different as a function of academic backgrounds-- whether they came with general or special education degree. 1b) teachers play two different roles depending on children’s abilities-- developmental roles for children with special needs and general classroom role for typically developing children. This finding has implications for teacher preparation program in ECE and SPLED. 2) ECE and SPLED practice in the program was not balanced well but inclined more to SPLED approach, 3) professional development of teachers was done in two different ways: teacher preparation program, and in-service training. In-service training can be categorized in two types: (a) attending conferences or workshops outside of the setting, and (b) sharing knowledge and skills with other teachers in the setting, and this process overlapped with the way teachers collaborate each other. 4) teachers collaborated in diverse contexts and methods: in classrooms, playgrounds, teachers’ room and even the hall way formally and informally. Collaboration methods that the participants described were the meetings, mentor system, peer observation, emails, chatting, and face book. These are all different ways to share knowledge and skills that may not otherwise be held in common across all the teachers who are from different academic backgrounds and in-service experiences. Note also, their differences sometimes caused conflicts between teachers but they always tried to solve as soon as possible employing various strategies made possible by being in the same program work place. Data-based assertions are given in conclusion, and the implications of these assertions. In addition, recommendations for future study are made.