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The Relationship of Personnel

Preparation to the Competence


of Teachers of Students with Visual
Impairments in Turkey
Ayşe Dolunay Kesiktaş and Ayşe Gonul Akcamete
Abstract: The study reported in this article sought to determine the degree to
which the professional standards for Turkish teachers of students with visual
impairments were addressed during preservice training and the degree to which
in-service teachers of visual impairments implemented these professional stan-
dards. The results of the nationwide survey showed that teachers faced problems
in both attaining and implementing certain important knowledge and skill areas
for teaching students with visual impairments.

The past decade has seen wide public in- why personnel preparation programs in
terest in teacher education issues in devel- special education are the first and per-
oped countries. This interest has led author- haps the most important step in ensur-
ities to improve teacher education by ing teachers’ competence as measured
linking the quality of teachers and profes- by professional standards that are endorsed
sional development with performance stan- by national authorities (Brownell, Ross,
dards that define the knowledge and skills Colon, & McCallum, 2005; Pogrund &
that are needed to become a qualified Wibbenmeyer, 2008; Turkish Ministry of
teacher (Brownell, Rosenberg, Sindelar, & Education, 2008).
Deutsch Smith, 2004). Countries such as According to Brownell and colleagues
Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and (2005), little evidence exists on the effec-
the United States have developed national tiveness of personnel preparation pro-
professional standards in collaboration with grams in special education. This also
national authorities (Teacher Training holds true for the field of visual impair-
Agency, 2003; Tuning Educational Struc- ment, with its unique roles and responsi-
tures in Europe, 2004; Turkish Education bilities required of teachers of students
Association, 2009). Although special edu- with visual impairments (Spungin & Fer-
cation was not identified in these endeavors rell, 2007). In several countries, such as
(Brownell et al., 2004), professional educa- the United States and United Kingdom,
tion standards now exist in that field as well. professional standards have been ad-
Special education teachers must master a dressed and, together with empirical evi-
variety of skills prior to entering the field to dence, have helped shape personnel prep-
establish a knowledge base from which to aration programs. In the United States,
draw when faced with challenges. This is several efforts have been made to identify

108 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
the roles and responsibilities of teachers role of preservice personnel preparation
of students with visual impairments and programs should be investigated.
the professional standards that clearly de- In Turkey, professional standards for
fine them. For example, in their position teachers have recently been developed by
paper, Spungin and Ferrell (2007) identi- the Turkish Ministry of Education in col-
fied the roles that a teacher of students laboration with universities, and these
with visual impairments is required to standards have begun to be taken into
play, including assessment, educational account in preservice and in-service train-
and instructional strategies, guidance and ing programs. Beginning in 2002, the
counseling, administration and supervi- project addressed the generic competen-
sion, and school-community relations. A cies of the teaching profession and the
position paper by Erin, Holbrook, subject-matter competencies for 16 disci-
Sanspree, and Swallow (2006) stated that plines, including special education. The
teachers of students with visual impair- subject-matter competencies for special ed-
ments need to acquire skills that are spe- ucation were divided into three categories
cific to the field of visual impairment, according to students’ type of disability (vi-
such as braille, the use of optical and sual impairment, hearing impairment, and
nonoptical devices, and orientation and intellectual disability), and the committee
mobility. In 2003, the Council for Excep- developed several performance indicators
tional Children (CEC) established profes- for each competence. These performance
sional standards for teachers of students indicators were observable behaviors of
with visual impairments, with 10 profes- teachers that could be used as evidence for
sional standards for first-year teachers the quality of teachers (Turkish Education
(CEC, 2009). These standards are being Association, 2009; Turkish Ministry of Ed-
used by the National Council for Accred- ucation, 2008, 2010).
itation of Teacher Education to accredit This attempt by the Turkish Ministry of
programs in visual impairment (Pogrund Education can be considered an important
& Wibbenmeyer, 2008). step in raising the quality of the teaching
Pogrund and Wibbenmeyer (2008) workforce in the field of visual impair-
stated that a qualified teacher of students ment. However, no study to date has
with visual impairments is one who has sought to discover the relationship of
taken essential courses and has had super- these performance indicators to the per-
vised practicum experiences that lead to sonnel training programs that these teach-
effective teaching practices. Erin and col- ers attended. Swallow (1990) claimed that
leagues (2006) claimed that one criterion the field of visual impairment has to ad-
that an agency has to look for when re- dress questions concerning the quality of
cruiting teachers of students with visual instruction at universities and the level of
impairments is that the candidate has met teaching competence of teachers of stu-
the standards established by such author- dents with visual impairments. Therefore,
ities as the CEC. Therefore, professional there seems to be a need to investigate the
standards can be said to be critical in degree to which personnel preparation
determining the quality of a teacher of programs fulfill the professional stan-
students with visual impairments, and the dards for teachers of students with visual

©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 109
impairments established by authorities. dicators (basic, medium, or ad-
Since the development of these profes- vanced) determined by the Turkish
sional standards began long before 2008, Ministry of Education?
teachers of students with visual impair- 3. What additional knowledge or skill
ments who graduated before then know areas do the teachers of students with
about these standards, and their views visual impairments believe should
should also be examined. Apart from the have been covered in greater detail
degree of attainment of those standards during their preservice training?
during preservice training, the degree to
which teachers of students with visual Methods
impairments can practice them in their INSTRUMENTATION
work should also be sought to gain a The survey used in the study consisted of
general understanding of the issues in three sections. The first section, which we
Turkey. Thus, the purpose of the study developed, included questions on demo-
presented here was to determine the de-
graphic characteristics. The second sec-
gree to which the professional standards
tion included 80 performance indicators
for teachers of students with visual im-
pertaining to professional standards for
pairments that were determined by the
teachers of students with visual impair-
Turkish Ministry of Education have been
ments, developed by the Turkish Ministry
attained during preservice training and
of Education (2008). This professional
the degree to which teachers of students
standards section was divided into five
with visual impairments practice these
domains: communication and social
professional standards in their everyday
work. In addition, since the performance skills; modifying the program; collabora-
indicators developed by the Turkish Minis- tion with the school, family, and other
try of Education were classified by level, professionals; behavioral management;
and some were the responsibility of the and getting involved in professional de-
undergraduate program, the study also in- velopment activities.
vestigated the possible differences in the The performance indicators under these
attainment of the skills across levels. The standards were also grouped according to
research questions posed were as follows: level: Level 1 ⫽ basic, Level 2 ⫽ me-
dium, and Level 3 ⫽ advanced. Basic-
1. How do teachers rate the perfor- level performance indicators are the basic
mance indicators for teachers of knowledge, skills, and attributes of the
students with visual impairments teaching profession and are considered to
that were developed by the Turkish be the general responsibility of preservice
Ministry of Education according to programs. In other words, all first-year
the degree of attainment in the pre- teachers are expected to possess these be-
service program and the degree of haviors. Medium-level knowledge and
implementation? skills are behaviors that are developed
2. Do the highest- and lowest-ranked through experience in the field and in-
performance indicators differ accord- clude using various strategies and attend-
ing to the levels of performance in- ing to the needs and preferences of

110 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
individual students during teaching. Table 1
The demographic characteristics of the
Advanced-level behaviors are behaviors participants.
that build on Level 2 behaviors; teachers
Variable n %
who have reached this level of perfor-
mance have the capacity to make original Agea
contributions to the field (Turkish Minis- 22-29 83 37.1
30-39 125 55.8
try of Education, 2008).
40 and over 13 5.8
The items in this section were filled Missing 3 1.3
according to two criteria. The first, placed Gender
on the left column of the item, was the Male 82 36.6
degree of attainment, which could be de- Female 135 60.3
Missing 7 3.1
fined as “the degree to which that specific Educational level
knowledge or skill was covered during Bachelor’s 214 95.5
preservice training,” and the second, Master’s 10 4.5
placed on the right column of the item, Years of work (with students
with visual impairments)b
was the degree of implementation, which 0-5 115 51.3
is “the degree to which the respondent is More than 5 105 46.9
able to implement that knowledge or Missing 4 1.8
skill.” Both columns were scored on a Years of work (in total)c
0-5 85 37.9
5-point Likert-type scale (1 ⫽ never, 2 ⫽
More than 5 135 60.3
rarely, 3 ⫽ average, 4 ⫽ mostly, and 5 ⫽ Missing 4 1.8
totally). The last section included an a
X ⫽ 31.43, SD ⫽ 4.84, range: 22-46.
open-ended question for which the partic- b
X ⫽ 6.30, SD ⫽ 4.58, range: 0-17.
ipants were to write additional knowledge
c
X ⫽ 8.00, SD ⫽ 4.57, range: 0-18.
or skill areas that they believed should
have been covered in greater detail in the teachers were graduates of one university
preservice program. with an undergraduate program for teach-
ers of students with visual impairments in
PARTICIPANTS AND DATA ANALYSIS Ankara, the capital of Turkey. This per-
The survey and the cover letter (which sonnel preparation program is the only
included the aim of the study and a state- undergraduate and graduate program for
ment regarding informed consent of the teachers of students with visual impair-
participants), which were approved by the ments in Turkey. The names of the par-
Educational Research and Development ticipants were not taken, to protect their
Directorate of the Ministry of National anonymity. Of the 284 surveys that
Education, were mailed by the Ministry were mailed, 254 were returned, 224 of
of Education in fall 2009 to 284 teachers which were suitable for analysis, result-
of students with visual impairments who ing in a 78% return rate. The demo-
were working in 1 of the 16 schools for graphic characteristics of the partici-
students who are visually impaired or the pants are presented in Table 1. As Table
government-run Research and Rehabilita- 1 shows, the participants were a fairly
tion Centers in the urban and rural regions young group of teachers, slightly more
of 60 cities throughout Turkey. All the than half of whom had limited work

©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 111
experience in the field of visual impair- havioral management, while skills related
ment and most of whom did not have to teaching communication and social
graduate degrees. skills, collaborating with others, and get-
The demographic variables in Section 1 ting involved in professional develop-
and all the items in Section 2 were entered ment activities were considered to be ac-
and analyzed in the Statistical Package quired less often during preservice
for the Social Services, version 13.0 for training. Similarly, the teachers consid-
Windows. Descriptive statistics were ered themselves to practice the two high-
used to examine the participants’ re- est ranked standards for degree of attain-
sponses to the performance indicators in ment (modifying the program and
Section 2. The open-ended question in behavioral management), with behavioral
Section 3 was content analyzed. management ranked the first. However,
although they rated the professional de-
Results velopment activity standard the last for
TEACHERS’ RATINGS attainment, the participants considered
OF THE PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
themselves to practice those skills more
often than they did teaching communica-
Table 2 shows the ratings and rankings of
tion and social skills and collaborating
all the performance indicators and profes-
with others. Also, the participants’ ratings
sional standards according to the degree
showed that the teachers were much less
of attainment and the degree of imple-
able to practice teaching communication
mentation. As the table shows, only 3
and social skills with students with visual
items were rated higher than 4.00 in terms
impairments (ranked third for degree of
of degree of attainment. Two of these attainment) than the other standards. Last,
items were in the modifying the program all domains except getting involved in
domain, and one was in the behavioral professional development activities re-
management domain. Fifty-nine items ceived higher ratings for degree of attain-
were rated between 3.00 and 4.00, and 18 ment than for degree of implementation.
were rated lower than 3.00. None of the
items was rated higher than 4.00 for de- PERFORMANCE INDICATORS RANKED
gree of implementation, 17 were rated THE HIGHEST AND LOWEST
lower than 3.00, and the remaining 63 Beside the rankings for the performance
were rated between 3.00 and 4.00. Ac- indicators and standards, a further look at
cordingly, the ratings for the five stan- individual items according to level was nec-
dards were generally between 3.00 and essary to identify the role of the preservice
4.00, with the exception of those in the program in providing the necessary knowl-
Communication and Social Skills do- edge and skills to preservice teachers. Table
main, which had a mean score of 2.98 for 2 shows the rankings of all performance
degree of implementation. indicators according to degree of attainment
According to Table 2, the teachers be- and implementation. In this section, the five
lieved that the preservice program was highest and lowest rated performance indi-
more beneficial for professional skills re- cators for degree of attainment were exam-
lated to modifying the program and be- ined to see whether there was an emerging

112 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
Table 2
Participants’ ratings and rankings for the standards and the performance indicators.
Standards Level DA DI

1. Communication and social skills — 3.18 2.98


(3) (5)
Create environments to teach social skills to students with visual impairments 1 3.47a 3.13
(34)b (55)
Design activities to teach social skills to students with visual impairments 1 3.45 3.23
(36) (45)
Design activities that provide access to incidental social skill learning
experiences 1 3.28 3.06
(45) (59)
Guide teachers in creating various social opportunities for students who have
acquired social skills 2 3.19 3.00
(50) (63)
Guide teachers and classmates in teaching communication and social skills to
students with visual impairments via peer tutoring 2 3.36 3.17
(41) (52)
Give seminars to school administrators and teachers on teaching social skills to
students with visual impairments 3 2.67 2.49
(77) (78)
Create environments that increase the social acceptance of students with visual
impairments 1 3.11 2.95
(58) (65)
Arrange activities to help peers become aware of visual impairment and its
impact on people with visual impairments 1 3.27 3.03
(46) (60)
Guide the school staff and peers in increasing the social acceptance of students
with visual impairments 2 3.24 3.16
(47) (53)
Design activities to help the school staff and peers become aware that students
with visual impairments can overcome issues, such as orientation and mobility
and reading braille with physical accommodations in the learning environment 2 3.45 3.35
(35) (36)
Provide students with positive role models, such as inviting to the classroom or
visiting a person with visual impairments who has succeeded in areas like
business, sports, or arts 3 2.85 2.63
(72) (75)
Guide administrators, teachers, and families in collaborating with non-
governmental organizations on the social acceptance of students with visual
impairments 3 2.90 2.87
(67) (70)
2. Modifying the program — 3.65 3.33
(1) (2)
Make accommodations in the individualized lesson plans for students with
visual impairments 1 4.04 3.62
(2) (10)
Plan with other teachers activities that support the effective use of learning
materials and class participation of students with visual impairments 1 3.83 3.46
(6) (22)
Teach mobility skills to students with visual impairments 1 4.11 3.76
(1) (4)

(cont.)

©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 113
Table 2
(cont.)
Standards Level DA DI

Guide teachers in implementing individualized lesson plans 2 3.73 3.35


(12) (34)
Guide teachers in making accommodations in visual materials for students with
visual impairments 2 3.77 3.39
(10) (30)
Guide teachers in teaching mobility skills 2 3.78 3.38
(9) (32)
Prepare materials and demonstrate activities to inform teachers about
multisensory teaching techniques 3 3.44 2.93
(37) (68)
Collaborate with other teachers in planning Individualized Education Programs
(IEPs) for students with exceptionalities 3 3.56 3.35
(29) (35)
Prepare materials for nonvisual assessment 1 3.70 3.28
(14) (41)
Do functional vision assessments to plan class- and schoolwide
accommodations 1 3.81 3.49
(7) (21)
Guide teachers in preparing nonvisual materials and conducting nonvisual
assessments 2 3.51 3.21
(32) (48)
Guide teachers in the learning media used by individual students according to
their functional vision 2 3.63 3.24
(21) (44)
Prepare materials and activities regarding nonvisual assessments 3 3.69 3.21
(16) (47)
Interpret medical reports during IEP planning 1 2.96 3.28
(63) (42)
Interpret educational reports during IEP planning 1 3.33 3.62
(43) (12)
Guide teachers and others in interpreting medical reports 2 2.85 3.14
(71) (54)
Guide teachers and others in interpreting educational reports 2 3.12 3.32
(57) (39)
Offer various teaching-learning methods according to levels of functional vision 3 3.56 3.54
(28) (18)
Arrange seminars for teachers, administrators, and families on the importance of
educational assessment on students’ performance 3 2.94 2.86
(65) (71)
3. Collaborating with the school, families, and other professionals — 3.17 3.13
(4) (4)
Inform administrators, teachers, and families on institutions serving people with
visual impairments and related laws and policies 1 2.95 2.94
(64) (67)
Inform administrators, teachers, and families about the information acquired
from other professionals and the needs of students with visual impairments 1 2.89 2.92
(68) (69)

(cont.)

114 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
Table 2
(cont.)
Standards Level DA DI

Guide teachers, administrators, and families on interpreting the related laws and
policies 2 2.88 3.03
(69) (61)
Guide health referrals in accordance with the results of functional vision
assessments of students with visual impairments 2 3.14 3.40
(55) (29)
Arrange meetings, seminars, and family groups to tackle special education laws
and policies 3 2.69 2.76
(76) (73)
Arrange informative and practical events about functional vision 3 2.79 2.72
(74) (74)
Offer opinions and suggestions about the limitations in special education laws
to authorities 3 2.70 2.80
(75) (72)
Develop programs in daily living skills for families of students with visual
impairments 1 3.58 3.22
(27) (46)
Teach daily living skills to students with visual impairments in accordance with
their IEPs 1 3.87 3.55
(5) (16)
Guide the family in teaching their children daily living skills 2 3.72 3.63
(13) (9)
Inform the family on the individual differences in learning daily living skills in
people with visual impairments 2 3.69 3.61
(15) (13)
Arrange seminars and meetings about students who have difficulty in learning
daily living skills 3 3.14 2.94
(54) (66)
4. Behavioral management — 3.62 3.39
(2) (1)
Make accommodations that foster the active participation of students with
visual impairments in learning activities 1 3.87 3.72
(4) (5)
Guide teachers in making accommodations that foster the active participation of
students with visual impairments in learning activities 1 3.59 3.39
(25) (31)
Make accommodations to foster independent study for students with visual
impairments 1 3.75 3.59
(11) (14)
Design learning environments that foster the active participation of students with
and without visual impairments 2 3.61 3.44
(23) (25)
Guide teachers in the necessary accommodations for the active participation of
students with visual impairments in learning activities 2 3.51 3.32
(31) (38)
Guide teachers and families in fostering the independent study of students with
visual impairments 2 3.51 3.42
(30) (27)

(cont.)

©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 115
Table 2
(cont.)
Standards Level DA DI

Inform teachers, administrators, and families about the importance of classroom


accommodations on the learning experiences of all students 3 3.38 3.09
(40) (56)
Teach behaviors that are alternative to blindisms 1 3.79 3.54
(8) (17)
Develop a behavioral modification plan to decrease negative behavior 1 4.02 3.50
(3) (19)
Arrange activities for teachers, administrators, and families to decrease
blindisms and use behavioral management techniques 2 3.61 3.18
(22) (50)
Guide teachers in planning and implementing techniques related to increasing
positive behaviors 2 3.63 3.20
(20) (49)
Guide teachers in decreasing negative behavior, increasing positive behavior,
and generalizing positive behaviors for all students 3 3.66 3.25
(18) (43)
5. Getting involved in professional development activities — 3.15 3.27
(5) (3)
Evaluate one’s professional competence 1 3.13 3.37
(56) (33)
Keep records regarding one’s professional competence 1 2.93 2.96
(66) (64)
Do objective self-evaluations regarding professional competence 2 3.21 3.41
(48) (28)
Identify one’s professional needs in light of colleagues’ opinions and criticisms 2 3.14 3.45
(53) (24)
Consider the opinions of parents, students, colleagues, administrators, and
other related professionals in identifying one’s professional competence 3 3.18 3.50
(51) (20)
Be willing to keep track of related literature 1 3.39 3.56
(39) (15)
Keep track of events in the field 1 3.48 3.62
(33) (11)
Prepare an individualized professional development plan 1 3.00 3.09
(62) (57)
Improve oneself in other areas of special education 2 3.29 3.44
(44) (26)
Act sensitively toward malpractice in the field 2 3.68 3.83
(17) (1)
Use technology in planning, implementation, and evaluation 2 3.60 3.78
(24) (2)
Attend conferences, seminars, and meetings on special education 2 3.35 3.30
(42) (40)
Keep track of trends in special education laws and policies 2 3.39 3.71
(38) (6)
Arrange and share events related to special education 3 3.06 3.08
(61) (58)

(cont.)

116 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
Table 2
(cont.)
Standards Level DA DI

Participate in conferences, seminars, and other professional meetings with a


poster or an oral presentation 3 2.51 2.51
(79) (77)
Search resources and materials on special education and form an archive 3 3.10 3.18
(59) (51)
Do academic work on at least one area of special education 3 2.83 2.55
(73) (76)
Be proficient in at least one foreign language 3 2.26 2.18
(80) (80)
Offer solutions to problems faced in the operation of laws 3 2.85 3.02
(70) (62)
Be aware of the need for scientific research methods and techniques in the field
of special education 1 3.63 3.77
(19) (3)
Benefit from scientific research methods and techniques in one’s research
related to professional development 2 3.58 3.66
(26) (7)
Do scientific research in the field of special education 3 2.66 2.42
(78) (79)
Share with others one’s opinions on the importance of information technologies
for the individual and the society 1 3.19 3.33
(49) (37)
Use search engines, websites and databases to reach and share information 2 3.17 3.66
(52) (8)
Use information technologies to communicate and collaborate with students,
colleagues, administrators, families, and other related professionals 3 3.08 3.46
(60) (23)

Note: Level ⫽ level of the performance indicator according to the Turkish Ministry of Education, DA ⫽
degree of attainment, and DI ⫽ degree of implementation.
a
Mean on the 5-point Likert scale.
b
Ranking out of all the performance indicators.

pattern according to level. The results The highest and lowest rankings for the
are displayed in Table 3. According to performance indicators in terms of degree
these results, the five highest-ranked of implementation were also analyzed to
performance indicators were Level 1 gain an understanding of the teachers’
(basic), and the five lowest ranked were current levels of competence. The five
Level 3 (advanced) performance indica- highest and lowest ratings for degree of
tors. Skills that the teachers thought implementation are presented in Table 4.
were acquired the most during preser- According to these results, the teachers
vice training were skills related to considered themselves more competent in
working directly with students, while skills related to working directly with stu-
skills that were related to one’s profes- dents (teaching mobility and making ac-
sional development and arranging commodations in learning activities) and
events to inform related others were in being sensitive to malpractice, being
ranked the least. aware of the research methods used in the

©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 117
Table 3
The highest- and lowest-ranked performance indicators for degree of attainment.
Performance indicator DA Level Standarda

Highest
Teach mobility skills to students with visual impairments 4.11 1 2
Make accommodations in the individualized lesson plans for students
with visual impairments 4.04 1 2
Develop a behavioral modification plan to decrease negative behavior 4.02 1 4
Make accommodations that foster the active participation of students
with visual impairments in learning activities 3.87 1 4
Teach daily living skills to students with visual impairments in
accordance with their Individualized Education Programs 3.87 1 3
Lowest
Arrange meetings, seminars, and family groups to tackle special
education laws and policies 2.69 3 3
Give seminars to school administrators and teachers on teaching
social skills to students with visual impairments 2.67 3 1
Do scientific research in the field of special education 2.66 3 5
Participate in conferences, seminars, and other professional meetings
with a poster or an oral presentation 2.51 3 5
Be proficient in at least one foreign language 2.26 3 5

Note: DA ⫽ degree of attainment and Level ⫽ level of the performance indicator according to the Turk-
ish Ministry of Education.
a
The numbers under this column stand for (1) communication and social skills; (2) modifying the pro-
gram; (3) collaborating with the school, family, and other professionals; (4) behavioral management; and
(5) getting involved in professional development activities.

field, and using technology. As Table 4 knowledge and skills needed to work with
shows, the two highest-ranked skills were students with visual impairments (n ⫽
medium-level (Level 2) skills and points 267); laws, policies, and practices in spe-
to personal or working conditions or both cial education (n ⫽ 33); early extensive
that support the professional development field experiences (n ⫽ 26); a global eval-
of teachers in in-service training. On the uation of the preservice program (n ⫽
other hand, the lowest ranked items were 18); and suggestions regarding the gen-
all advanced-level (Level 3) skills and eral structure of the preservice program
show that teachers may not have the op- (n ⫽ 33).
portunities to develop advanced skills in In-service training needs (n ⫽ 4), with
their working years, especially ones that a total of 19 subthemes, included addi-
are related to professional development. tional knowledge and skills related to var-
ious areas in the field of visual impair-
TOPICS THAT SHOULD BE COVERED ment and special education in general.
IN THE PRESERVICE PROGRAM The results showed that the participants
The content analysis revealed 6 themes desired a variety of knowledge and skill
with a total of 381 responses from 167 areas to be covered during preservice
respondents, while 51 claimed that the training, especially in such areas as
preservice program curriculum was very working with students with multiple
satisfactory, and 6 left the question blank. disabilities and those with disabilities
Themes emerging from this analysis were other than visual impairment (n ⫽ 96);

118 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
Table 4
The highest- and lowest-ranked performance indicators for degree of implementation.
Performance indicator DI Level Standarda

Highest
Act sensitively toward malpractice in the field 3.83 2 5
Use technology in planning, implementation, and evaluation 3.78 2 5
Be aware of the need for scientific research methods and techniques
in the field of special education 3.77 1 5
Teach mobility skills to students with visual impairments 3.76 1 2
Make accommodations that foster the active participation of students
with visual impairments in learning activities 3.72 1 4
Lowest
Do academic work on at least one area of special education 2.55 3 5
Participate in conferences, seminars, and other professional meetings
with a poster or an oral presentation 2.51 3 5
Give seminars to school administrators and teachers on teaching
social skills to students with visual impairments 2.49 3 1
Do scientific research in the field of special education 2.42 3 5
Be proficient in at least one foreign language 2.18 3 5

Note: DI ⫽ degree of implementation, and Level ⫽ level of the performance indicator according to the
Turkish Ministry of Education.
a
The numbers under this column stand for (1) communication and social skills; (2) modifying the pro-
gram; (3) collaborating with the school, family, and other professionals; (4) behavioral management; and
(5) getting involved in professional development activities.

teaching academic and nonacademic with students with visual impairments ef-
skills to students with visual impair- ficiently and that they were not able to
ments (n ⫽ 59); and skills specific to practice these knowledge and skills effec-
certain work settings, such as the Reha- tively in the field. A further look at the
bilitation and Counseling Centers (n ⫽ rankings of the five professional stan-
17). Twenty-six participants also be- dards showed that most were rated near
lieved that the preservice program average, with none rated higher than 4.00.
should provide early extensive field ex- The degree of attainment and degree of
periences and that there should be a implementation were the highest for
coherence between preservice training modifying the program and behavioral
and working conditions. management, showing a consistency
across the two criteria. This finding
Discussion means that the participants were better pre-
The findings of the study generally point pared for these standards and were able to
to the following conclusions. The ratings practice them in the field accordingly. Com-
of the 80 performance indicators showed munication and social skills was ranked the
that only 3 items for degree of attainment third for degree of attainment. These three
and none for degree of implementation standards mainly include the knowledge
were higher than 4.00 on the 5-point Lik- and skills needed to work directly with stu-
ert scale. This finding indicates that the dents with visual impairments. Thus, one
participants did not believe they acquired may conclude that the preservice program
the knowledge and skills for working was more effective in training preservice

©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 119
teachers in instructional strategies and be- training in terms of professional develop-
havioral modification, but not as effective in ment activities, they thought they were
enhancing skills related to collaborating capable of developing these skills in their
with others and engaging in ongoing pro- daily work, at least to some degree. How-
fessional development. ever, by looking at the mean score for this
Although the first two standards were standard, one cannot conclude that their
the same for degree of attainment and personal efforts and their working condi-
degree of implementation, the communi- tions were satisfactory for practicing
cation and social skills standard was those skills in the field. Lee and col-
ranked third for attainment but fifth for leagues (2008) also claimed that the
implementation. Thus, although the par- teachers in their study did not get in-
ticipants ranked this standard to be at- volved as needed in professional devel-
tained more than the collaboration and opment activities during their working
professional development standards, they years and that in-service training programs
were less likely to practice them in their were needed to enhance teachers’ profes-
day-to-day work. In their study on the sional development skills. Taken together,
professional competence levels of South the findings imply that both preservice and
Korean teachers working with visual im- in-service training programs have to put
pairments, Lee, Kim, and Kang (2008) greater effort in enhancing the ongoing pro-
found similar results for degree of imple- fessional development of teachers of stu-
mentation and concluded that although dents with visual impairments.
teachers found these skills important, they A further look at the performance indi-
had difficulty providing social environ- cators by level was necessary to examine
ments to their students and teaching them whether the participants rated Level 1 be-
various communication techniques. The haviors higher than the others. The five
teachers in our study did not rate the items highest and five lowest rankings for de-
according to degree of importance, but it gree of attainment and implementation
may be that they were not aware of the confirmed this assumption. This finding
importance of teaching these skills to stu- supported the ministry’s approach that
dents with visual impairments and therefore Level 1 behaviors should be acquired dur-
did not practice these skills efficiently. ing preservice training and that Levels 2
The reverse was true for getting in- and 3 behaviors should be acquired dur-
volved in professional development activ- ing in-service training (Turkish Ministry
ities, which was ranked fifth for degree of of Education, 2008). However, one
attainment and third for degree of imple- should keep in mind that the mean scores
mentation. That is, the participants did were not satisfactory for Level 1 perfor-
not consider their preservice program’s mance indicators.
focus on professional development activ- The five highest scores for degree of
ities as adequate as others but were able to implementation included two Level 2 and
practice them better compared to degree three Level 1 items, and three of these
of attainment. Therefore, it can be said items were from the standard on getting
that although the participants believed involved in professional development ac-
that they did not benefit from preservice tivities. Since two of these items were

120 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
Level 2, it can be said that the participants sual impairments have to include
were able to put effort into their profes- extended courses on multiple disabili-
sional development. However, the first ties for the teachers of students with
Level 3 item on the entire list was ranked visual impairments to fulfill the require-
18 (see Table 2). Therefore, teachers ments of different work settings.
could be said to be at risk for developing Another important finding from the
Level 3 behaviors while teaching. Again content analysis was that 59 participants
this finding calls for an effort on behalf of expressed the need for more training in
providers of in-service training in enhanc- teaching academic and nonacademic
ing Level 3 behaviors. skills to students with visual impairments
The results of the content analysis re- (Theme 1). This theme can be linked to
vealed that the participants suggested a another theme, early extensive field expe-
number of knowledge and skill areas to riences, which is one of the major features
be covered in their preservice program. of a special education personnel prepara-
The subtheme with the most frequent re- tion program that exemplifies excellence
sponse was working with students with (Brownell et al., 2005). Twenty-six par-
multiple disabilities and disabilities other ticipants stated that they wished that they
than visual impairment (Theme 1). An- had more extensive practicum experi-
other subtheme under suggestions regard- ences during their preservice years. They
ing the general structure of the preservice may have meant by this that theory should
program was also related to the issue of have been more closely blended with
multiple disabilities, pointing to the fact practice during preservice training—a
that minor courses of study on other dis- point that has been substantiated in other
abilities should be offered as part of pre- studies on personnel preparation pro-
service training programs. A closer look grams (Brownell et al., 2005; Swallow,
at the responses revealed that the partic- 1990). According to Erin and colleagues
ipants who worked in Rehabilitation and (2006), basic knowledge and skills can be
Research Centers claimed that they came effectively acquired in the university
across many children with disabilities classroom, but it is necessary to apply
other than visual impairments because these skills during the practicum. This
their job descriptions included the assess- practicum should give preservice teachers
ment and evaluation of people with vari- opportunities to work with a variety of
ous disabilities. A similar problem exists individuals in at least two different set-
for teachers who work in schools for stu- tings. Taken together, it can be claimed
dents with visual impairments because that providing a preservice practicum
approximately 60% of students with vi- should be a major issue in preservice pro-
sual impairments have additional disabil- grams in the field of visual impairment.
ities (Deitz & Ferrell, 1994), and these The participants’ opinions concerning
teachers most probably face the chal- working in Rehabilitation and Counseling
lenge of teaching students with multiple Centers also seem critical because the
disabilities. Therefore, it seems reason- teachers of students with visual impair-
able to conclude that preservice pro- ments who worked in these centers
grams for teachers of students with vi- claimed that they had not gained the

©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 121
necessary knowledge and skills to do so and Counseling Centers across Turkey.
during preservice training. Thus, exten- There are also teachers of students with
sive courses and field experiences in visual impairments, however, who work
Rehabilitation and Counseling Centers in special education and rehabilitation
should also be a priority of preservice centers that are supported by the govern-
programs, or rehabilitation teaching ment that provide education to students
should become a separate specialty within with visual impairments on a weekly ba-
the field. sis. These work settings definitely have
Taken together, the results of the con- their unique demands for teachers. Future
tent analysis showed that preservice per- work on this group would definitely be of
sonnel preparation programs for teachers worth to the field.
of students with visual impairments
should expand their courses and practi- Implications for training
cums in several areas, with an emphasis and research
on multiple disabilities and instructional Although descriptive in nature, the findings
strategies. The preservice practicum of the study have important implications for
should begin early in the preservice years pre- and in-service personnel training pro-
to provide students with extensive oppor- grams in the field of visual impairment in
tunities to tie theory to practice.
Turkey. According to the teachers of stu-
LIMITATIONS dents with visual impairments who were
surveyed, at least three issues have to be
The study presented here had at least two
taken into account by both preservice and
limitations that should be considered in
in-service training programs. First, preser-
future studies. First, information was
vice programs have to blend theory and
gathered only from teachers of students
practice with well-supervised field experi-
with visual impairments who were work-
ing in the field. However, the impact of ences that begin early during the preservice
any preservice personnel preparation pro- years, because there seems to a discrepancy
gram can be evaluated only in light of the between what is learned during preservice
views of all parties involved, in this case the training and what is expected in the work-
academic personnel who taught those sur- place. These field experiences should offer
veyed how to teach and the students and students opportunities to work with persons
families who are served by the teachers of with various as well as multiple disabilities
students with visual impairments surveyed. in different work settings, such as Rehabil-
Therefore, future studies should gather in- itation and Counseling Centers.
formation from such important resources to Second, the results also point to the fact
gain a comprehensive view of the prepara- that the collaboration and professional de-
tion and competence of teachers of students velopment skills of teachers of students
with visual impairments. with visual impairments seem to fall a little
Second, the sample consisted of teach- behind other professional skills. For this
ers of students with visual impairments reason, both pre- and in-service training
who were working in schools for students programs need to find ways to encourage
with visual impairments or Rehabilitation these teachers to develop collaborative

122 Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, February 2011 ©2011 AFB, All Rights Reserved
skills and get involved in professional as being too technically oriented, limiting
development activities, especially at a quality to technical knowledge (Brownell
time when being a teacher of students et al., 2004). This study also took such a
with visual impairments requires a narrow perspective. However, we be-
commitment to life-long learning lieve that the findings are a starting
(Swallow, 1990). point for enhancing the quality of teach-
Third, in-service training programs ers in the field of visual impairment in
should focus on enhancing the Level 2 Turkey. The next step may well be, as
and 3 performance indicators of the na- some authors have proposed (Brownell
tional professional standards, with an em- et al., 2004, 2005), to evaluate teachers’
phasis on encouraging teachers to be in- outcomes on the basis of what is going
volved in professional development on in the classroom.
activities. Despite this conclusion, it
should be kept in mind that all ratings
were near average and that the findings References
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