ENHANCING SKILLS AND COMPETENCIES OF TEACHERS IN SPECIAL EDUCATION
MEANING OF SPECIAL EDUCATION:
Special education means specially designed instruction which meets the special education and related needs of an exceptional child. It is distinguished from regular educational programme for non-exceptional children by some unusual quality, something uncommon, noteworthy. It is something special – special materials, special training techniques, special equipment and special help and for special facilities may be required for special categories of children having special needs. For example,
Visually impaired children may require reading materials in large print or Braille. Hearing impaired children may require hearing aid, auditory training, lip reading, etc. Orthopaedically handicapped children may require wheel chairs, and removal of architectural barriers Mentally retarded children may need skill training.
Related service, such as special transportation, medical and psychological assessment, physical and occupational therapy and counseling may be required if special education is to be effective.
SPECIAL EDUCATION AS TEACHING:
Special education can be looked in terms of WHO, WHAT, WHERE and HOW? Special education meant for exceptional children whose special needs or abilities necessitate an individualized programme of education.
Who? An inter-disciplinary team of professionals-special educators, regular classroom teachers, psychologists, speech therapists, physiotherapists, specialist doctors bear the primary responsibility for helping exceptional children maximize their capabilities.
What? Special education is sometimes differentiated from regular education by its curriculum, that is, by what is taught. For example, teaching self-help skills or training in reading and writing Braille is an important part of curriculum for severely handicapped children(the blind) in special education institutions which is not found in regular education, the school system dictates the curriculum, but in special education the child’s individual needs dictate the curriculum.
Where? Special education can sometimes be identified by where it takes place. Whereas regular education is provided in the regular classroom, special education may be provided in special class, resource room, special school or in residential school.
How? Special education can be differentiated from regular education by the method used by teachers. One special educator may use sign language to communicate with his students. Another special educator may use task analysis and skill training for mentally retarded children. Still another special educator may use multisensory approach and process training while teaching a learning disabled child.
Exceptional children require special education which include three elements, and these are as follows:
ü Trained professionals including teachers, educationists, psychologists, physiotherapists and others are required.
ü Special curriculum is made for the children which suit different areas of exceptionality such as mental retardation, giftedness, deafness, blindness, orthopaedic handicap, cerebral palsy and social and emotional problems, and
ü Some facilities including special building features, study materials and equipment are also collected for this purpose.
NCERT: ROLE IN TEACHER TRAINING: The National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) functions as the adviser to the Ministry of Education and Social Welfare. NCERT has earlier a department of Special education within Teacher education and Special education cells in all its four Regional colleges of Education. It is pioneer in running six months key/resources Teacher training at its headquarters and multi-category training of teachers in the four Regional Institutes of Education. About 100 teachers are trained every year. The course structure includes comprehensive coverage for enabling the teachers to develop competency to handle major debilities.
The Regional Institutes of Education also run B. Ed. and M. Ed. courses with specialization in one area of Special education until recently. At the centre, several in-service programmes also being run for Principals of DIET, Special education faculty of SCERT, PIED block supervision of various times.
The following skills are to be developed for preparing teachers for Special education.
v Practical skills in observation of children both individually and in groups to help teachers sharpen their perception of variations in children’s learning and behaviour and develop their awareness of variation in children’s circumstances (home-school difficulties).
v Appreciation of the educational needs of children with developed difficulties-physical, sensory, emotional behavioural or learning the needs of their parents, and the value of the contribution which parents can make to their children’s development.
v Understanding of the practical steps necessary for meeting a child’s special needs and an ability to adopt the attitude must suit to dealing with particular difficulties and to appreciate the need for modification of the school or classroom organization for the curriculum of teaching techniques.
v Appreciation of the special services available to children with special needs of their familiar and of the advisory services available to teachers. This might be developed by inviting professionals for the various services to visit the college so that through discussion, the students can learn about the work of teachers in relation to other professionals, the contributions which different specialist can make, the services to expect from them, and the kind of question to put to them.
v Awareness of the range of career and professional opportunities in Special education and the availability of further qualification in special education.
According to the Secretary’s Commission On Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS), a study commissioned by the Secretary of the U. S. Department of Labor, several core skills are essential for Special education teachers. These skills are divided into a Three-Part Foundation and Five Competencies.
The Three-Part Foundation includes Basic skills of reading, writing, Mathematics, listening and speaking. For special education teachers Basic skills are extremely important. Another Foundational attribute is Personal qualities. This includes self-management, integrity, self-esteem, sociability and responsibility. This is similar to two variables – Social skills and interaction with others. The third foundation skill is Thinking skills. This includes creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, knowing how to learn and reasoning.
The SCANS study also addressed five areas in which special education teachers need to demonstrate competence. Being able to work with a variety of Technologies was identified as one of the five SCANS competencies. More specifically, teachers need to have the knowledge to select and apply procedures, tools or equipment to work-related situations, as well as maintain and troubleshoot if the need arises. Having an knowledge of technology is considered important for persons in this occupation.
The second competency listed in the SCANS study addresses handling Resources. Special education teachers need to be able to plan, organize, identify, and allocate resources such as time, money, materials/facilities and people.
A third area of competence is System skills, knowledge and understanding of social, organization, and technical systems is becoming increasingly important for today’s teachers.
The fourth competency is the ability to acquire, organize, interpret and communicate information. This attribute is a combination of information Input and Mental Processes.
The last competency presented in the SCANS study is interpersonal ability.
Regular educators should inculcate the following skills and competencies in them:
Teaching Basic skills:
These include: a) Literacy skills (reading, arithmetic, writing, spelling, study skills,
b) Life maintenance skills (health, safety),
c) Personal development skills (moral behaviour, basic life issues).
This includes developing skills in selecting appropriate techniques to manage individuals and group behaviour. It requires proficiency in techniques of behavioural analysis, group altering, guiding transitions, material arrangement and crisis intervention.
Professional Consultation and Communication:
Mainstreaming makes in imperative that regular classroom teacher develops competence in ways to consult and communicate with these professionals. Teachers should know how to collect and report the type of information that will be most useful to the specialists.
Teacher should know how to collect useful data for diagnosis and how to refer the child.
Teacher needs to be adept at assessing a student’s individual needs and in designing instruction to meet theses needs. This does not mean that each child should be taught individually. It means permitting child to pursue a preferred mode of learning.
Teacher should be able to interact successfully with the parents, siblings, children. He/she should be able to interact and collaborate with others in the school.
Orientation strategies for entry into mainstreaming:
Teachers should be able to prepare special students as well as regular class for mainstreaming. This also includes preparing parents of all children for normalization. He/she should be able to develop positive attitudes towards mainstreaming.
Identification and Assessment of children:
Teacher should be able to observe children in various settings without affecting their behaviour. Teacher should be able to identify children with special needs and assess their needs, use and interpret individual assessment measures.
Teacher should be able to establish appropriate goals for the exceptional child. The goals should be realistic, measurable and also give opportunity for optimum development of potentials of such children.
Teacher should be able to adjust curricula to suit the ability, needs and interests of disabled children.
Use of Teaching Strategies:
Teacher should be able to plan and implement a variety of instructional techniques.
Promoting Classroom Climate:
Teacher should be able to promote acceptance of individual differences among all children. Teacher should be able to conduct class activities to encourage interaction among students.
Teacher should be able to manage resources which can be used for instruction of disabled children.
Evaluation and Monitoring:
Teacher should be able to assess the extent to which the needs of disabled children are met in the classroom evaluate the appropriateness of the resources for these children, modify his methods, materials to meet their needs.
As the regular educator has to work as a member of the team, it is important that he appreciates the role of special educator also. Based on the tasks that the special educator is required to perform following skills should be inculcated by special educators.
Special educators should possess ability to
Observe child’s behaviour systematically. Assess present status and needs of special child. Develop individualized education programmes. Write report on basis, of data gathered. Interact with others to build up relationship and collaborate. Communicate results to other staff members and parents. Change attitudes and advocate for them. Carry out remedial work. Evaluate and monitor methods, materials and progress. Develop and administer therapeutic programmes. Solve problems and deal with different situations that may arise due to unique needs of special children.
In the modern era, a teacher has enumerable responsibilities as our society becomes very complex. Teacher has to play the several roles to develop special children. The most important qualities of teacher are sincerity, honesty and involvement in teaching. The knowledge of teaching, training and instruction can be effectively used by incorporating important Basic skills like learning strategies and speaking skill, Complex problem solving skills through idea generation, implementation planning and Social skills through instruction, service orientation and social perceptiveness in managing special children.
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