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Professional Perceptions on Graduate Special Education Programs: A Mixed Methods Approach Open Access

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A mixed methods study was designed to collect and analyze perspectives from professional educators who had earned the master’s degree in special education within the last five years from universities that offered special education programs accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The survey instrument, accessed online by thirty-seven participants, provided quantitative data from demographic information and Likert-scale ratings to self-assess levels of preparedness and confidence in their abilities to meet the learning needs of students with exceptionalities. Findings revealed that participants felt most prepared and confident in the skills pertaining to displays of professionalism and communicating effectively. Skill areas that received the lowest rating scores focused on the areas of meeting the needs of English language learners and supporting transition. Qualitative data were provided from open-ended responses related to programmatic benefits, suggestions for program improvement, and training needs as perceived upon completion of the graduate program. Survey responders documented the value of practical application of theory to practice, professional relationships with faculty, mentors, and other supervisors. Suggestions for programmatic improvement included further training in the individualized education program and in the areas of assessments, behavior management, and supervising the paraprofessional. Additional professional development needs post-graduation included topics of transition, increased preparation for licensure exams, and intensive training for special education-specific roles.

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