International Journal of Special Education. 2889 Highbury Street, Vancouver, BC V6R 3T7, Canada. Web site: http://www.internationaljournalofspecialeducation.com
Journal Articles; Reports - Research
This research study focused on the special nature (i.e. different from mainstream education) of special education and the experiences of teachers with regard to the challenges they face in teaching the mentally handicapped child. Special schoolteachers have the responsibility to offer not only good, but also highly individualized and goal-directed instruction. The aim with the research was to investigate the following research questions: What are the experiences of teachers regarding the major challenges they face in the education of the mentally handicapped child? What guidelines can be provided to these teachers? A qualitative study, with a descriptive, explorative, subjective and contextual research design was chosen, using a phenomenological approach to data collection. This inductive approach was considered to be appropriate for the investigation, because it would enable an in-depth investigation into the matter. The research was open and not directed by a conceptual framework or hypothesis. The research was undertaken in two phases: Phase one entailed an exploration and description of the experiences of teachers with regard to the challenges they face in teaching the mentally handicapped child. This was accomplished by conducting in-depth, personal phenomenological interviews at a specific special education school in Port Elizabeth. The research population was selected purposively in order to obtain rich information and participants were met in their own context. In Phase two, guidelines were derived from the results of Phase one, to assist teachers in teaching the mentally handicapped child, and to approach the challenges they experience more confidently and competently. Throughout the research, steps were taken to ensure the trustworthiness of the proceedings, inter alia by using Guba's model of data verification. Ethical principles were also upheld throughout the study. The transcripts were analyzed by using the descriptive analysis method of Tesc (Creswell, 1994:155), as well as a re-coding procedure by an independent coder. Significant results were obtained and these serve as the basis for the guidelines that can be suggested.