A Phenomenological Study of Mentoring Policies and Practices on Special Education Teachers

A Phenomenological Study of Mentoring Policies and Practices on Special Education Teachers

Author: 
Vannessa A. Smith-Washington
Program of study: 
Ed.D./CI
Abstract: 
High teacher attrition rates adversely affect beginning special education teachers remaining on the job many of whom lack teaching experience. With high rates, replacements are needed, especially in the field of special education where new teachers leave at higher rates than general education teachers. The general problem is that limited information is available for special education mentoring policies and practices. The central research question was to explore the experiences of special education teachers’ responses to official state and district mentoring policies and practices. A field study was conducted with 3 teachers. Six teachers were interviewed for the actual study. The Theory of Planned Behavior framework was selected to understand through lived experiences of new middle school special education teachers’ formal mentoring policies and practices and how they impact their effectiveness. The research design was a hermeneutic phenomenological research method. A comparative contrast analysis was the data analysis process. Key findings were mentors should be assigned initially in special education and same grade level for new special education teachers. Official state and district policies and practices should be discussed and reviewed early with new teachers. Conclusions were state policy should require all teachers receive mentoring support during the first 2 years in the profession and state policy should address how mentors are assigned to beginning teachers, allow for manageable mentor caseloads, and encourage programs to provide release time for mentors. The findings may lead to implications to revisit and revise current formal induction programs for new teachers, especially special education teachers.
Dedication: 
This dissertation is dedicated to the friendship and memory of Dr. Melva Burke. She was a friend, sorority sister in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and colleague who encouraged me to pursue my doctoral degree. She dedicated her life to encouraging and helping others to achieve greatness. She gave me strength and encouraged me to study and earn this doctoral degree. She is missed every day of my life. My thanks and praises go to God, who strengthens me. I give Him all the glory. This research is dedicated to my beautiful twins, Kara and Camden. They showered me with laughter and love during many difficult times, watching me fall asleep during dinner and forgiving me when I was grumpy and absent from many special events throughout their lifetime while I completed the program. They mean so much to me and I want them to be proud of their mother. I truly believe that the results of my research will contribute to making their educational journey easier because they hopefully will have teachers who want to become better teachers, support, encourage, and want the best for them. I am grateful for my mother, Annie S. who reminded me regularly how important it was to get my education, and my sisters, Nannetta S., and Dorothy R. for their encouragement, time and love. Over the years, I cried many times and doubted myself, and they would never let me give up.
Acknowledgements: 
My special thanks goes to my dissertation committee: Dr. Natacha Billups, committee chair, and committee members, Dr. Christopher Barrett and Dr. Anita Sanders, for never giving up on me, and generously giving their expertise and time to read my dissertation and offer suggestions to better my work. I thank them for their total contributions and support. I would be remise if I did not acknowledge Dr. Billups’ exceptional dedication and friendship during my dissertation journey. Her wisdom, knowledge, and humor helped to smooth over any challenges that I faced and ease my frustrations. I must acknowledge my many friends, colleagues, students who expressed how proud they are of me, assisting in any way, supporting, enlightening and allowing me the opportunity to mentor, teach, and be a friend. My thanks must also go to the administrators and teachers in the New York City Public School System who participated in my research study and unselfishly gave their time. I am especially grateful to the administrators who allowed me an opportunity to interview their teachers and supported my research study. It was an absolute pleasure and honor to listen as teachers share their mentoring and teaching experiences. I wish them all the best. To all who I am unable to list, I give my endearing love and thank you for having faith in me and tolerating me through the completion of my doctoral degree. This is the beginning for me. I know that GOD has greater plans for me.