Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Special Education

Major Professor

David Allsopp, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daphne Thomas, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Anthony Onwuegbuzie, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brenda Townsend, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mary Lou Morton, Ph.D.


Empowerment, Teacher preparation, Efficacy, Competency, Pre-service teachers, Special education, Developmental-constructivism, Theory-to-practice gap


This study, through a multiple case study approach, was designed to investigate how pre-service special educators were empowered to teach reading to students with disabilities during their final internship. A developmental-constructivism theoretical framework guided this study in order to examine how a teacher preparation program prepared a six-member cohort of pre-service special educators in the areas of efficacy, competency, and preparedness. Based on the principles of developmental-constructivism, the researcher investigated whether or not these pre-service special educators became more empowered in the areas of efficacy, competency, and preparedness through active-learning and hands-on opportunities.

The researcher employed a concurrent mixed-method design for data collection and analysis. To complement the quantitative data from the surveys, the qualitative data from the interviews were collected in order to provide support, to explain, and to account for discrepancies in the data. The levels of empowerment were measured by the differences between self-reported data on pretest and posttest measures on the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale (TSES), Pre-service Special Educators Special Education Competency Scale (SECS), and Preparedness to Teach Reading Survey (PTRS). Videotaped observations of each pre-service special educator teaching a reading lesson were collected and analyzed to determine the percentage of observable reading practices.

Results included both increases and decreases in perceptions of empowerment on the TSES, SECS, and PTRS. The pre-service special educators were able to demonstrate approximately 50-65% of the reading competencies on the reading observation rubric. The results also revealed gaps between self-perceptions and actual practices among the participants. Institutional barriers such as student behaviors and the mentor/mentee relationship accounted for most of the gaps observed between beliefs and practices.