Enhancing the Preparation of Special Educators through Service Learning: Evidence from Two Preservice Courses


College of Health

Date of this version


Document Type



training of special education teachers, young volunteers, focus groups, reflective teaching, journal writing, psychology


A challenge for teacher educators in special education is to impact the beliefs and attitudes of preservice teachers in ways that cultivate or strengthen dispositions and inform practice. This study investigated the impact of service-learning experiences on the development of professional dispositions by undergraduate students in two preservice special education courses. A constant comparative analysis of student focus-group transcripts and reflective journal entries uncovered two convergent themes. First, students in both courses developed a sense of professional efficacy. Secondly, students developed positive regard for the abilities of students with disabilities and the contributions of parents as partners in their children’s education. Recommendations are provided for designing service-learning experiences in ways that maximize the impact of the experiences on preservice teachers’ perceptions and attitudes toward working with students with disabilities and their families.

Published in

International Journal of Special Education

Citation/Other Information

Novak, J., Murray, M., Scheuermann, A. & Curran, E. (2009). Enhancing the preparation of special educators through service learning: Evidence from two preservice courses. International Journal of Special Education, 24(1), 32–44.

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