Knowledge of Teacher Self-Efficacy: Designing Professional Learning Opportunities to Reduce the Discipline Gap for African American Students with Disabilities
Webb, Cynthia Michelle
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The researcher used a socio-cultural framework to investigate the impact of teachers’ actions and beliefs on the risk of suspension for African American students who are eligible for special education services. A review of literature established that African American students and those with disabilities are more than twice as likely as their White, non-disabled peers to be suspended following matriculation to middle school. The literature further establishes that the issue of disproportionate school discipline is complex. Through analysis of extant demographic and suspension data from a large suburban school district, the researcher confirmed that challenges associated with disproportionate disciplinary outcomes for African American students with disabilities were a significant issue in the local context. The researcher sought to determine the levels of teacher self-efficacy in classroom disciplinary practices within the district's middle schools. Using a qualitative methodology, the researcher first administered a survey and interviewed a core group of informants, five professionals with extensive experience in planning professional development opportunities for teachers within the school district. She then compiled results of a survey on self-efficacy administered to 48 middle school teachers. This was followed by a second interview of the professional development planners, during which the results of the survey were presented. The goal of this interview was to determine the ways in which knowledge of the results of the teacher self-efficacy survey data supported planners of professional learning in examining the priorities of the school district in the development of culturally responsive and equitable disciplinary practices. Results indicated that, although planners see a need to expand the content for professional learning, there was a greater need to support consideration of the context in which professional learning is conducted. Implications are provided for continued investigation into the impact of teachers’ self-efficacy in implementing behavior supports, as required by the disciplinary provisions in the re-authorizations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Training and practice implications for school districts that seek to close the discipline gap through professional learning opportunities (PLO) are also provided.