Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 1:00 p.m.
Neville Scarfe Building, 2125 Main Mall, Room 308A
Research Supervisor: Dr. Cay Holbrook
Supervisory committee: Dr. Janet Jamieson and Dr. Kim Zebehazy
Title: Special Education Administrators and Workload Determination for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments: A Delphi Study
Over the last century, the proportion of students with visual impairments placed in general education classrooms has increased significantly. This shift to more inclusive settings has resulted in the proliferation of an itinerant model of service delivery. Itinerant teachers of students with visual impairments (TSVIs) support students’ access to the curriculum by promoting the use of adaptive tools, materials, and strategies to mitigate the impact of visual impairment on learning and development. Traditionally, the number of students served by the TSVI is referred to as a “caseload” and is used as an indicator of the breadth of the TSVI’s professional responsibilities. This study uses “workload” as a more inclusive term that encompasses the full scope of the itinerant TSVIs’ professional practice, including direct, consultative, and indirect service to students with visual impairments and their educational teams. Given the low incidence of visual impairment among children and youth in North America, many special education administrators responsible for staffing TSVI positions do not have an awareness of the specialized educational programming needs of these learners that factor into TSVI workload.
This study was conducted using the Delphi approach, an iterative process through which consensus is built among a panel of knowledgeable experts on a topic of specialized interest. The purpose of the study was to develop a set of factors that experts rate as important considerations in the process of TSVI workload determination. Panelists rated the importance of 45 initial educational programming, personnel, and policy-level factors with 22 panelist-nominated factors added in the second survey round. Resources targeted to special education administrators that consider a broad scope of educational programming, personnel, and policy factors are required to support data-driven workload determinations for itinerant TSVIs.
Four survey rounds were required to arrive at a set of 45 confirmed factors. Each factor included in the final set of confirmed factors had a rating at a high level of importance, strong consensus among panelists, and stability across survey rounds. After adjusting for the total number of initial and nominated factors in each thematic cluster, educational programming factors accounted for the greatest proportion of confirmed factors, followed by personnel-level factors and policy-level factors. The results of the study are intended to provide special education administrators with a set of evidence-based factors to inform the process of workload determination for itinerant TSVIs.