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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Abstract

Early childhood educators teach science to all students, including students with disabilities. Strategies for accommodating students with disabilities in science, including familiarity with equitable frameworks such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL) are therefore a critical aspect of early childhood teacher candidates’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Such strategies are often emphasized in special education courses that are offered separately from science methods courses. This practice assumes that teacher candidates can synthesize and transfer those practices into their science lesson planning. To explore how teacher candidates actually assimilate the instruction on inclusive science that is taught in their preparation coursework, this study examined the early and late semester science lesson plans of 26 early childhood teacher candidates who were concurrently enrolled in science and special education methods courses. Qualitative and discourse analysis illuminated the following key findings: 1) Teacher candidates demonstrate a strong tendency to accommodate students with disabilities by having them rely on others both before and after extensive instruction; 2) Instruction appears to reduce teacher candidates’ accommodating students with disabilities through separate materials/activities/directions; 3) Principles of UDL were more evident in late semester lesson plans; and 4) Late semester lesson plans contained more “behavior oriented” language and concerns. These findings are discussed with particular attention paid to ways in which science and special education teacher educators might intervene at key junctures in teacher candidates’ lesson planning processes to promote student autonomy, science inquiry, and greater use of the continuum of adaptations that are available to them.