Relevance and collaboration
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The purpose of the study was to explore the participants’ perspectives on knowledge and skills learned from professional development and its perceived impact on their classroom practice linked to Common Core State Standards. Professional development was the major focus for the study since much of the available literature supports the need for professional development to assist with teachers’ ability to understand and accept the change in order for it to be implemented. However, the needs of special education teachers and professional development activities addressing Common Core State Standards have not been thoroughly investigated. The following research questions guided this study: 1) What are the special education teachers’ perspectives on the professional development activities designed to assist them in implementing Common Core State Standards? 2) How do special education teachers’ perspectives on the relevance of professional development impact how they implement Common Core State Standards in their classrooms? Elementary school sites were visited, and special education teachers were interviewed and observed during professional development activities and instructional times during this case study. Data from the interviews were transcribed, open coded, and then analyzed in search of common themes. The data identified major themes of relevant PD, collaboration and teacher motivation with sub-themes of appropriate grade level focus, autonomy, communication with general and special education teacher, changes in teaching practice and strategies for teaching CCSS. The findings indicated there is a need for relevant professional development for special education teachers and increased autonomy in professional development activities. Findings further indicated a need for instructional leaders to create collaborative relationships with general education teachers and special education teachers as a primary source of professional development. Implications for future search focus on the impact of collaboration and instructional changes, teacher motivation and autonomy in professional development and the impact of high stakes testing in relation to teacher stress and motivation.