A New Perspective for Professionals in Practice
Print edition page number(s) 677-678
The series editor for this new section and newly appointed associate editor for practice of the journal is Jane N. Erin, Ph.D., professor, Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology, College of Education, University of Arizona.
Every fall, our department often receives calls and e-mails from students who just graduated from our university. They are enthusiastic and eager to talk about their new jobs, but their voices and messages sometimes reveal an unspoken anxiety. Sometimes they actually say, "I have no idea what I'm doing!" even though they have previously demonstrated excellent teaching skills.
Like most new professionals, they have few reliable routines or tangible landmarks to guide them in their new jobs. They can Google the directions to their assigned schools or the homes of their clients, but there is no map to lead them to the best instructional decisions or professional practices. Later they begin to build routines that work best for them as they perform their duties and to distance themselves from their formal university educations. By the end of their first year of working, their confidence has increased; they have crossed the bridge from the abstract world of the university to the urgent and purposeful world of work. When we see them several years later at conferences and meetings, they greet us like old friends instead of the people who knew all the answers. They have discovered that we couldn't teach them everything they needed to know.
As they make the transition from learning to working, professionals often seek out information in books and journals to help them solve the questions they must answer daily. Professionals who are working in instructional roles--teachers of children and adults or orientation and mobility instructors--may have different expectations of their professional literature than do students, administrators, or university faculty members. They seek information that will guide them in the best strategies and approaches to use in teaching. As students, they wanted to know how visual impairment affects groups of people and what questions they should ask to prepare for their future roles. As professionals, they seek reading materials that reflect and affect their day-to-day experiences with the people with whom they work. Although research studies may provide an understanding of macro trends and outcomes, professionals are often most interested in literature that describes ways to affect their work with individuals every day. This literature may include research that reports effective teaching interventions, innovative strategies that have been applied with subpopulations such as people with additional disabilities, and instructional tools and products.
The interest in practical information was evident in many responses to a recent JVIB readers' survey, in which many readers asked for more information to guide them in their work with people who are visually impaired. One respondent asked for "Concrete, specific suggestions, tips to improve my practice…." In response to that individual and others who made similar requests, JVIB will initiate a new section entitled Practice Perspectives, which will present the knowledge and experiences of professionals who work, in a variety of settings, with people who are visually impaired. Although the emphasis of this feature will be on strategies and approaches that have worked well for others, there is a secondary purpose to this section: Practicing professionals will have the opportunity to read and share information on the way in which they and other professionals are approaching the same issues, situations, and challenges they experience on a daily basis. Most of the authors will be teachers, orientation and mobility specialists, vision rehabilitation therapists, low vision therapists, and others whose workdays are spent teaching or providing services to people with visual impairments. In addition, readers will be encouraged to comment on the cases and issues presented, and to contact contributors to the column with questions and thoughts of their own. The impetus behind this new practice section is to provide information and support to people that is relevant to their work every day.
As the journal's new associate editor for practice, I am privileged to initiate this section. Because busy professionals rarely have time to devote to writing, I plan to seek out potential authors in several ways that are not usual for articles submitted to JVIB. I will contact professionals in university and administrative roles to ask for their recommendations of practitioners who have expertise that will be useful to their colleagues. I also intend to use manuscripts submitted as Practice Reports to suggest themes that are important and can be viewed in different ways by professionals. And I am now asking you, a reader of the journal, to participate in this column and to contact me with any thoughts or ideas you might have.
The next offering of Practice Perspectives will be in the February 2009 issue of JVIB; entitled "The Case of the Reluctant Reader," it will address the challenges of teaching adults and children with visual impairments who are not enthusiastic about reading. I hope that this will be the first of many Practice Perspectives that will provide you with ideas about effective instruction and give you the chance to see what your colleagues find works for them.
Jane N. Erin, Ph.D., associate editor for practice, JVIB, and professor, Department of Special Education, Rehabilitation, and School Psychology, College of Education, University of Arizona, P.O. Box 210069, Tucson, AZ 85721; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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