Description of Assistive Technology Competencies for Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments: A National Study
Structured abstract: Introduction: For practicing teachers of students with visual impairments, assistive technology has assumed an important role in the education of their students' assessment and learning of content. Little research has addressed this area; therefore, the purpose of the study presented here was to identify the teachers' self-reported possession of knowledge of and skills in assistive technology. Method: The participants completed an online survey rating their level of expertise in assistive technology. The researchers used descriptive statistics and Pearson r correlation coefficients. Results: In total, 840 teachers of students with visual impairments in the United States, Palau, and the Virgin Islands completed an online survey to identify their perceived level of mastery of assistive technology competencies. Regarding the participants' confidence in teaching and supporting the use of assistive technology for students with visual impairments, 40.7% of the participants were confident or very confident, whereas 59.3% reported no to some confidence. In addition, the younger teachers were relatively more confident in teaching assistive technology than were the older teachers. Specifically, the participants felt the least confident with the foundations domain of assistive technology and the most confident with collaboration. Discussion: The results describe teachers' self-perceptions and pinpoint areas for further intervention and dialogue. Personnel preparation programs and in-service training programs can concentrate on these specific areas of assistive technology to improve teachers' levels of confidence with assistive technology domains. Collaborating to create systemic, national interventions is crucial for improving educational and vocational outcomes for all individuals with visual impairments. Implications for practitioners: First, given the findings of the study, it is recommended that all university programs develop a course on assistive technology, as well as embed assistive technology competencies in their training curricula. Second, research is needed to explore further what universities are currently doing to address assistive technology in their curricula. Finally, professional organizations should provide ongoing in-service training in assistive technology for practicing teachers of students with visual impairments.