Teacher Expectations for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Research about teacher expectations has generated fruitful findings regarding the impact that teacher expectations have on students. 

However, research on teacher expectations for students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is sparse.  This current study was designed to add to the literature regarding teachers’ professional knowledge about autism, implicit beliefs about autism teaching, self-efficacies in working with students with ASD, and teachers’ instructional behaviour. 

These aspects were explored in three studies.

Study one explored teachers’ professional knowledge about autism.  Both general education teachers (N = 179) and special education teachers (N = 80) were surveyed in Auckland, New Zealand.  Special education teachers were more likely to have accurate knowledge; although both groups harboured some misconceptions about autism.  Additionally, female teachers and teachers who had more experience working with children with ASD were more knowledgeable about autism. 

Study two explored the expectations and beliefs of 27 teachers who worked with students with ASD.  Teachers were surveyed about their expectations for students with ASD, regarding reading achievement and social development.  Findings showed a diverse range of expectations for individual students with ASD among teachers.  Teachers were also interviewed about their beliefs regarding teaching children with ASD and their self-efficacy in working with those students.  Teachers who expected greater progress in student reading achievement held more favourable beliefs about autism and had higher self-efficacy than their counterparts who expected less improvement in the students’ reading.

In study three, observations were made of 23 teachers’ instructional and interactional behaviours while working with individual students with ASD.  Observations were coded into five categories, including teaching a concept or idea, questions related to learning, criticism, praise and feedback, behaviour management interactions and procedural interactions.  Teachers’ verbal behaviours were recorded. 

Data is currently being analysed and will be presented at the conference.