Teacher Educators' Varied Definitions of Learning Disabilities

Main Article Content

Rachel Gabriel
Jessica Nina Lester


discourse analysis, learning disability, teacher education


Research continues to demonstrate that the ways in which current federal and working definitions of “learning disability” (LD) are troubling for researchers, teachers, parents and students. We are therefore interested in how teacher educators present the dilemmas associated with learning disabilities to their students, and the discursive repertoires (Wetherell, 1998) that they deploy while discussing learning disabilities. We orient to the idea of learning disabilities as a troubled construct, with people deploying multiple, polarized metaphors and themes when attempting to make sense of the meaning and “realness” of an LD. Since teachers’ knowledge, skills, and mindsets prior to teaching have an impact on their actions and orientations as teachers (Brownlee, 2001, 2004; Brownlee, Purdie, & Boulton-Lewis, 2001), we argue it is paramount to investigate teachers’ first exposure to complex constructs such as learning disabilities, attending to ways in which it is described and made relevant in talk. As such, we present the findings from a qualitative study, situated within a critical discursive psychology framework (Wetherell, 1998), focused on the ways in which teacher educators who were responsible for formally introducing preservice teachers to the construct of LD discussed and defined learning disabilities.
Abstract 365 | PDF Downloads 103 Word Downloads 33 Text Downloads 76


Brownlee, J. (2001). Epistemological beliefs in pre-service teacher education students. HigherEducation Research & Development, 20(3), 281-291.

Brownlee, J. (2004). Teacher education students’ epistemological beliefs: Developing a relational model of teaching. Research in Education, 72, 1-17.

Brownlee, J., Purdie, N., & Boulton-Lewis, G. (2001). Changing epistemological beliefs in preservice teacher education students. Teaching in Higher Education, 6(2), 247-268.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control). (4 November 2005). QuickStats: Percentage of Children Aged 5--17 Years Ever Having Diagnoses of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Learning Disability (LD), by Sex and Diagnosis--United States, 2003. MMWR Weekly [Online newsletter], 54(43), 1107. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5443a8.htm

Charlton, J. I. (1998). Nothing about us without us: Disability oppression and empowerment. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Cherrington, J., & Breheny, M. (2005). Politicizing dominant discursive constructions about teenage pregnancy: Re-locating the subject as social. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness, and Medicine, 9(1), 89-111.

Corker, M., & French, S. (1999). Reclaiming discourse in disability studies. In M. Corker & S. French (Eds.), Disability Discourse (pp. 1-20). Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Corker, M., & Shakespeare, T. (2002). Disability/postmodernity. London: Continuum.

Danforth, S. (2009). The incomplete child: An intellectual history of learning disabilities. New York: Peter Lang.

Hepburn, A., & Wiggins, S. (2005). Developments in discursive psychology. Discourse & Society, 16(5), 595-601.

Howarth, D. (2000). Discourse. New York: Open University Press.

Jefferson, G. (2004). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G. H. Lerner (Ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation (pp. 13-31). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kavale, K., & Forness, S. (2000). What definitions of learning disability say and don't say: A critical analysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30(3), 239-56.

Kavale, K., Spaulding, L., & Beam, A. (2009). A time to define: Making the specific learning disability definition prescribe specific learning disability. Learning Disability Quarterly, 32, 39-48.

LDA (Learning Disabilities Association of America). (2010). About Learning Disabilities—for Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.ldanatl.org/aboutld/teachers/index.asp

Mehan, H., Hertwick, A., & Miehls, J. (1986). Handicapping the Handicapped. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.

Noblit, G., Flores, S., & Murillo, E. (Eds.). (2004). Postcritical ethnography: Reinscribing critique. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Potter, J., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Discourse and social psychology. London: Sage.

Reynolds, J. (2008). The Single Woman: A discursive investigation. London: Routeledge.

Reynolds, J., & Wetherell, M. (2003). The discursive climate of singleness: The consequences for women's negotiation of a single identity. Feminism and Psychology, 13, 489-510.

Sacks, H., Schegloff, E. A., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language, 50, 696-735.

Scharlach, T. (2008). These kids just aren't motivatd to read; The influence of preservice teachers' beliefs on their expectations, instruction, and evaluation of struggling readers. Literacy Research and Instruction , 47(3), 158-73.

Shannon, P., & Edmonson, J. (2010). The Political Contexts of Reading Disabilities. In A. McGill-Franzen, & R. Allington, Handbook of Reading Disabilities Research. New York: Routeledge.

Sleeter, C. E. (1987). Why is there learning disabilities? A critical analysis of the birth of the field with its social context. In T. S. Popkewitz (Ed.), The formation of school subjects: The struggle for creating an American institution (pp. 210-237). London: Palmer Press.

Sternberg, R., & Grigorenko, E. (1999). Our Labeled Children. Reading, MA: Perseus Books.

Steubing, K., Fletcher, J., LeDoux, J., Lyon, R., Shaywitz, S., & Shaywitz, B. (2002). Validity of IQ-discrepancy classificaions of reading disabilities: A meta-analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 39(2), 469-518.

Thomas, C. (2004). How is disability understood? An examination of sociological approaches. Disability & Society, 19(6), 569-583.

Walkerdine, V., Lucey, H., & Melody, J. (2002). Subjectivity and qualitative method. In T. May (Ed.), Qualitative research in action (pp. 179-196). London: Sage.

Wetherell, M. (1998). Positioning and interpretative repertoires: Conversation analysis and post-structuralism in dialogue. Discourse & Society, 9(3), 387-412.

Zirkel, P., & Thomas, L. (2010). State laws and guidelines for implementing RIT. Teaching Exceptional Children, 43(1), 60-73.

Similar Articles

1 2 3 4 > >> 

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.