Teacher Educators' Varied Definitions of Learning Disabilities

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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.
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