No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002) mandated that all students learn to read and specified that instructional practice in schools be informed by scientifically-based research. NCLB specifically aimed to improve reading achievement among struggling readers, students with disabilities, and other marginalized students. The National Reading Panel and reading experts have identified instructional practices for teaching reading to struggling readers; and yet, teachers do not always implement effective practices in their classrooms. To identify factors that influence teachers’ practice, I conducted a literature review of teachers’ beliefs about reading instruction. The results of the review were mixed in terms of whether teachers believed that research-validated practices were effective for teaching reading to struggling readers. In some instances, teachers’ beliefs acted as barriers for addressing students’ instructional needs, and teachers’ beliefs and practices were both congruent and incongruent.

If teachers fail to implement effective practices, the long-term outlook for poor readers is dismal, particularly for students with disabilities. Considerable research indicates that students with disabilities need intense, explicit, skill-based instruction to acquire basic reading skills. Although some of the studies reviewed provide evidence that special education teachers believe that explicit, skill-based approaches are effective for teaching reading to students with disabilities, more research is needed to understand how special education teachers’ beliefs influence their instructional practice.

The purpose for this research was to describe preservice special education teachers’ beliefs about reading instruction for students with mild to moderate disabilities. Results indicated that preservice special education teachers held varying beliefs about reading instruction. The preservice teachers described explicit, skill-based instruction as effective for teaching reading to students with disabilities, and they also thought that skill-based instruction, combined with balanced literacy, addressed students’ instructional needs. Affective response and teaching experience influenced teachers’ beliefs. Teachers who perceived that the use of explicit, skillbased methods contributed to students’ progress implemented such practices in their classrooms. Those who did not believe that the use of explicit methods for teaching reading supported student learning, implemented practices that did not align with research-validated perspectives.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation



Date Submitted


Document Type





special education, teacher, beliefs, reading instruction, disability