The purpose of this thesis study was to explore and examine the experiences andperceptions of special education preservice teachers (PSTs) preparing to work with students with mild to moderate or severe disabilities relative to completing a required special education multicultural class as part of their required course of study. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was incorporated to collect and analyze naturalistic interview data from 24 PSTs who were closest to the real-life contexts of this study. Each participant had completed the same multicultural class one year prior to being individually interviewed. At the time of the interviews, participants had completed a teaching practicum and were participating in their teaching internship or had completed a teaching internship. Findings indicated that as a group, PSTs perceived six overall benefits from the special education multicultural course. Perceived benefits included the benefit of an expanded understanding of culture; the benefit of assignments that led to greater understanding; the benefit of moving from a lens of stereotypes, fixed mindsets, and single stories towards more empathic understandings; the benefit of leveraging a safe classroom environment in order to consider personal biases; the benefit of shame rejection protocols providing emotional space for participants to work on recognizing privilege; and the benefits of learning from instructor's characteristics and pedagogical teaching strategies. Furthermore, findings from the data analysis indicated that students reported more easily applying broader concepts from the multicultural course to teaching contexts. On the other hand, findings from the data also indicated that students seemed to struggle more with applying specific teaching strategies to new teaching contexts. Moving forward, those who teach this special education multicultural class may consider including more targeted role-plays and directed learning experiences that hone in on specific teaching strategies as applied to a variety of teaching contexts. PSTs need to practice and receive feedback on applying teaching strategies that are culturally sensitive. Additionally, strategies should stem from empathy-based personal self-reflection of one's cultural impact.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





special education, preservice teachers, multicultural class, interpretative phenomenological analysis, benefits, stereotypes, shame



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Education Commons