Assistive technology competencies for teachers of students with visual impairments: a delphi study.
Smith, Derrick W.
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Individuals with visual impairments have for centuries relied upon assistive technology (AT) to access information, travel independently, and participate in a variety of experiences. Due to the effectiveness of assistive technologies for individuals with visual impairments, it is imperative that university training programs that prepare teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs) incorporate assistive technology training into their programs. However, a comprehensive set of assistive technology competencies that universities can use to plan pre-service and in-service professional development currently does not exist. Thus, university programs are currently teaching different assistive technology knowledge and skills at various levels of expertise. Therefore, the major purpose of this study was to identify and develop a comprehensive set of AT competencies that should be attained by individuals who complete a TVI program. Along with developing the AT competencies, a secondary purpose of the study was to develop a framework of level of expertise attainment. This study was conducted using the Delphi Method, a process that assembles the ideas and opinions of a group of individuals considered to be knowledgeable experts in a given professional field. The purpose of a Delphi study is to produce a reliable consensus of opinion through the use of a panel of experts. The panel included 35 experts from various professional areas and geographical locations. The panelists participated in five (5) iterations, or rounds to establish the set of AT competencies and accompanying levels of expertise. The first three rounds were focused on the development of consensus of the AT competencies. These rounds resulted in the panel reaching a high level of agreement on 111 competencies. These competencies were then used in two other rounds wherein the panel established the essential level of expertise for each competency. The final rounds produced a high level of agreement with each competency having a set level of expertise. The results of the study are intended to provide the field of special education for students with visual impairments a comprehensive set of assistive technology competencies by which to develop both pre-service and in-service professional development.