Experiences of educators teaching learners who are severely intellectually challenged
Delport, Elizabeth Maria
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Education can be viewed as a challenging profession, even more so for educators teaching learners with severe intellectual challenges (SIC). The diagnostic criteria of learners with SIC are a significant sub-average ability in intellectual functioning and concurrent deficiencies in adaptive behaviour such as social and daily living skills. The majority of learners with SIC display disruptive and challenging behaviour such as aggression, hyperactivity, talking inappropriately, and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Educators teaching learners with SIC are confronted, daily, with a wide range of challenges such as an excessive workload, minimal progress, and challenging behaviour displayed by the learners with SIC. The intensity of the physical and emotional challenges experienced by the educators, consequently, results in negative outcomes such as stress, burnout, high staff absences, and premature resignations. Earlier studies conducted in this field of specialisation found that educators, overall, were not very keen to teach learners with SIC. South African research conducted within this field of specialisation determined that, despite similar negative challenges, the educators did not necessarily share the pessimistic view towards this teaching environment as experienced in other countries. Local studies indicated that some educators experienced less stress and better physical health than others. The aim of the research was to gain an understanding of the nature of, and possible contextual influences on, those experiences that contributed to some educators experiencing job satisfaction and working effectively, while others did not, to ultimately present possible guiding principles to develop support systems for educators teaching learners with SIC. This qualitative study was planned from a descriptive and explorative case study design by making use of the phenomenological method of inquiry. Ethical permission to conduct the study was obtained from the North West University. The research group consisted of six educators who perceived themselves as effective in this strenuous teaching environment, working at two selected schools for learners with SIC in the Tshwane South District, Gauteng. Data were obtained by making use of semi-structured interviews, open-ended sentences, and follow-up interviews. Data analysis and interpretation were guided by Creswell‘s application of Tesch‘s method by an in-depth analysis, identifying possible themes and topics. The various categories were identified and described. A literature control was executed in order to interpret and evaluate the data. The final step involved recounting the findings in the format of a written article. Based on the research findings, it was concluded that the participants, despite the various challenges, 5 experienced high levels of job satisfaction and motivation. However, the study also confirmed that specific challenges such as the behaviour that learners with SIC display and a lack of acknowledgement could have a detrimental effect on motivational levels. The literature indicated that low motivational levels have a negative impact on job satisfaction and effectiveness. The emotional wellbeing of educators was recognized to be an important determining factor towards their effectiveness and ability to cope. The need for the development of appropriate support systems to enhance the educators’ emotional wellbeing was confirmed.
- Humanities