Even though physical education (PE) is a direct service required by law (IDEA, 2004) and must be included on an individualized education program (IEP), little is known about how physical educators' are involved in the IEP process.
Purpose: Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine physical educators' perceptions of and role in the IEP process.
Methods: We used interpretive, qualitative methods to examine the experiences and perceptions of 20 elementary physical educators from several school districts in the Midwestern US who teach students with disabilities (SWD) in their general PE classes. Using an interview guide and extensive probing, we conducted semi-structured interviews with each teacher for approximately 45-60 minutes. All interviews were audio-recorded and later transcribed. We analyzed data inductively using constant comparison (e.g., open and axial coding, category construction, thematic organization, and negative case analyses) and sought trustworthiness through member checks, researcher triangulation, researcher journals, and peer debriefers.
Analysis/Results: We found that, in general, most teachers felt “in the dark” about the IEP process that includes SWD in their classes. We identified three themes explaining how these teachers understood and were involved/not involved in the IEP process. First, we found the teachers had a limited understanding of the IEP process (e.g., who is responsible for conducting motor assessments and writing goals, how to access IEPs, which students have IEPs). Second, the teachers seemed unaware of how and the extent to which they could and should be involved in the IEP process (e.g., weren't aware PE must be included on IEPs, defer to occupational and physical therapists for motor assessments and goals, don't recognize their contribution to the multidisciplinary process). Third, we found that both systemic factors and the teachers themselves contributed equally to their remaining “in the dark” regarding the IEP process. The physical educators felt marginalized by other school personnel, and were generally not invited to meetings or involved in assessments. In fact, some were even barred from reviewing IEPs. At the same time, many of the teachers weren't steadfast in their efforts to become regularly involved in the IEP process. Instead, most were content to remain on the periphery as a “resource” for the multidisciplinary team developing the IEPs for SWD in their classes.
Conclusions: If SWD are to receive quality PE, individualized to meet their unique learning needs, then physical educators need to be better informed about and more actively involved in the IEP process.