Here are the top 10 most asked special education teacher interview questions, along with suggestions on how to respond to each of them so you can nail the interview.
1. Our special education team uses Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for each student. How do you approach developing an IEP?
IEPs are central to any special needs learning environment. Being able to demonstrate an understanding and a familiarity with the IEP process is critical to demonstrating your skills as a special needs educator.
For the IEP to be of maximum benefit to the student, I believe it should be informed by multiple sources and take into a range of considerations including the student’s academic and non-academic developmental goals, the services available within the school to support the student in meeting these goals, regular parental involvement and feedback, an approach for regularly evaluating the student’s progress, and a mechanism for feeding back to the student in a meaningful and supportive way that he or she can understand.
2. What techniques and strategies do you use to tailor teaching to students with special needs? How do you determine which approaches to use?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching, and especially not to special needs teaching. Interviewers asking this question want to understand how you will be responsive to different student needs and how you arrive at the decision of which approaches to use.
I have worked with students with a range of needs, include Attention Deficit Disorder, speech and language difficulties, as well as emotional and behavioral difficulties. I like to ensure that students are given short-term, measurable objectives that are relevant to their situation and which they understand. These shorter-term objectives must align with longer-term goals articulated in the IEP to ensure consistency in what is expected of the student. For example, for a student with behavioral difficulties who struggles with social skills, I would develop an objective for that student to interact appropriately during a regular classroom group activity, such as a reading circle.
3. We expect our teachers to bring their styles and approaches to curriculum development and classroom instruction. What is your most preferred teaching strategy, and why?
With this question, schools are looking to understand what approaches you find most effective and are most comfortable with. It’s an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your past experience and skills as an educator.
One of the most powerful teaching tools I have used is to sensory play. I see this as a key teaching strategy that can help students of all ages and abilities engage with different subject areas and benefits both academic and behavioral development. Sensory play is also a technique that I enjoy using because it allows me to be creative and flexible in my teaching approach.
4. Do you have any experience in integrated classroom settings? If so, how do you adapt lesson plans to the needs of special education students?
As a special needs teacher, you may not always be teaching in a separate classroom. Many schools will want to understand your experience, ability, and willingness to teach in integrated settings.
I currently teach in an integrated classroom. In this role, I developed a lesson plan for the entire class that was oriented on improving reading levels for all pupils. I then adapted this lesson plan for three special needs students in the classroom. This adaptation involved tailored one-on-one tutoring from classroom aids and instruction that was nested within a group reading activity. This ensured that all students were challenged appropriately to their level, but that the special needs students received the extra support in a way that allowed them to fully participate in the classroom setting.
5. Can you please describe your approach to including parents in the special education process?
Parents and guardians are key stakeholders in any child’s IEP. This question is your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding that effective communication and involvement with parents are important for student success.
I see teaching as a process that needs to consider a student’s development both inside and outside of the classroom. While this is important for all students, this is even more critical for students with special needs. Parents play a key role in ensuring that an IEP is appropriate for the needs of their child and that this plan is supported at home. I strive to ensure that parents are part of writing the IEP and are clear about how progress is measured and that they receive regular reporting on their child’s progress. I ensure that a thorough record of interactions and agreements with parents is kept. I also work to foster relationships with parents and ensure that communication is functional and consistent to best serve the needs of the student.
6. Maintaining classroom discipline can be a challenge. How do you do maintain order with special needs students?
Maintaining an orderly learning environment can be difficult in any classroom setting. This question aims to understand how you handle everything from routine disruptions to more severe behavioral issues.
I find that setting clear expectations and ground rules for what is and what is not acceptable classroom behavior from the first day is critically important. I work to model acceptable behavior and explain when doing so to reinforce these expectations between myself and the students. I also strive to create a classroom environment where students expect acceptable behavior from one another and hold themselves to account in their interactions as peers. In setting initial ground rules, I like to focus on respect and get students to articulate in their own words or manner what it means to respect one another. Regardless of learning levels, I believe all students can say, draw, or describe how they would like to be treated by others. I also make sure to recognize and reinforce good behavior when it is demonstrated in the classroom.
7. How do you assess your students’ progress?
Tracking student progress is a central part of an IEP. This is an opportunity to showcase your teaching approach as well as your ability to document and communicate students’ progress they learn.
I have used different assessment techniques over my career, depending on the needs of the individual student. No one assessment works best for all students. I prefer using multiple intelligence assessments useful for special needs learners as it accounts for a range of aptitudes and avoids making examination a stand-alone event, which can be intimidating to any student. It also allows students to demonstrate their understanding in ways that apply to them and are less rigid than traditional assessment methods. Finally, the regularity of assessment allows for continual feedback to the students and parents.
8. How do you maintain student motivation to persevere with assignments or skill areas they may find particularly difficult or challenging?
Maintaining motivation for special needs learners can be incredibly challenging. This question aims to understand how you work through this challenge and build a student’s skills in a feasible manner without deviating from their learning objectives or short-term goals.
First and foremost, I see positive reinforcement as a key to motivating special needs learners. Ensuring a student receives positive messaging when they have made an effort, even when this effort results in an incorrect answer, is central to ensuring the student does not become demotivated even if they are struggling with a task. I work with the student to show them that the process of getting to a correct answer is just as important as reaching it. Learning how to navigate their way to an answer also helps build student resilience over time and helps them to stay motivated on future tasks that they find difficult or frustrating. I find this is also useful for dealing with students with behavioral difficulties because discussing the process of achievement offers an opportunity to discuss and reward positive behavior in addition to academic progress.
9. What approaches do you take to helping special needs students increase their communication and social interaction?
All students will have different communication styles and needs. This question gauges how flexible you are to working with various needs and how adaptable your approach is when working with different students.
I try to encourage and model nonverbal communication as much as possible. I also see parents as important players in reinforcing nonverbal communication techniques with students at home. I have found that nonverbal communication can be an excellent strategy for children with speech and language difficulties and can often resolve anxiety and facilitate social interaction for students who may not otherwise be able to communicate as effectively as their peers. As a teacher, I try to reinforce and explain these nonverbal cues with verbal explanations.
10. What has been the most challenging situation you have faced as a special education teacher? Please describe what you did in this situation.
With this question, the interviewer is trying to understand not only what experience you’ve had, but how you reflect and assess your past teaching. It aims to understand your awareness of your approach as a teacher.
The most difficult situation I have faced thus far is working with a student who had multiple special needs. These needs meant that he was not only difficult to teach but was also highly disruptive in a classroom setting. This was an integrated classroom, and I needed to ensure that the student was not only receiving instruction but also engaged with the class. I approached this situation by working to get him involved in tasks he could accomplish that would contribute to the classroom environment. As the student gained positive reinforcement from completing these tasks, it made him feel more integrated into the classroom and helped to deal with most of the behavioral difficulties. For example, I found that getting him to assist with something physical, such as pinning objects on a wall map during a group geography exercise, made him feel part of the class and also got him to work alongside other students. This tactic was also complimented by him receiving one-on-one tutoring from a classroom assistant for other assignments.
Next 40 Most Asked Special Education Teacher Interview Questions
- Why did you decide to become a special education teacher? If you had the opportunity to do this again, would you still choose to go into special education?
- What do you find most challenging, and what do you find most rewarding about working with students with special requirements?
- Why is it about this school that prompted you to apply to work here?
- What types of special needs or disabilities have students had in your previous teaching roles?
- What age groups have you taught in the past?
- Please share your views on classroom inclusion, integration, and segregation in relation to special needs students.
- Can you give an example of a time that you have collaborated with a general education teacher?
- Can you describe a time you disagreed with a decision made by the department or school leadership? What was your response?
- How would you adapt a lesson plan to ensure the needs of students with diverse special needs were met?
- What teaching resources do you use to support learning for students with special needs? Can you provide an example of where you have used technology to support learning?
- Can you describe your experience using sensory learning? What approaches do you find have worked well to engage students in the past?
- What are the main aspects required to make a classroom inclusive for special needs students?
- How do you motivate special needs students and sustain this motivation daily?
- What approaches have you used to assess the progress of your students? Have you ever changed these techniques for a student based on an experience where the original technique was not working?
- What tools and approaches have you used in the past to help students feel a sense of achievement when they have progressed?
- If you were to undertake this position, how do you envision your classroom setting and relationships with teaching assistants?
- What strategies would you use to integrate a student’s special needs into a traditional classroom?
- How do you teach to the different needs in a classroom where students may have different special needs?
- What approaches do you use to ensure that special education needs are met in an inclusive classroom setting?
- What techniques do you use to ensure that each student, regardless of needs, feels included in all classroom activities?
- Please describe any experience you have in preparing special needs students for standardized testing.
- In your opinion, what are the most effective behavioral management approaches when working with special needs students?
- Can you describe a time when you have worked with a particularly disruptive student? How did you approach this situation, and what was the result?
- What are your views on parent or caregiver involvement in the special education process?
- Please describe your approach to involving parents in the development and management of an IEP. Can you provide an example of where you have worked with parents or caregivers of special needs students in the past?
- Can you provide an example of a time when you have worked through a difficulty with a parent of a special needs student?
- Have you undergone any training on safeguarding for special needs students?
- Can you please identify what you see as the top three priorities to safeguarding students with special needs?
- As a special education teacher at this school, what steps would you take to ensure that your classroom is a space where students are safeguarded? How would you work with support staff to ensure these steps are implemented?
- What is your view of teaching in a team-teaching setting? Have you ever taught as a team?
- How do you manage the progress reporting, paperwork, and other administrative tasks of special education teaching?
- Can you please provide examples of how you stay up to date on developments in special education?
- Are there any needs or disabilities that you will find difficult to work with? If so, what is your willingness to engage with students with such needs, and how would you go about doing so?
- How do you assess the effectiveness of your teaching both on a day-to-day basis and over the longer term?
- What recent feedback have you received on your teaching? How have you, or how do you, plan to respond to that feedback?
- Please describe your approach to student-led learning in a special education setting.
- What are your professional goals as a teacher? What role do you see yourself in five years from now?
- What area of your teaching would you most like to improve? Do you have any plans to strengthen this area, and if yes, how so?
- Beyond instruction and teaching techniques, what do you consider to be your greatest strength or area of achievement as a special education specialist?
- If we were to ask your recent students about your teaching style, how do you think they would describe you?
10 Best Questions to Ask in a Special Education Teacher Interview
In addition to answering questions during the interview, it’s also important that you use the interview as an opportunity to understand as much about the environment and expectations you’ll face if you receive a job offer. Here are 10 questions to ask during your special education teacher interview:
- Is there a set curriculum? If so, what flexibility does this curriculum offer to be tailored to special needs students?
- What resources are provided by the school or the district to support teachers?
- Will I be able to incorporate my lessons and materials in this position?
- Can you tell me a bit about the school and the district that I cannot learn from internet research?
- What opportunities are offered for continuing education and teacher development?
- What is the structure and frequency of staff meetings?
- Can you describe the working relationship between teaching faculty and other school staff, such as support and administrative staff?
- How long do special education teachers stay at this school, on average?
- Are there extra duties required of teachers, for example, chaperoning school trips or running extracurricular activities?
- What are the biggest challenges facing the school and the district in the coming year? What are your plans to work through these challenges?
Although an interview may be an intimidating process, it is the best opportunity for you to communicate your passion for special education and all that you bring to the role. Don’t forget that the interview is also a chance for you to assess whether the position and school are the right fit for you. With preparation and a good night’s sleep, you can do this!
Keith Miller has over 25 years experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entreprenuer, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.