Imapct factor(SJIF): 6.56
An Empirical Study on Teachers’ Perceptions Towards Inclusive Education
Lyallpur Khalsa College
During the past two decades, the inclusion movements have made significant progress in (a) supporting the rights of children to have their special educational needs identified and met through education legislation and the right of individuals with disabilities to equal opportunities, (b) minimizing unjustified discrimination, and (c) developing support facilities and services for individuals with special needs (Disability Rights Task Force Final Report, 2004; Ministry of Education, 2004). Despite the apparent benefits of inclusion, and regardless of the teachers' commitment and positive attitudes; and notwithstanding their having the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the educational needs of diverse students with disabilities, teachers were concerned about the academic, social, and behavioral adjustment of the students with disabilities. The main characteristic of inclusive education is the teachers’ willingness to accept students with special needs. Their attitudes and knowledge about inclusive education are important as these are indicators of such willingness. The purpose of this study was to examine teachers’ attitudes and their perceived knowledge towards inclusive education in Punjab. The respondents (n=50) were the mainstream and special education teachers in the public primary and secondary schools. They were given a set of questionnaire which sought their responses regarding their attitudes and knowledge towards inclusive education. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics such as mean and standard deviation. The statistical tool used for the analysis was Factor analysis. The main finding shows that, in general, teachers have positive attitudes towards inclusive education.
Inclusive education is a concept that allows students with special needs to be placed and received instruction in the mainstream classes and being taught by mainstream teachers. According to the Malaysian Ministry of Education, students with special needs are those who are visually handicapped, or partially or fully deaf or suffer from the disability to learn (Akta Pendidikan 1996). These are the students that have been identified as suffering from physical-sensory deficiencies and learning disabilities.
What is ‘inclusiveness’?
The concept of inclusiveness hinges on the recognition of the need to make disadvantaged students responsible and contributing citizens of the society. It also emphasizes the role and responsibilities of a teacher in instilling self-confidence in such students as also in cultivating the right attitude among the other sighted students and peers.
“It is about …
• rejecting segregation or exclusion of learners for whatever reason – ability, gender, language, care status, family income, disability, sexuality, color, religion or ethnic origin;
• maximizing the participation of all learners in the community schools of their choice;
• making learning more meaningful and relevant for all, particularly those learners most vulnerable to exclusionary pressures;
• rethinking and restructuring policies, curricula, cultures and practices in schools and learning environments so that diverse learning needs can be met, whatever the origin or nature of those needs.”
"Inclusion involves all kinds of practices that are ultimately practices of good teaching. What good teachers do is to think thoughtfully about children and develop ways to reach all children. Ultimately good teaching is a relationship between two people; teachers get good results because they enter into that relationship. Inclusion is providing more options for children as ways to learn. It’s structuring schools as community where all children can learn. But there’s no recipe for becoming an inclusive teacher or an inclusive school. It’s not a mechanized format." -- Dr. Chris Kliewer, Associate Professor of Special Education, University of Northern Iowa.
"Inclusion is based on the belief that people/adults work in inclusive communities, work with people of different races, religions, aspirations, disabilities. In the same vein, children of all ages should learn and grow in environments that resemble the environments that they will eventually work in." -- Dr. Susan Etscheidt, Professor of Special Education, UNI.
"When good inclusion is in place, the child who needs the inclusion does.
Society has changed the direction of the way in which it educates its children. This trend, which has gained momentum since 1970s, is the merger of regular or general education with special education; known as inclusion. Now the schools have to accommodate all children and arrange education according to their needs. The term Special Educational Needs (SEN) refers to all those children whose needs arise out of their specific abilities or learning difficulties. Special Education Need children should be provided education with the majority of normal children. Many students with mild to severe learning disabilities are no longer being separated from their peers when it comes to education. Students with learning disabilities students, according to the Individuals Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), must be educated in what is known as the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Many people have confused the concept of inclusion with another educational buzzword, “mainstreaming”. Mainstreaming also involves the placement of a special education student into general curriculum. However, whereas the practice of inclusion allows for accommodations to the special students academic program, mainstreamed students are expected to meet the same academic standards as the general education students.
The goal of inclusive education is to break down the barriers that separate general and special education and make the included students feel like, and actually become an active member of general education classroom.
According to Neary & Halvorsen (1995), “the best environment for learning are those in which students are motivated, learning is active and information is presented in a manner that recognizes the diversity of each student”.
Within the contemporary inclusive classrooms, teachers face increased pressure as their roles diversify, compared to previous generations (Avramidis, Bayliss, & Burden, 2000; Clayton, 1996; Forlin, 1997; Long, 1995; McKinnon & Gordon, 1999; Paterson & Graham, 2000; Schloss, 1992). Teachers have varied in their responses to these challenges (Westwood & Graham, 2003). Mainstream teachers are now called upon to be sensitive to the variety of modern classrooms and to be able to rise to the challenge by adjusting their teaching styles in accordance with the multiplicity of learning styles they face (Peterson & Beloin, 1992). They are further required to be psychologically and practically prepared to take on the dynamic role of inclusive educator (Mullen, 2001), while being aware that making physical provision for students with disabilities is not as important as making attitudinal changes resulting in the removal of barriers to physical and educational access (Beattie, Anderson, & Antonak, 1997).Several mainstream educators view the philosophy of inclusive education as an exciting challenge, the stresses associated with its introduction being seen as life-sustaining, enjoyable and beneficial (Bernard, 1990); on the other hand, it has been noted that the experience of being an inclusive educator is challenging enough to cause teachers to become physiologically and psychologically stressed (Whiting & Young, 1996). Fritz and Miller (1995) found that inclusion was an impossible obstacle for some teachers; however, others have seen it as an opportunity for personal and professional growth while contributing to the dynamic field of education. It would appear that the attitudes of educators toward the inclusion of students with disabilities are multidimensional and complex. Positive attitudes are considered to encourage the inclusion of students with disabilities into regular classrooms, while negative attitudes support low achievement and poor acceptance of students with disabilities into mainstream settings (Beattie et al., 1997).
The learning disabilities programme provides educational service to a heterogeneous group of students with mild retardation, students with autistic tendencies and students with multiple disabilities. Such students have been placed in special classes or in special schools. Placement into special needs programmes is decided based on the special needs categorizations, namely visual, hearing and/or learning disabilities. For students with visual or hearing impairments, they are either placed in special schools or in the integration programme in the mainstream schools. Students with learning disabilities are regularly placed in the integration programme in the mainstream schools.
The Significance of Teachers' Perceptions of Inclusive Education
This study found that the inclusive education programme could be successfully implemented if the level of the teachers’ competency is increased. Thus, the opportunities to attend courses that are related to the inclusive education program have to be created, especially for those who lack of exposure and training in special education. Adjustments towards the pedagogical aspects can be trained internally by experienced teachers to the new teachers. The effort towards a collaborative teaching between mainstream and special education teachers should be put in place. Indirectly, this effort could help to reinforce a cooperative spirit in implementing inclusive education. Literature has shown that the success of the inclusive education depends, to a large extent, on the willingness and the ability of teachers to make accommodations for individuals with special needs (Bender, Vail, & Scott, 1995). In addition, research also shows that teachers who are aware of the inclusion policy and therefore can define the pragmatic meaning of inclusion is more willing to be part of the inclusion team. However, numerous studies found that teachers agree that the inclusive education is important, but many find it difficult to apply.
Teachers are perceived to be integral to the implementation of inclusive education (Haskell, 2000). Research communicates the view that teachers are the key to the success of inclusionary programs (Cant, 1994), as they are viewed as linchpins in the process of including students with disabilities into regular classes (Stewart, 1983; Whiting & Young, 1995). Other studies acknowledge that inclusive education can only be successful if teachers are part of the team driving this process (Horne, 1983; Malone, Gallagher, & Long, 2001).
It is important to examine the attitudes of mainstream educators toward the inclusion of students with disabilities into regular settings as their perceptions may influence their behavior toward and acceptance of such students (Hammond & Ingalls, 2003; Sideridis & Chandler, 1996; Van Reusen, Shoho, & Barker, 2001). The success of an inclusionary program may be at risk if regular classroom teachers hold negative perceptions toward the inclusion of students with disabilities (Horne, 1983; Van Reusen et al., 2001). Negative perceptions of inclusive education may become obstacles, as general education teachers attempt to include students with disabilities (Cawley, Hayden, Cade, & Baker-Kroczynski, 2002).
The inclusion of individuals with disabilities in mainstream educational, occupational and societal frameworks has become an accepted concept in western countries in the last two decades (Heiman, 2004). The inclusion policy specified attendance at mainstreamed schools and also dealt with different models of implementing the inclusion and with teachers' needs in terms of practical and theoretical training. Research has shown the many positive effects of placement in inclusive classes and the different benefits for students with disabilities.
According to Heiman (2004), there are four different models of inclusion: (a) in-and-out, (b) two-teachers, (c) full inclusion and (d) rejection of inclusion. In her study of inclusive education in United Kingdom and Israel, Heiman (2004) found that most of the teachers in United Kingdom and Israel thought that an in-and-out model would be more effective for the students with learning disabilities. These teachers believe that this approach would enable students with disabilities to benefit from two worlds: the special instruction they needed together with regular lessons and interactions with their peers in regular settings. The two-teacher model was somewhat popular in Israel and less so in Britain. According to this model, two teachers teach simultaneously in the classroom with one of them, who has had training in special education, concentrating on the students with disabilities. Small percentages of teachers in both countries thought that full inclusion is the right model to apply within the regular classroom. They thought that with additional support and cooperation between teachers and with the services of the educational system, full inclusion could succeed and be the most beneficial for all. Some teachers in both countries rejected inclusion completely. The teachers in this group thought that it would be better for students with disabilities to study in separate classes, according to special programs, so they could progress at their own pace. They felt that such model is more effective since special needs students in inclusive class would never be able to reach the academic level of the mainstream students. Similar models were observed in Malaysia. Form our observation, full inclusion is the least method used. Most teachers would apply hybrid models such as two-teachers and in-and-out approaches.
This study was guided by Ajzen's theory of planned behavior, an extension of the theory of reasoned action (Azjen, 1991). This is a widely used model to determine behavior arising from attitudes and has been used in research involving attitudes toward individuals with disabilities (Hodge & Jansma, 2000; Kowalski & Rizzo, 1996). Assumptions derived from the theory are that theoretical variables of behavioral intention, that is, attitude toward the behavior, the subjective norm and perceived behavior control, should come together to estimate intention (Azjen, 1991). The model suggests that attitudes toward a behavior may be influenced by past experiences, previous knowledge and newly acquired knowledge (Azjen, 1991; Azjen & Fishbein, 1977). Attitudes play a significant role in determining behavior (Azjen & Fishbein, 1977); it is therefore important to ascertain the factors shaping the attitudes of mainstream teachers as they attempt to include students with disabilities. More specifically, this study is based on the premise that the attitudes of mainstream teachers toward the inclusion of students with disabilities are influenced by past experiences (previous experience with teaching students with disabilities, previous knowledge (training in the field of inclusive education) and newly acquired knowledge (professional development or training modules).
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Semmel et al.(1991) carried out a study entitled, "Teacher Perceptions of the Regular Education
Initiative", where they after having surveyed 381 elementary educators in Illinois and California (both general and special), concluded that those educators were not dissatisfied with a special education system that operated pullout special educational programmes.
Dickens and Smith(1995) conducted a study on the attitudes of both regular and special educators towards inclusion. Here both groups of respondents reveal more favorable attitudes towards inclusion after their in-service training. They concluded that staff development is the key to the success of inclusion.
Johnson (1996) in a study described and analyzed the perceptions held by regular education teachers toward the placement of students with learning disabilities in their classrooms. Key findings of this study were that class size should be reduced to support inclusion and that teachers are basically enthusiastic about participating in inclusion. Teachers were also concerned about their level of training regarding modification and received effective teaching strategies for student withdisabilities.
Ali , Mustapha and Jelas (2006) examined the attitude and perceived knowledge of mainstream and special education teachers of primary and secondary schools towards inclusive education in Malaysia. The main finding shows that, in general, teachers have positive attitudes towards inclusive education. They agreed that inclusive education enhances social interaction and inclusion among the students and thus, it minimizes negative stereotypes on special needs students. The findings also show that collaboration between the mainstream and the special education teachers is important and that there should be a clear guideline on the implementation of inclusive education. The findings of the study have significant implications to the school administrators, teachers, and other stakeholders who directly and indirectly involved in implementing inclusive education.
Nayak (2008) examined the attitude of both parents and teachers towards inclusive education. Results of the study reported that teachers look forward to teaching in an inclusive environment and are ready to face the challenges. Result of the study also showed significant difference in the opinions of teachers of normal school.
According to Heiman (2004), students can be included in mainstream classes based on a multidimensional diagnosis including psychological and educational tests. The students usually receive additional academic support from a special education teacher in their regular classrooms or in a resource room. To provide flexible inclusion in the least restrictive environment, the schools need to train more mainstream teachers to handle and cope with special needs students in their classes.
NEED OF THE STUDY
Worldwide inclusive education has been established as a significant policy direction with respect to including children with disabilities in regular or mainstream schools. The importance of studying the factors that influence the regular education teachers’ attitude of special education students incorporated into a regular education classroom is critical to the success of inclusion. The regular education teacher must now accept an additional role. The professionals who had specialized training and had the desire to be involved with special need students once held this role. Teachers are now expected to rise to the challenge of accommodating a range of students in the classroom. Yet how can teachers are supported to accomplish this challenging task in the classroom? Is it only a matter of resources or are teachers’ views about inclusion crucial for successful implementation of policy? General education teacher need to recognize, identify and understand that each student (special education or general education) attaches to the learning process at different levels and rates. Special education students bring with them into the classroom a sort of “instructional manual” on how to create an environment fitted to meet their individual needs. One of the most significant stipulations that allow for successful inclusion of special education students is the attitudes or attitudes of the general education teacher regarding the inclusion of special education students into their classroom. Classrooms are now becoming more diverse with respect to students abilities, therefore sensitivity and awareness on the part of general education teacher is essential to promote successful inclusion. Many factors influence the general education teachers’ attitude towards inclusion. When general education teachers are provided proper training and supportive services through a collaborative consultant and designated time to meet willingness to participate in collaborative interactions, they can come at par with special teachers. The study sought to uncover teachers’ perceptions of inclusive education in order to give insights into the reality of inclusion policy and practice.
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY:
· To investigate the factors that may influence a teacher's attitude toward the inclusive education in order to give insights into the reality of inclusion policy and practice.
· To study the difference between male and female elementary school teachers’attitude towards inclusive education.
· To study the difference between the attitude of teachers having more than 10 years and less than 10 years of experience towards inclusive education.
HYPOTHESES OF THE STUDY
I. There is no significant difference between male and female elementary school teachers’ attitude towards inclusive education.
II. There is no significant difference between the attitude of teachers having more
than 10 years and less than 10 years of experience towards inclusive education.
For the purpose of drawing out the factors that influence the teacher’s perceptions regarding inclusive education, a structured questionnaire was prepared. The questionnaire was designed using the variables that can be considered as challenges and the issues which are to be faced by country towards inclusive education. The study was conducted on a sample of 50 school teachers who were selected randomly from the city of Jalandhar. Factor Analysis was applied to identify the factors that affect the teacher’s perception towards inclusive education. The Likert scale was used as a rating scale that requires the respondents to indicate the agreement level they attach to various brand attributes. Each response item has five response categories, ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. A score ranging from 5 to 1 was allocated to the response categories respectively.
The findings of the study reveal that teachers’ personal characteristics, their views of the support available, their understanding of inclusion and school practices all contribute to the successful implementation of policy.
ANALYSIS OF THE RESULTS
RESULTS WITH RESPECT TO MALE AND FEMALE SCHOOL TEACHERS’
ATTITUDE TOWARDS INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
In order to find out the difference between the scores of male and female teachers,
mean and S.D were calculated.
Significance of Difference between the Attitude of Male and Female Teachers towards Inclusive Education
Significant at .01 level
The t-ratio calculated in Table.1 was found to be 7.34 and the needed values to be
significant at .01 level is 2.750 and at .05 level 2.042. So, the calculated t-ratio value is
greater than the table value at .01 level of significance. Therefore, it is significant at .01
level. Hence, hypothesis no.1 i.e. there is no significant difference between male and female
elementary school teachers’ attitude towards inclusive education stands rejected. It means
there exists significant difference in the male and female elementary school teachers attitude
towards inclusive education. Again, the Mean scores of the Male (67.33), is greater than the
Mean Scores of Female teachers (61.16). So, it can be interpreted that the male teachers’
attitude are more positive towards inclusive education as compared to their counterparts. It
might be due to the reason that the male teachers are more aware about the inclusive
education rather than their female counterparts.
RESULTS WITH RESPECT TO EXPERIENCE OF ELEMENTARY TEACHER’S
ATTITUDE TOWARDS INCLUSIVE EDUCATION
Significance of Difference between the Attitude of Teachers having More than 10
Years and Less than 10 Years of Experience towards Inclusive Education
*Significant at .01 level
The calculated t-value shown in the table No.3 is 1.58, which is less than the table value (2.042) at .05 level. Therefore, it is insignificant at .05 level of significance. Hence, the hypothesis i.e. there is no significant difference between the attitude of teachers having more than 10 years and less than 10 years of experience towards inclusive education is accepted. It is clear from the above table that there exists no significant difference between teachers attitude having more than 10 years and less than 10 years of experience towards inclusive education. This might be due to the reason that both more experienced teachers and less experienced teachers have more knowledge about the children-learning environment because of the present day practice of inclusion of special need children.
Above finding may be supported by the results of Forlin (1995) where it has been documented that teachers from the Education Support Centres (special centers that cater for the educational needs of children with SEN requiring limited or extended support) were more accepting of a child with intellectual and physical disabilities than educators from regular mainstream primary schools which co-existed on the same site. Forlin concluded that special education resource teachers tend to have a more positive attitude towards inclusion than their mainstream counterparts. Werts et al. (1996) found that training was one of the identified needs. Special and general educators have similar levels of need for resources, but special educators reported greater availability of resources than general educators. It might be due to reason that those who are trained have more positive attitude towards inclusive education.
The present study has its implications for teachers, parents, administrators or policy makers and government, since the present study is conducted on the attitude of the teachers toward inclusive education. The study has some practical implication for teachers. It has been found from the present study that the teachers are already aware about the desirability of inclusion of disabled children in the regular classroom, but still there is need to spread the awareness regarding inclusion of special need children in the regular classroom. It is necessary because the teachers belonging to rural origin exhibit less positive attitude towards inclusive education in comparison to their urban counterparts. There is also need to develop awareness about inclusive education among female teachers as they revealed less positive attitude towards inclusive education than the male teachers.
The present study bears implications for the parents as well as the community members. Disabled are no more considered differently able. The parents of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) children should exhibit positive attitude for the education of their children in the regular classroom along with normal children, rather than placing them in segregated setting exclusively meant for a particular disability. The parents should also discuss the problem of their children openly instead of trying to hide their disability so that the teacher can take effective measures to bring the children to mainstream. Society plays a crucial role as far as the inclusion is concerned. It is the society, which aggravates the condition of the disabled children by labeling and stigmatizing them, which in turn develops poor self-concept and confidence among children. The members of the society should try to understand that these children are not burden on the nation rather they are the assets of the nation, which can be proved by giving them equal opportunity in every field. The present study also has the implications for the administrators or policy makers. The administrators and policy makers should frame policies and laws, where maximum opportunity should be made available for the disabled children. Policies should be framed in such a way that the disabled children can have access to regular classroom, where they get plenty of opportunities to utilize their potentialities to the fullest possible extent. Again the present study essentially has some implications for the government also. Administrators simply can form the policies, but it is the government who executes and implements those in actual sense. Government should allocate more funds to implement the policies that are framed on behalf of disabled.
RESULTS OF FACTOR ANALYSIS
The data was first subject to reliability test. Reliability can be checked by Cronbach's alpha, which is a measure of internal consistency, that is, how closely related a set of items are as a group.
R E L I A B I L I T Y A N A L Y S I S - S C A L E (A L P H A)
N of Cases = 50.0 N of Items = 30
Alpha = .918
The set of statements with their appropriate scores were subjected to varimax rotated factor analysis. Table 1 indicates the values of KMO test and Bartlett's Test of Sphericity. The value of KMO is .677 which is greater than 0.5. Therefore, satisfactory factor analysis can be preceded. Bartlett's test of Sphericity indicates strength of the relationship among variables. The observed significance level is .000. This means that the strength of the relationship among variables is strong. Thus, Data is good fit for Factor Analysis.
Table 1: KMO and Bartlett's Test
Factor loadings obtained are presented in Table 2 and Rotated component matrix is shown in
Table 2. Seven factors were extracted which accounting for a total of 85.487 percent of the variance.