A Qualitative Study: The Perceptions of Mainstream Teachers toward Emotionally Disabled Students


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In Australia, the Commonwealth and State educational governments advocate for the inclusion of children with disabilities within regular classrooms [ 4 — 6 ]. Nevertheless, advocacy alone does not ensure that the policy is favourably accepted by those on the frontline of implementation, namely, classroom teachers.

Studies have revealed that teacher attitudes and expectations are significant barriers to the successful implementation of inclusive classrooms [ 7 — 9 ] and equitable participation of all students [ 10 ].

Attitudes are conceptualised as relatively stable constructs comprising cognitive, affective and behavioural components [ 11 ]. Common practical concerns raised by teachers include: The severity of the disability that teachers are required to accommodate within their classroom is inversely associated with their attitude towards inclusion. That is, the more severe the child's disability; the less positive their attitude is towards inclusion [ 15 — 18 ].

For example, teachers were found to generally be more supportive of including children with physical and sensory disabilities than those with intellectual, learning and behavioural disabilities [ 7 , 8 , 16 , 18 , 19 ].

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Teacher education is viewed to be pivotal in developing the affirmative attitudes and skills required for successful inclusion, with formal educational training being identified as one of the main factors that promote an inclusive attitude [ 14 , 20 — 22 ]. Similar findings have been found with trainee teachers [ 21 , 23 ], where the inclusion of a compulsory module on diversity in a post-graduate degree promoted having an inclusive attitude.

Pedagogies that combine formal training and planned hands-on experience with people with disabilities have been shown to improve preparedness and positive attitudes towards inclusion [ 7 , 24 , 25 ]. Moreover, irrespective of degree type, trainee teachers had a better understanding of the potential of children with disabilities after completing a unit of study with a strong focus on inclusive education [ 24 ]. However, some authors argue that improving knowledge of and confidence in inclusive education alone is insufficient in improving a positive attitude towards inclusion and reducing related anxiety.

They highlight the finding that there is a gradual decline of positive attitudes towards inclusion in trainee teachers as they advance in their training years [ 23 , 26 ]. The influence of age, gender and role on having an inclusive attitude is largely mixed. Female teacher trainees are reported to be more tolerant in implementing inclusive education [ 18 , 28 ]; while other studies reported no effect of gender [ 29 — 31 ].

Following training, teachers with less experience have been shown to have a more positive attitude towards inclusion when compared with their more experienced counterparts [ 7 , 8 , 32 ]. Conversely, some studies found that teachers who have been exposed to people with disabilities i. The importance of self-efficacy emerges from its cyclic nature, whereby proficiency in performance creates a new mastery experience which, in turn, influences self-efficacy beliefs [ 38 ].

Empirical findings validate the associations between high self-efficacy in teachers and openness to implement varied instructional strategies for students of all ability levels, including those with learning difficulties [ 39 ] and more positive attitudes toward inclusive education [ 40 — 42 ]. Conversely, teachers with low self-efficacy in their teaching are more likely to see difficulties in learning to be attributable to the child i.

Thus, while the impact of teacher attitudes on the implementation of inclusion policies is widely recognised, the factors shaping these attitudes are poorly understood. The current study reports data obtained from a cross-sectional survey. The study is part of a larger longitudinal study investigating the factors associated with academic, social, emotional and mental health outcomes of students with and without disabilities as they transition from primary to secondary school [ 47 , 48 ].

Recruitment for the current study was extended to mainstream primary schools listed on the Department of Education and Training, WA website. Several recruitment strategies were used to maximise reach and representativeness. Classroom teachers in charge of students in the final year of primary school in WA class 6 or 7 in the academic years commencing January or , and due to transition to either middle or secondary school in January or were eligible to participate in the study.

The predominant disabilities included auditory and visual disability, learning disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Cerebral palsy. The chronic conditions included asthma, diabetes and thyroid dysfunction. Cross-sectional data were collected from 74 primary school teachers across 74 schools in inner city and regional areas of WA. Information was collected via survey questionnaires, primarily in paper and pencil format. Informed written consent was obtained from school principals and teachers to participate in this study.

shows her students how to become excellent teachers through various teaching strategies. .. Although many children with disabilities attended mainstream The teachers complained that the emotionally disturbed integrated children were. A Qualitative Study: The Perceptions of Mainstream Teachers toward Emotionally Disabled Students by Dr. Don Rainwater. $ 76 pages.

Participation in the study was voluntary. Participants were made aware that they were not obliged to participate in the study and were free to withdraw from the study at any time without justification or prejudice. This rating scale measures teachers' attitudes toward the integration of students with disabilities in regular settings by presenting statements such as: In the current study, the ORI scale was used as a uni-dimensional construct; with higher scores indicating poorer attitude to inclusion.

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Teachers reported details on the demographic characteristics, education, training and general characteristics of the school. Information on the school sector, post codes of students enrolled in each school and organisational structure at each school was obtained from Department of Education and Training WA records.

The SEIFA decile was used as the measure of mean school-SES, with a lower decile ranking being indicative of greater disadvantaged relative to high decile rankings which are indicative of greater affluence. The scale measures perceived efficacy to influence: Items are scored such that a higher score indicates greater efficacy. In the current study, mean teacher efficacy was computed. Standard guidelines recommended by instrument developers were followed to replace missing values. Where guidelines were not present, missing values were replaced by mean scores [ 55 ].

Independent samples t— tests confirmed that the characteristics of those whose data were missing for various questions were similar to those who responded. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise the profiles of study participants. Dummy variables were created to represent categorical IVs being incorporated into the regression models. In the case of continuous IVs e.

Teachers involved in this study represented 74 WA mainstream primary schools. As shown in Table 1 , the majority of the schools came from higher decile regions of WA, and over mid-range in student size. As shown in Table 2 , there was a fairly even distribution of the teachers by gender. In terms of qualifications, less than a quarter of teachers held degrees in inclusive education.

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Less than half of the teachers reported attending professional development training on inclusive teaching practices during the school year of the study. The participating teachers varied in teaching experience, with the majority having between 11—30 years, and a minority less than 10 years of teaching experience. Furthermore, teachers varied in their experience in teaching students with a disability, with less than a quarter reporting no experience in teaching students with a disability, and a third reporting three or more years of experience. A quarter of the involved teachers reported low levels of self-efficacy in general teaching.

A preliminary screening was conducted through examination of residuals. At each step of the multiple regression analyses, the scatterplot of residuals against predicted values was examined. No multivariate outliers were found in any of the steps [ 54 ]. No obvious pattern to the errors was detected through examination of the residual scatterplots.

Associated Data

Table 3 shows the unstandardised regression coefficients B and standard errors SE , and the standardised regression coefficients Beta , after entry of all variables. R was significantly different from zero at the end of each step. No significant interactions were found, so they were removed from the models.

Of note is that school factors including, type of school, SEIFA index, sector, and size ; classroom attributes; teacher attributes including, type and level of education degree, receipt of education in inclusive teaching practices, and years of experience in teaching students with disabilities ; and student characteristics such as gender and whether the child received support in academics or non-academic areas of schooling, did not significantly influence the attitudes of the teachers towards inclusiveness.

Hence, results from the current study further contribute to the accumulation of knowledge that can unpack the complex pattern of factors that should be considered to promote positive attitudes towards inclusive schools [ 57 ]. Importantly the current study provides greater insights into the significance of gender, age, teaching self-efficacy, and targeted training on attitudes towards teaching students with disabilities.

Previous studies have presented mixed results regarding the impact of gender on attitudes towards inclusion. Results from studies conducted in the s summarised in a literature review show that in four out of seven studies, female teachers held more positive attitudes toward inclusion than male teachers [ 7 ]. In a later review, two out of three studies reported the same results, i. The results from the current study add to the evidence that gender appears to be a predictor of teacher attitudes towards inclusion and that male teachers tend to have a more negative attitude than female teachers.

While the reason for this gendered difference remains open to conjecture, researchers have attributed this reported disparity to a greater tolerance and more conative attitude for inclusion in females [ 7 , 28 ]. That is, there may actually be no difference between male and female teachers in the actual practice of inclusive education, rather than contemplating the idea of inclusion.

The results of the current study aligned with previous research indicating that older teachers tend to have more negative attitudes towards inclusion [ 7 , 8 ]. This may not be a surprise, as older teachers are to have had limited or no training in inclusive teaching. Hence, these teachers may have to adapt not only to a new group of students that requires additional support and alternative teaching strategies, but also to an inclusive school as a new concept that might differ from the school they envisioned themselves working in.

It has been reported that a lack of confidence in regard teaching students with special needs were associated with negative attitudes to inclusion [ 59 ]. Hence, teachers attitudes are probably related to how much the struggle with identifying solutions to problems—such as the availability of human, physical and environmental supports, being able to accommodate students with severe disabilities and lacking the required skills to deal with students with a disability [ 7 ]. Training in teaching students with disabilities was associated with positive attitudes towards inclusion.

However, upholding a degree in inclusive teaching did not contribute to the model. It could be of interest to further examine if training specifically designed to prepare teachers to teach students with disabilities may be better at incorporating all aspects of knowledge compared with the formal training in inclusive teaching. This indicates that overall strategies for inclusive teaching may not be sufficient and that pedagogical content knowledge may be enhanced by insight in to specific diagnoses and how they can affect students and their learning.

The sample included teachers in regular schools from the Perth metropolitan area and major city centres across WA, and did not involve teachers from regional or remote populations, or other inner city areas in Australia. However, it is not possible to decide whether the participating schools were negatively or positively biased towards inclusion of students with disabilities. The findings of the current study are based on a cross-sectional data; therefore, no causality should be assumed. From a methodological point of view, there might be other models with other predictors as plausible as the ones presented.

Although the measures used in the current study were psychometrically sound; they do not provide information that can explain why teachers uphold the attitudes they do. We did not include factors, beyond the classroom, such as: Other studies have suggested that barriers and facilitators towards acceptance of diversity and inclusion are embedded within the social and cultural contexts in which an individual is situated [ 66 ].

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Future cross-cultural studies are needed to understand these facilitators and barriers in order to improve the inclusive practices of all teachers. Longitudinal data would enable analysis using cross-lagged prediction models and measuring stability of these constructs over time. Future research needs to unpack in greater detail some of the deeper issues relating to gender of the teacher, as it is certainly too simplistic to simply state that male teachers have more negative attitudes towards inclusion. Areas for inquiry include factors raised by Cushman [ 67 ] such as: For example, other research on gender differences in interacting with and supporting people with disabilities have uncovered a range of specific issues, such as personal care, support for sexual health and working in a female dominated environment [ 68 , 69 ], that warrant further attention.

In summary, we return to an earlier comment that teachers may not hold overtly negative attitudes; instead differences in self-efficacy may simply mean that some teachers struggle to identify solutions to problems beyond their circle of control [ 7 , 59 ]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online Aug Jacobus van Wouwe, Editor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Received Apr 21; Accepted Aug This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited.

Abstract Objective Teachers' attitudes toward inclusion are often based on the practical implementation of inclusive education rather than a specific ideology and understanding of inclusiveness. Method Seventy four primary school teachers participated in a cross-sectional survey conducted in Western Australia. Conclusion The current study further contributes to the accumulation of knowledge that can unpack the complex pattern of factors that should be considered to promote positive attitudes towards inclusive schools. Method Design The current study reports data obtained from a cross-sectional survey.

Data collection instruments Opinion relative to integration of students with disabilities The Opinions Relative to Integration of Students with Disabilities scale ORI was the chosen outcome measure [ 49 ]. School and teacher characteristics Teachers reported details on the demographic characteristics, education, training and general characteristics of the school.

Results Descriptive characteristics of the participating teachers and schools Teachers involved in this study represented 74 WA mainstream primary schools. Table 1 Characteristics of the schools and classrooms. Open in a separate window. IV is used as an abbreviation of independent variable. Table 2 Characteristics of teachers involved in the study. Mid-level self-efficacy in teaching Limitations The sample included teachers in regular schools from the Perth metropolitan area and major city centres across WA, and did not involve teachers from regional or remote populations, or other inner city areas in Australia.

Data Availability All relevant data are within the paper.

Leyser Y, Kirk R. During the 16th century, however, Christians such as Luther and John Calvin indicated that the mentally retarded and other persons with disabilities were possessed by evil spirits. In the 19th century, supporters of social Darwinism opposed state aid to the poor and otherwise handicapped. They reasoned that the preservation of the "unfit" would impede the process of natural selection and tamper the selection of the "best" or "fittest" elements necessary for progeny Hobbs Lukoff and Cohen note that some communities banished or Ill-treated the blind while others accorded them special privileges.

In a comparison of the status of persons with disabilities in a number of non-occidental societies, Hanks and Hanks found wide differences. Persons with disabilities were completely rejected by some cultures, in others they were outcasts, while in some they were treated as economic liabilities and grudgingly kept alive by their families. In other settings, persons with disabilities were tolerated and treated in incidental ways, while in other cultures they were given respected status and allowed to participate to the fullest extent of their capability. Variations in the treatment of persons with disabilities are manifest in Africa as in other parts of the world Amoako Among the Chagga in East Africa, the physically handicapped were perceived as pacifiers of the evil spirits.

Hence, care was taken not to harm the physically handicapped. Among the citizens of Benin formerly Dahomey in West Africa , constables were selected from those with obvious physical handicaps. In some communities in Benin, children born with anomalies were seen as protected by supernatural forces.

As such they were accepted in the community because they were believed to bring good luck Wright Nabagwu observed that among the Ibo of Nigeria, treatment of persons with disabilities varied from pampering to total rejection. Diversifications in perception of persons with disabilities exist in Ghana as they do in other places in Africa. Among the Ashanti of central Ghana, traditional beliefs precluded men with physical defects, such as amputations from becoming chiefs. This is evident in the practice of destooling a chief if he acquires epilepsy Rottray ; Sarpong Children with obvious deviations were also rejected.

For instance, an infant born with six fingers was killed upon birth Rattray Severely retarded children were abandoned on riverbanks or near the sea so that such "animal-like children" could return to what was believed to be their own kind Danquah In contrast, the Ga from Accra region in Ghana, treated the feeble-minded with awe. They believed the retarded were the reincarnation of a deity. Hence, they were always treated with great kindness, gentleness and patience Field Lippman observed that in many European countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, citizens with disabilities are more accepted than in the United States.

He also found that, these countries provided more effective rehabilitation services. The prevalent philosophy in Scandinavian countries is acceptance of social responsibility for all members of the society, without regard to the type or degree of disabling condition. While throughout the world many changes have taken place in status and treatment of persons with disabilities, the remnants of tradition and past belief influence present-day practices affecting such group Du Brow, ; Wright Franzen Bjorn observed that in some communities in Kenya and Zimbabwe, "a child with a disability is a symbol of a curse befalling the whole family.

Such a child is a "shame" to the whole family, hence their rejection by the family or the community. Children who are met by those beliefs and attitudes can hardly develop to their full potential: Thomas sees societal perceptions and treatments of persons with disabilities within cross- cultural settings as a kaleidoscope of varying hues that reflect tolerance, hatred, love, fear, awe, reverence and revulsion.

The most consistent feature in the treatment of persons with disabilities in most societies is the fact that they are categorized as "deviants rather than inmates by the society. From a cultural point of view, therefore, there are many specific circumstances that have influenced the living conditions of persons with disabilities, not to mention people's attitudes towards them. History shows that ignorance, neglect, superstition and fear are social factors that have exacerbated isolation of persons with disabilities. Throughout Africa, persons with disabilities are seen as hopeless and helpless Desta The African culture and beliefs have not made matters easier.

The desire to avoid whatever is associated with evil has affected people's attitudes towards people with disabilities simply because disability is associated with evil. Most of these negative attitudes are mere misconceptions that stem from lack of proper understanding of disabilities and how they affect functioning. In addition to other perceptions, social attitudes towards persons with disabilities are reflected in the family, which teaches by example customs and institutionalized values.

For example, Gellman strongly believes that child-rearing practice tend to predetermine an adult's behavior towards persons with disabilities. This concept is consistent with cross-cultural research conducted by Whiting and Charles , which provides evidence that child- rearing practices influence attitudes towards illness and disability. Their findings show that beliefs about illness are influenced by significant early relationships between children and parents that deal with the child's conformity to adult standards behavior.

Their investigations examined the relationship between theories held in a culture to account for illness and the severity of child-rearing practices devised to instruct children to conform to adult standards. Intense social training was found to be related to oral, anal and genital functioning.

It was hypothesized that those areas of child development which were most severely disciplined would create high levels of anxiety and would also be incorporated in theories of illness within the society. This hypothesis was supported. Also supported was the hypothesis that societies with the most severe socialization practices would create the highest degree of anxiety and guilt, and therefore would tend to blame the patient as the cause of illness.

It would seem that specific values attached to body parts and their functions would be related to the significance that is given to them within specific cultural settings based on the influences of language, religion and ethnic identity. Wright observed that knowledge about the self is built up through sensory experience, through the view points of others, and through inference based on these sources. This makes it possible for the body to become invested with significance beyond its concretely appraised function.

As a result, body parts may assume such connotations as good and bad, clean and unclean, adequate and inadequate. The impact of sub-culture membership on the individual's response to persons with disabilities is illustrated by studies conducted by Richardson, Goodman, Hastorf and Dornbusch, Richard and Hastorf Their research shows that adults and children of the same sub-culture Italian and Jewish are consistent in their preferential ordering of photographs of children with various physical disabilities. Gellman suggests that cues learned in childhood serve as guides for distinguishing and differentiating various types of disabilities in accordance with socially accepted norms.

He indicates, for example, that Eskimos perceive a limited number of disabilities, whereas Americans generally use a large number of terms for persons with disabilities. The meaning of one's own disabled physique to a person with a disability and to others who interact with him or her will depend in general upon the values of the cultural group to which they belong Barker et al. The affective attitudes discussed by Wright ibid include pity, fear, uneasiness, guilt, genuine, sympathy and respect.

These attributes are distinctly divided into positive and negative categories, and are likely to critically affect the relationship between persons with disabilities and non-disabled people. They form some of the attitudes which can stigmatize persons with disabilities, impose artificial limitations upon them, deny them equal opportunities for development and living, and inequitably demote them to second-class citizens to be pitied in the sense where pity is seen as devaluation tinged with contempt.

As Wright further observed: As Goffman pg. In many instances, the initial response is to place the individual in a predetermined category based on what is assumed to be his or her attributes and status based on exterior visage. Attitudes towards persons with disabilities are compounded by the fact that in many instances a person's disability is perceived as extending far beyond the necessary limits of the disability to affected traits and functions Jaffe From such attitudes, stigma results:.

When one falls into stigmatized category or possesses an undesirable attributes, those not of this category tend to devalue the stigmatized individual, to practice the variation of discrimination, and to impute a wide range of imperfection on the basis of the original one, and at the same time to impute some desirable but undesirable attributes often of the supernatural cast, such as sixth sense or understanding to the stigmatized individual.

Goff man, pg 5 Op Cit. Wright describes this phenomenon of stigma extension as takes place when a person with a disability is seen as disabled not only with respect to the specific area of disability, but also to other characteristics, such as personality and adjustment. Physique as well as certain other personal characteristics has an enormous power to evoke a wide variety of expressions and feelings about the person. In fact, physical deviation is frequently seen as central key to a person's behavior and personality and largely responsible for the important ramifications in a person's life.

This spread holds for both the person with a disability himself and those evaluating him. Prevailing attitudes not only determine the social expectations and treatment accorded to a person with a disability in the society, but also his or her self-image and function.

Hobbs states that, the message that a child with a disability receives about himself from his environment determines to a large extent his feelings about who he is, what he can do and how he should behave. Parsons views this process as the internalization of role expectancy.

Thus, if parents perceive their child as different from what is considered "normal," Franzen Bjorn , they will more than likely treat him or her differently, thereby encouraging him or her to become as perceived Hobbs Internalization of role expectancy occurs at both the individual and at the group level. Since few non-disabled people in the larger society interact directly with persons with disabilities, they rely heavily upon stereotype in their response to persons with disabilities.

Wright describes the self-concept as a "social looking glass. The self-image of persons with disabilities is therefore more often than not a reflection of social stereotypes or reactions to them. Rejection, for example, produces inferiority, self-consciousness and fear Barker et al. Thus, community attitudes affect self-perception. They also limit the opportunity to associate with others, the extent of one's mobility and the possibilities of employment Hobbs, Persons with disabilities frequently find their opportunities limited because of social rejection, discriminatory employment practices, architectural barriers and inaccessibility to transport.

In this context, therefore, societal attitudes are significant since they largely determine the extent to which the personal, social, educational and psychological needs of persons with disabilities will be realized Jaffe, ; Park, In the field of education, perceptions towards children and adults with disabilities have changed significantly.