Secondary Physical Education Teachers' Beliefs and Practices in Teaching Students with Severe Disabilities: A Descriptive Analysis
Ammah, Jonathan O. A., Hodge, Samuel R., High School Journal
The purpose was to describe the beliefs and practices of general physical education (GPE) teachers at the high school level on inclusion and teaching students with severe disabilities. Participants were two experienced GPE teachers at separate suburban high schools. The research paradigm was descriptive using a combination of naturalistic observation and interviewing (Fontana & Frey, 2000; Gay, 1996). Data were collected from eighteen lessons using field notes, wireless microphones, a video camera, an observation instrument, and interviews. Descriptive statistics and thematic narratives were used to present findings. The teachers mostly verbally interacted with those students who had severe disabilities. They varied in their teaching efficacy. Three recurring themes emerged from the data: (a) wavering beliefs, complexities of inclusion, and troubled confidence. Teachers must believe they are adequately prepared, well equipped, and supported to confidently exhibit effective inclusive GPE pedagogies.
Increasingly students with disabilities are being educated in general physical education (GPE) classes. To date, however, the extant literature on the efficacy of inclusion practice in GPE is sparse. Of note, Vogler, Koranda, and Romance (2000) evaluated the efficacy of a GPE program in which a people resource model (i.e., an adapted physical education [APE] specialist) was used to provide instruction for a child with severe cerebral palsy. They reported that this model was highly effective in time engagement and management. Moreover, the qualitative nature of inclusion was one of widespread social acceptance and successful motor participation.
Still today, there is limited research on the efficacy of inclusive practices. In contrast, the extant literature abounds in information on teacher effectiveness. For instance, scholars assert that effective GPE teachers: (a) demonstrate target skills and strategies for students, (b) provide multiple exemplars, (c) use guided and independent practice (Siedentop & Tannehill, 2000), and (d) reflect to inform their practice (Tsangaridou & O'Sullivan, 1997). It is reasonable to expect GPE teachers' teaching behaviors would be similar when teaching students with and without disabilities. But for teaching students with severe disabilities there would be more emphasis on adaptations, modifications, and supports (e.g., APE specialist, peer tutors) (Houston-Wilson, Dunn, van der Mars, & McCubbin, 1997; Vogler et al., 2000).
Theoretical Framework and Purpose
In addition to examining GPE teachers' efficacy-related behaviors, it is important to examine the beliefs that serve as the precursors to their behaviors. The theory of planned behavior (TPB) posits that three accessible belief aggregates (1) lead to the formation of a behavioral intention. The intent to perform various behaviors can be predicted from attitudes (Ajzen, 2001a, 2001b). If given sufficient control over the behavior, individuals are likely to carry out their intentions when presented with opportunities to do so (Ajzen, 2001a, 2001b).
Teachers' attitudes and how they are prepared for teaching students with varied disabilities are well-studied variables (Folsom-Meek, Nearing, Groteluschen, & Krampf, 1999; Hodge, Davis, Woodard, & Sherrill, 2002). We know far less about the behaviors of practicing GPE teachers who teach students with severe disabilities. Thus, the purpose of this study was to describe the beliefs and practices of two high school GPE teachers on inclusion and teaching students with severe disabilities. Implicit within that purpose is the question of teacher efficacy in teaching students with severe disabilities. TPB (Ajzen, 1991) was the theoretical framework for this study. Two research questions guided the study:
1. What were the behaviors of experienced high school GPE teachers toward students with severe disabilities in their classes?
2. What were the beliefs of experienced high school GPE teachers on inclusion and teaching students with severe disabilities?
In this study, beliefs refer to accessible beliefs (Ajzen, 1991) expressed by GPE teachers about teaching students with severe disabilities based on their knowledge, newly acquired knowledge, and experiences with such students in their classes. A student with severe disability was defined as a youth with a chronic disabling condition, which attributed to an emotional disturbance, mental or physical impairment or a combination of conditions. This youth's condition cause substantial functional limits in: (a) building or maintaining satisfactory interpersonal relationships; (b) exhibiting stable or appropriate types of behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances; and/or (c) mobility (e.g., due to partial or incomplete paralysis), self-care, learning, receptive/expressive language, and/or capacity for independent self-directed behaviors (Jansma, 1999; Sherrill, 1998).
The research paradigm was qualitative descriptive using a combination of naturalistic observation (Gay, 1996) and interviewing (Fontana & Frey, 2000). The aim of naturalistic observation is to examine behavior within the normal context for which it occurs (Gay, 1996). Gay (1996) argued that, for example, "classroom behavior--behavior of the teacher, behavior of the student, and the interactions between teacher and student--can best be studied through naturalistic observation" (p. 265). Our interviews involved individual, face-to-face verbal interchange with the teachers under study. This combined approach of observing and interviewing allowed the researchers to determine and describe the beliefs and behaviors of experienced high school GPE teachers in the normal context of their inclusion practices.
Sampling: Participants and Setting
We used purposeful intensity sampling (Patton, 1990) in selecting two GPE teachers at two suburban high schools. Selection of these teachers was based on five criteria. First, the individual teachers taught in separate school districts located within a 50-mile radius of the researchers. This criterion ensured the feasibility of data collection. Second, the teachers had experience teaching GPE at the high school level. Third, both teachers had more than five years of experience teaching in their respective schools. This criterion was used to ensure that the teachers had progressed to the Maturity stage of development (Katz, 1972). At this stage "teachers begin to ask questions of themselves and their teaching that focus on their insights, perspectives, and beliefs regarding teaching and children" (Stroot, 1996, p. 342). We sampled teachers to reflect meaningfully on their beliefs about inclusion practice. Fourth, research shows that male physical educators tend to express less favorable beliefs about teaching students with disabilities than their female peers (Folsom-Meek et al., 1999). To which, we decided to examine the beliefs and behaviors of male teachers. Lastly, the teachers taught classes containing students without disabilities and at least one or more students with severe disabilities (SwSD).
More specifically, we studied two experienced high school GPE teachers. Mr. Eli and Mr. Mora (pseudonyms), both White American males, provided informed consent to participate in this study. Although classes under study had students with varied mild to severe disabilities, only SwSD were selected at random (i.e., 2 SwSD were selected at random from both teachers' classes). Specifically studied was Mr. Eli's combined class of freshman and sophomores that included 20 students without disabilities and 4 SwSD. Three of these students had severe mental retardation (MR) and a 4th student had multiple sclerosis (MS). Of these students, Juliet (a girl with severe MS) and Frank (a boy with severe MR) were randomly selected. Also studied was Mr. Mora's freshman GPE class. A total of 17 students were in this 50-min (minute) class, including 6 students with mild to severe disabilities (i.e., learning disabilities [LD], MR, and severe emotional disabilities [SED]). Of these students, Tina and Alice (both had SED) were randomly selected.
A Description of Mr. Eli, the School, and GPE Program. Mr. Eli graduated from a local physical education teacher education (PETE) program. He had taught for seven years and was working toward a master's degree in GPE. Mr. Eli had taken one APE course at the undergraduate level but had no practicum or inservice training on inclusive practice.
During this study, Mr. Eli taught five GPE classes per day at a suburban high school where 70% of the 1700 students were White Americans. The school was housed in a large modern building with ample facilities, equipment, and supplies for the physical education program.
Classes observed were from a table tennis unit. These classes were allocated 45 min. Students were expected to meet the prescribed skills (e.g., serving, forehand and backhand strokes). Students practiced these skills, engaged in singles and double play, and were skills tested on a pass or fail basis. Three of the classes taught by Mr. Eli including the class under study had the services of Ms. Davis, a teacher's aide.
A Description of Mr. Mora, the School, and GPE Program. Mr. Mora had taught GPE for 26 years. He earned a master's degree in physical education, and had taken one APE course during his undergraduate PETE preparation some 26 years earlier and had had no practicum or inservice training on inclusive practice. During this study, Mr. Mora taught six classes per day at a suburban high school where 70% of the 1800 students were White Americans. The school had modern facilities with ample equipment and supplies for the physical education program.
The content of the lessons varied from soccer, tennis, to flag football. No support services (e.g., teacher's aide) were provided. During data collection all lessons were held outside except soccer was held in the gym. Routinely, class attendance was taken in the gym before students moved to the designated area (e.g., tennis courts) for the start of class. Daily 15 to 20-min elapsed between taking attendance and students transitioning to the designated areas.
An experienced APE teacher educator and PETE graduate student, both knowledgeable in the conduct of descriptive-qualitative research, served as data collectors. Several instruments for data collection were used: teacher questionnaires, a video camera, observer field notes, wireless microphones, and interview schedules. Also a videotaped analysis system, the Analysis of Inclusion Practices in Physical Education, Form T (AIPE-T) (Hodge, Ammah, Casebolt, LaMaster, & O'Sullivan, 2000), was used to quantify the teachers' behaviors. Both data collectors were trained and experienced with collecting data using these instruments.
Teacher Questionnaires. To gather demographic data, two forms developed by LaMaster, Gall, Kinchin, and Siedentop (1998) were used. Form A secured data on the makeup of the teachers' classes (e.g., class size). Form B secured data on the teachers' educational background, access to services for students with disabilities, and any additional responsibilities these teachers had for SwSD such as physical lifting and medical assistance.
Observations. Nonparticipant observer field notes were taken during live observations of 18 lessons (9 for each teacher) and focused on instructional and behavioral interactions between the teachers and SwSD. Also, both teachers wore a wireless microphone to capture all verbalizations. Notes were also taken regarding the teachers' personalities, lesson context, and critical incidents within the GPE classes.
AIPE-T. AIPE-T was designed to measure frequency and duration of teacher behaviors during physical, instructional, and social inclusion practice. Evidence of content validity has been reported with AIPE (Place & Hodge, 2001) and involves the observation of lessons by trained observers. AIPE-T categories (i.e., Modification, Support, Peer Interaction, Verbal Interaction, Physical Interaction, Instruction, Diversion, and No Interaction) were judged to capture behaviors exhibited by the teachers within the context of their GPE classes (Yun & Ulrich, 2001). All behaviors emitted during observations were coded using the appropriate category labels. For example, if the teacher provided verbal instructions to a student with a disability at any time during an observation, a tally was made against that category (Hodge et al., 2000).
We used an event recording protocol for all AIPE-T categories except Instruction and No Interaction, which were monitored using duration recording. Time was recorded whenever the teacher engaged in instruction. Times were entered using the exact length of the defined episode (e.g., 5 min.). Event recording is the appropriate tactic for collecting data on particular aspects of events and/or behaviors (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 1987). We used time durations to capture the amount of time the teachers spent providing direct instruction to the SwSD, as well as time when there was no interaction between the teachers and the SwSD.
In this study, 25% of the videotaped lessons were randomly selected for a test of interobserver reliability (Cooper et al., 1987) with data collected using AIPE-T. The mean interobserver agreement between coders was 97%.
Interview. Interviews were face-to-face verbal interchanges using a semistructured protocol (Fontana & Frey, 2000). Teachers discussed their beliefs on inclusion and their experiences teaching SwSD. The interviews were conducted at the end of the last class observation for these teachers. Interview questions were given to the teachers several days prior to the interview to allow them time to reflect on their beliefs, knowledge, and experiences regarding inclusion. Eight questions formed the basis for the interviews, such as: (a) To what degree, if any, are you motivated to comply with inclusion practices given how others (e.g., parents, coworkers) feel about including students with disabilities in physical education; (b) How confident are you in your abilities to be effective in teaching students with severe disabilities; and (c) How easy or difficult is it for you to teach students with severe disabilities? These questions were written to get at answering the research questions guiding the study (Ajzen, 2001a). The audio taped interviews lasted on average 25 min., and later were transcribed verbatim.
The teachers were contacted by telephone and via electronic mail to request their willingness to participate in this study, they both agreed to do so. Both teachers' classes were held daily. To observe the same group of four SwSD the lead researcher made visits to (a) Mr. Eli's school over 9 consecutive weekdays and (b) Mr. Mora's school 3 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) for 3 consecutive weeks. Both teachers were observed teaching 9 lessons each. These teachers' lessons were typically comprised of set induction, warm-up activities, body of the lesson (e.g., practice/game play), and closure. We videotaped all lessons and later coded behaviors emitted during the body of the lessons using AIPE-T. The body of these lessons ranged from 25 to 35-min of the allocated class time. Set induction and class closure time frames were not videotaped for analysis. However, live observations involved the total allocated class times including set induction, warm-up activities, body of lesson, and closure.
For both teachers the video camera was set up and operated by the lead researcher in an unobtrusive corner of the gym or on the outside playing areas, and focused on the teacher's behaviors. Plus, each teacher wore a wireless microphone to capture all verbalizations. Prior to the first class session, the lead researcher with the input of the GPE teachers selected two SwSD at each school site to serve as target students for this study.
Data Analysis and Triangulation
Qualitative data (i.e., field notes, teachers' verbalizations, and interview transcripts) were analyzed using constant comparative method (Maykut & Morehouse, 1994) and narrative analysis procedures (Manning & Cullum-Swan, 1994). To augment qualitative data, quantitative data were gathered using AIPE-T and these data were reported as frequencies and time durations.
Reducing Data and Developing Categories. The qualitative data were categorized and summarized into recurring themes using a constant comparative method. Briefly stated, the researchers independently examined the field notes, teachers' verbalizations, and transcripts for units of meaning, a process originally described by Lincoln and Guba (1985). Units of meaning representing similar themes were grouped together in categories. Next, these data were shared between the two researchers and they then identified and analyzed common themes for the two teachers and their schools. This allowed for pieces of evidence to be compared and crosschecked with other kinds of evidence (e.g., comparing field notes with interview data) across GPE programs. Following independent analysis of the data, the researchers converged to ensure verifiability of the findings (i.e., established agreement among researchers) (Huberman & Miles, 1998). Afterwards, thematic narratives were developed and agreed upon with direct quotes of teachers used to illustrate the themes (Manning & Cullum-Swan, 1994; Patton, 1990).
Trustworthiness of the Data. Member checking was used to reduce the impact of subjective bias, while establishing trustworthiness (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Patton, 1990). The field notes and interview transcripts were returned to the teachers for their review to ensure correctness of content, and they were encouraged to comment, clarify, elaborate, or suggest changes that would accurately represent their behaviors and beliefs. Some minor edits were suggested and made. Both teachers agreed with the accuracy of the data and our interpretations.
Findings specific to Research Question 1 were derived from field notes and teachers' verbalizations, augmented with AIPE-T data (Figures i and 2). These data are reported for Mr. Eli and Mr. Mora separately within the context of their GPE programs. Findings for Research Question 2 are presented as recurring themes derived from interviews with the teachers.
Research Question 1: Mr. Eli
Typically, Mr. Eli provided students with demonstrations and explanations of the table tennis skills and tasks to be performed. Afterwards students were paired with peer partners and moved to a table of their choice for skill practice. Mr. Eli would assign students without disabilities as partners for Juliet and Frank. During Lesson 3, for example, Juliet who had severe MS and used a wheelchair was assigned a partner, and the partner was told how she should hit the ball to Juliet. Frank who had severe MR also had a partner assigned to play with him. Also typical, Mr. Eli actively supervised, provided feedback, checked for understanding, held students accountable for their behaviors, appeared enthusiastic about teaching, and interacted with both students with and without disabilities in affirming ways (used students' name, praise). In all lessons, Mr. Eli gave direct instruction, made modifications to game rules, and engaged in one-on-one activity, game play, and/or verbally interacted with Julie and to a lesser degree with Frank (Figure 1). However, there was little evidence that Mr. Eli developed lesson plans for modifying or adapting instruction to meet the needs, interests, and abilities of SwSD in his classes. Mr. Eli' Behaviors Quantified. AIPE-T data on Mr. Eli's behaviors for Lessons 1 through 9 are presented on Figures I and 2. These data reveal that he verbally interacted more often with Juliet than with Frank. In fact, most of his interactions with these students were verbal. Mr. Eli provided support for Juliet occasionally (Lessons 1 and 2) and no support for Frank. However, he did physically interact with Frank and/or Juliet in six of the nine lessons observed. For most lessons, students without disabilities were encouraged to interact with Juliet and Frank during game play. Mr. Eli modified games or game rules for these students in six of the nine lessons. Across lessons only a few or no frequencies were recorded for diversions. Overall, Mr. Eli spent more time providing direct instruction to Juliet and less time with Frank (Figure 2). For example, during Lesson 6, he spent 24.5 min. providing direct instruction to Juliet and no time with Frank. Mr. Eli used direct instruction as a way to individualize his instructions for SwSD. He confirmed this during his interview.
Research Question 1: Mr. Mora
Typically, Mr. Mora established set induction by identifying the lesson content. However, he did not explicitly identify the lesson objectives, nor were students provided with criteria to determine successful skill performance. On two occasions (Lessons 3 and 4), he reviewed the rules and expectations relevant to the lesson content. For Lessons 1, 3, 4, 6, and 9, Mr. Mora provided students with demonstrations and explanations of the skill(s) or task(s) to be performed. Routinely, he allowed the students to select groups for skill practice. Students with and without disabilities worked together in their groups. Usually, Tina and Alice (students with SED) were in the same group. There was no evidence that Mr. Mora developed lesson plans for modifying or adapting instruction to the needs, interests, and abilities of students with disabilities.
Occasionally, Mr. Mora engaged in active supervision, provided feedback, checked for understanding, and interacted with both students with and without disabilities in affirming ways. He did not appear enthusiastic about teaching, and seldom did he hold the students accountable for misbehaviors, this was particularly evident with those students who had SED. That is, several students including Tina and Alice were frequently off-task during the lessons observed. In all lessons observed, class management was a challenge for Mr. Mora and he would typically ignore students who misbehaved or were offtask.
Mr. Mora did not skill test students in his classes; however, he did administer a written quiz. During Lesson 5, he distributed a short written quiz prior to student skill practice. Alice and Tina seemed disinterested in taking the quiz. Tina complained of a migraine headache, but Mr. Mora encouraged her to take the quiz nonetheless and helped her read the questions. Alice said she couldn't do the quiz because she was "dumb and stupid." He replied, "No, you are not...." Mr. Mora walked around the courts encouraging them to take the quiz. Afterwards,
students were instructed to use the remaining class time for practice. Mr. Mora walked around providing praise and corrective feedback. Yet, most of the students with disabilities were constantly off-task; again Mr. Mora did little to alter their behaviors. Only occasionally did he address inappropriate behaviors. In lesson 7, for example, Vera, a student with emotional disabilities used profanity. Mr. Mora responded, "... is there a particular reason for using that particular language?"
Mr. Mora's Behaviors Quantified. Figures 1 and 2 present AIPE-T data on Mr. Mora across lesson observed. These data reveal that across lessons Mr. Mora verbally interacted more often with Alice than with Tina (Figure 1). Most of his interactions with both of these students were verbal. On only two occasions, did students without disabilities physically interact with Tina and no physical interaction occurred between Alice and her classmates without disabilities. But during six of the nine lessons observed, Mr. Mora physically interacted with Tina and/or Alice. Yet, only during Lessons 8 and 9 did he provide support to either Tina or Alice. Further, Mr. Mora spent from 1 to more than 10-min. across lessons providing direct instruction to Tina and/or Alice (Figure 2). Mr. Mora used direct instruction as a means to individualize his instructions for SwSD. He confirmed this during his interview.
Research Question 2. Teachers' Beliefs Three recurring themes emerged from interviews with the teachers. First, they held wavering beliefs about inclusion. Second, they identified what were complexities of inclusion. Third; both teachers voiced concerns about inadequate preparation, which troubled their confidence in teaching students with disabilities. These themes (italized) are summarized and supported with direct quotes from both teachers.
The first theme emerged as both teachers held wavering (both favorable and unfavorable) beliefs on teaching SwSD in inclusive GPE. Mr. Eli's comment captures the essence of their wavering beliefs. He stated that at the start of his career he was uncomfortable teaching students with disabilities, but now he was more comfortable. "... when you first do it [teach SwSD] you are a little worried about whether or not you can handle it" (Mr. Eli, interview transcript).
In general, these teachers' favorable beliefs had been influenced by positive interactions and occasions were they felt comfortable in teaching SwSD. Moreover, both teachers indicated that their beliefs had been favorably influenced by the proactive behaviors (e.g., helpful, accepting, encouraging, praising, showing compassion) of classmates toward SwSD. Mr. Eli stated that classmates were willing and ready to work with SwSD and they understood them. He believed that it was because the SwSD have been included in general education classes for some time and their classmates "know them". Similarly, Mr. Mora also believed that students in his classes had been helpful to SwSD. They accepted their classmates with severe disabilities; helping them and making them part of the class. Mr. Mora discussed social benefits of inclusion. "I think socially. I have kids going out of their way to be helpful and kind to them [SwSD] ..." He quickly pointed out that, "There are other times when that doesn't necessarily occur."
In contrast, these teachers' unfavorable beliefs had been impacted by uncertainties about their own efficacy in teaching SwSD, which made them feel uncomfortable. Further, they were skeptical about the practical implications of inclusion because they had experienced teaching episodes that were difficult (e.g., large or overcrowded classes), problematic (e.g., lack of support), and time-demanding (i.e., need to provide one-on-one instruction to SwSD at the neglect of other students). To this, Mr. Eli believed that for some students with disabilities inclusion is problematic due to such interrelated challenges as greater demand on teacher's time in providing individualized attention, particularly in large classes. Plus, both teachers had witnessed situations where some students engaged in antisocial behaviors (e.g., derogatory name calling) toward classmates with severe disabilities, which was troubling to these teachers.
In common, both teachers stated that inclusion was a good ideal, but questioned the practical implications of including SwSD in GPE classes given what they believed were barriers to doing so. Paradoxically, their beliefs about inclusion and teaching SwSD in GPE classes had been influenced by both favorable and unfavorable experiences.
Complexities of Inclusion. This theme emerged from the teachers' beliefs about the complexities of their daily experiences in teaching SwSD. They reflected on several concerns that added complexity to class organization and management, particularly with a large number of students and even more so with the inclusion of SwSD in their classes. In his interview, Mr. Eli pointed out that his experiences teaching in two different schools had given him the opportunity to compare and talk about varied inclusion practices. At his former school, he had seven or eight students with disabilities in classes with no teacher aide and no access to an APE specialist. Mr. Eli' "biggest, negative experience" with inclusion was the responsibility of teaching a large number of students with "probably half the class having some form of an IEP and with no aide". He stated that the practice was better in his present school where he had a teacher aide and regular access to an APE specialist. At this school, Mr. Eli had a range of zero to four students with disabilities in his classes. For some classes, he had support from a full time teacher's aide and the school district provided consultative services of an APE specialist once a week. Mr. Eli believed that the services of a teacher's aide and APE specialist were essential to inclusion.
Mr. Eli's style of teaching involved direct instruction and he also encouraged students to work with their peers. Both teachers believed that SwSD required more of their time at providing individualized attention, instruction, and support. Apart from this, Mr. Eli did not believe that the inclusion of students with disabilities had adversely affected his teaching. He said, "I think I am still doing what I would have done whether they were here or not." His strategy was to get the class started then "spend a few more minutes with them [SwSD] helping them out...but I don't think it has affected my teaching style and how I want to teach" (Mr. Eli, interview transcript). Moreover, he talked about modifications made in order to include students with disabilities. "When we did football, we just run another play and extra play. We didn't count, just so they [SwSD] will be included. And they get the ball and run and things like that." Mr. Eli believed adapting and modifying instructions, rules, and activities was important for students with disabilities in class activities but did not always know how best to do so.
Mr. More indicated that not being able to give attention and quality time to students with disabilities, especially with a large class, negatively affected his beliefs about inclusion. "They [SwSD] need that extra help from you and you really don't have the time because you have 25 or 30 students and ... can't devote all your time to that one person [student with disabilities] and that's the negative part of it (Mr. More, interview transcript). Both teachers struggled with a need to provide individualized attention to SwSD juxtaposed to not neglecting the needs of all others students in their classes. This was perplexing on a daily basis. To this, Mr. More pointed out that there were three to six students with disabilities in each of his classes with no supports available. Nonetheless, Mr. More believed that his teaching had not been adversely affected by the presence of SwSD. He indicated that the only difference is the extra attention and time he gives to the students with disabilities to the "neglect" of the other students. Mr. More explained "... the only difference being that I have always tried to pay more attention to them [SwSD] to help them and maybe what I've done is to ignore some of the other kids more." Mr. More agreed that SwSD sometimes need modification of the rules, equipment, and activities in order to be successful. He stated:
When we did football, most times he [a student with disabilities who used a wheelchair] was the quarterback. He can throw a football to them. They were not allowed to rush him. There were times that maybe he couldn't do what we were doing but he could officiate. He can stand on the sideline [and] officiate that part of the game ... (Interview transcript).
Both teachers believed that SwSD needed more time and attention from them. Mr. Eli explained, "Obviously with teaching you have to spend a little more time, work with them as individuals." Mr. More believed that including SwSD in GPE is problematic "if not impossible." He stated that SwSD "lack social and daily skills" and he "couldn't imagine" how these students could successfully be included in GPE classes even with the service of a teacher's aide. He explained, "Imagine that you have 37 kids with four or five inclusion kids [SwSD] in there, it will be a nightmare to even try to work with them."
Mr. More indicated that another challenge he has is with SwSD "who don't want to do anything." He stated, "... as long as they are working and trying I don't have a problem. The ones [SwSD] that don't just want to do anything are the ones that I have problems with most of the time ..." (Mr. More, interview transcript).
These GPE teachers had concerns about the added complexity of class organization and management with inclusion and how best to adapt and modify class activities for SwSD. This was offset, however, by their positive interactions and experiences with these students. What's more they felt obligated to provide individualized attention to SwSD juxtaposed to not neglecting the needs of any other student(s) in their classes. Separate and collectively, these concerns hindered the teachers' ability to provide appropriate learning experiences for their students, particularly those SwSD.
Troubled Confidence. Both teachers believed that they were inadequately prepared to effectively teach SwSD. They both stressed the need for adequate PETE preparation that includes practicum and/or field-based experiences teaching students with mild to severe disabilities. Mr. Eli was troubled by the uncertainty of sometimes not knowing how to best modify instruction, games, or activities such that SwSD can succeed.
Mostly they felt troubled by their lack of preparation to effectively adapt and modify to best include SwSD in class activities. This in-turn adversely affected their confidence to do so. They differed, however, in how that handled this issue. Typically, Mr. Eli exhibited mostly effective pedagogy strategies (e.g., identified lesson objectives, showed enthusiasm, demonstrated target skills and tasks, held students accountable) and modified game rules for SwSD on several occasions. Plus, he regularly assigned peer partners and directed them on how to provide support and guidance to SwSD during guided and independent practice. These strategies ensured that SwSD had opportunities to respond (OTR) during class activities. In contrast, adapting and modifying rules, equipment and/or Instruction were less evident in Mr. Mora's practice. Nor did Mr. Mora take measures to ensure OTR or the active participation of all students. Typically, Mr. Mora neglected to hold students accountable for their off-task or misbehaviors. Ultimately, these factors resulted in the unintended exclusion of some SwSD from class activities.
These teachers' differing pedagogies and class management practices reaffirm the importance that most be given to implementing effective teaching strategies and behavior management principles (e.g., social reinforcements) to establish relationships, motivate, and manage students' behaviors. Both teachers believed that durIng their PETE training they should have been exposed to teaching strategies for working with students with mild to severe disabilities through course work and practicum experiences. Plausibly, such training would enhance their self-confidence in modifying and adapting lesson activities to meet the needs, interests, and abilities of SwSD.
Discussion The purpose was to describe the beliefs and practices of two GPE teachers at the high school level on inclusion and teaching SwSD. TPB (Ajzen, 1991) provided an apposite framework for understanding and explaining these GPE teachers' behaviors and beliefs about teaching SwSD. FIndings reveal that these teachers: (a) varied in their teaching efficacy, (b) varied in their use of lesson adaptations, modifications, and supports, (c) varied in their interactions with SwSD, but mostly verbally interacted with the students, (d) regularly used direct instructions with those SwSD, and (e) varied in their
degree of behavioral control. Plus, three recurring themes emerged linked to these teachers' beliefs, intentions, and behaviors in teaching SwSD. These themes were: (a) wavering beliefs, (b) complexities of inclusion, and (c) troubled confidence.
Teachers' Practices. In this study, both teachers actively supervised students' skill performances, provided feedback, occasionally checked for understanding, and generally interacted with both students with and without disabilities in affirming ways. Despite this, both teachers felt that they had had minimally adequate teacher preparation but felt that they were effective at teaching students with severe disabilities nonetheless. TPB suggests that the more the attainment of a behavioral goal is considered to be under an individual's volition (e.g., teacher actively supervises and provides feedback on student's skill performance), the stronger the association with an intention to perform the behavior (Ajzen, 2001a, 2001b). We judged, however, that these teachers varied in their teaching efficacy and varied at holding students accountable for off-task acts and misbehaviors. Stated differently, the teachers differed and were not as effective as they claimed or believed themselves to be. Some keys to effective teaching whether in a general or inclusive GPE setting are: (a) the development of a warm, positive climate, (b) an apposite matching of content to student abilities, (c) a high percentage of time devoted to lesson objectives, (d) high rates of on-task behaviors and (e) the use of strategies that contribute to on-task behavior but are not incompatible with a warm, positive climate (Sherrill, 1998; Sherrill, Heikinaro-Johansson, & Slininger, 1994; Vogler et al., 2000; Vogler, van der Mars, Darst, & Cusimano, 1990). We found the latter three indicators typical of Mr. Eli's classes and much less so for students with severe emotional disabilities in Mr. Mora's classes. In short, Mr. Eli' lessons were mostly characteristic of an effective teacher, not so of Mr. Mora.
Another finding was that the teachers varied in their attempts to engage SwSD in planned activities. In addition to routInely assigning peer partners, for example, Mr. Eli did modify game rules for at least one SwSD on several occasions. In contrast, adapting and modifying rules, equipment and/or instruction were much less evident in Mr. Mora's practice. These teachers were not adequately prepared to regularly adapt and modify lessons to include SwSD in planned activities. According to TPB, inadequate teacher preparation for inclusion practices (e.g., a teacher inadequately prepared to modify game rules or use adaptive equipment to include a student with severe disabilities in planned activities) would adversely impact a teacher's PBC and weaken his or her intention to perform the necessary behaviors for effective inclusion pedagogy (Ajzen, 2001a, 2001b; Conatser, Block, & Gansneder, 2002). It is unclear whether or not the inconsistency of these two teachers to adapt and modify rules, instruction, and equipment was related to (a) their perceived lack of behavioral control in teaching SwSD, (b) their perceived inadequate preparedness to do so, or (c) a combination of these or other factors. Nonetheless, it takes thoughtful planning to make the inclusion of students with disabilities in GPE a beneficial experience (Block, Zeman, & Henning, 1997).
In terms of teacher-student interactions in the current study, both teachers mostly verbally interacted with SwSD in their classes by providing feedback, praise, and instruction. Typically, they give praise and feedback to individual students more often than to the class at large. Further, Mr. Eli consistently emphasized cooperative interaction between students with and without disabilities during skill practice and games. According to Sherrill (1998), the number of occasions that teachers make positive comments, statements, and show high rates of positive interactions is a criterion for teachers to determine whether their classes have warm, positive climate. Positive climate suggests teacher-student interactions that are more positive than negative or corrective, more skill than behavior oriented, and more specific than general in nature (Vogler et al., 1990). The climate was judged as mostly positive for Mr. Eli' classes and less so with Mr. Mora's classes.
Direct instruction was used by both teachers as a way to individualize their instructions for
SwSD. Yet, the teachers varied in the amount of time they provided direct instruction to individual students. For example, Mr. Eli provided direction instruction, engaged in game play, and verbally interacted with Julie (i.e., student with severe multiple sclerosis) to a greater degree than with Frank (i.e., student with severe mental retardation).
We found that the degree of behavioral control exhibited in these teachers' classes varied and appeared to be partly related to the nature of the students' disabilities (i.e., most misbehaviors occurred with students who had severe emotional disabilities) and their own classroom management skills. It is unclear to what degree disciplinary problems most often encountered by Mr. Mora were related to (a) class size, (b) his low degree of PBC and lack of self-confidence to make necessary change, or (c) plausibly a combination of the aforementioned variables plus student disability type and his own ineffectiveness at class management.
Teachers' Beliefs. Paradoxically, these teachers wavered in their favorable and unfavorable beliefs about inclusion and teaching SwSD. They stated that inclusion practice is good ideally, but problematic practically in contexts typified with large or overcrowded classes, lack of support, and student apathy. To the first point, classes taught by teachers in this study appeared manageable in terms of class size. Class sizes larger than 30 when working with students with or without disabilities contributes to teacher burn out, intensify discipline problems, and is a barrier to individualizing instruction (Sherrill et al., 1994; Siedentop & Tannehill, 2000). Irregardless of class size, scholars have advocated the importance of providing support (e.g., APE specialists, peer tutors) to GPE programs to better ensure successful inclusive practices (Houston-Wilson, Dunn, van der Mars, & McCubbin, 1997; Vogler et al., 2000).
Although both teachers held wavering, yet generally positive beliefs about inclusion, they both lacked confidence in their preparedness to effectively teach SwSD. It is important to note, however, that they differed in their response to this overarching concern. Typically, Mr. Eli (a) used peer partners to assist SwSD during class activities on a regular basis, (b) was organized and enthusiastic about teaching, (c) attempted to adapt and modify class activities to better accommodate SwSD, and (d) held students accountable for their misbehaviors. These kinds of effective teaching strategies and efforts to hold students accountable were much less evident in Mr. Mora's classes. In essence, these two teachers varied in the degree to which they believed they had sufficient behavioral control over the learning experience for SwSD. As such, they responded differently in teaching students with severe disabilities.
Consistently, scholars suggest that effective GPE teachers demonstrate target skills and strategies for students, provide multiple exemplars, use guided and independent practice (Siedentop & Tannehill, 2000), and reflect to inform their practice (Tsangaridou & O'Sullivan, 1997). Moreover, GPE teachers who teach in inclusive classes should adapt, modify, and use supports (e.g., APE specialist, peer tutors) to enhance their practice (Houston-Wilson, Dunn, van der Mars, & McCubbin, 1997; Vogler et al., 2000). It appears that in our study, Mr. Eli believed he had sufficient behavioral control over such variables (e.g., modifying game rules, assigning peer partners) and his practice was more effective. In contrast, Mr. Mora believed he had less behavioral control in teaching SwSD and resultantly his practice was less effective. In accord with TPB, the degree that PBC is veridical it can serve as a proxy for actual control and influence on intentions and behavior (Ajzen, 2001a, 2001b).
Plausibly during their PETE training, these teachers would have benefited from exposure to teaching strategies for working with students with mild to severe disabilities through course work and practicum experiences (Hodge, Tannehill, & Kluge, 2003). In fact, they stated that learning to adapt and modify class activities would have enhanced their self-confidence in teaching SwSD. The extant literature indicates that PETE students' attitudes and perceived competence in teaching students with disabilities improve after matriculation in APE courses coupled with practicum experiences (Folsom-Meek et al., 1999; Hodge et al., 2002; Rizzo & Vispoel, 1992). Hodge et al. (2003) claimed that APE course work coupled with practicum experiences and self-reflective journaling provides a medium for PETE students to identify issues, address problems, and think critically about best practices. It is reasonable to suggest that both teachers in this study would have benefited similarly from such academic preparation.
Further, the teachers believed that the complexity of including SwSD in GPE makes it a questionable educational practice. A consistent concern held by the teachers was that SwSD needed more teacher time and attention, which complicates their work. They believed that not being able to give sufficient attention and quality of time to students with disabilities creates a negative experience. According to TPB, circumstances beyond the control of teachers may negatively impact their beliefs. Stated differently, the degree that PBC is factual it can serve as a proxy for actual control and influence on intentions and behavior (Ajzen, 2001a, 2001b). Again, the teachers, we studied, believed that they were inadequately prepared for teaching SwSD. This finding is also consistent with that of LaMaster et al. (1998), Lienert, Sherrill, and Myers (2001), and more recently Hodge, Ammah, Casebolt, LaMaster, and O'Sullivan (2004). It is clear that PETE programs must provide high quality learning experiences to ensure that their graduates feel competent in teaching students with varied disabilities (Hodge et al., 2002; Hodge et al., 2003; Kowalski & Rizzo, 1996). In accord with TPB, if teachers are confident that they have received adequate and relevant knowledge and learning experiences, and are well equipped and supported, they are more likely to be receptive to inclusion (Hodge et al., 2002).
Implications, Recommendations, and Conclusion
How teachers are prepared, and what happens during their PETE programs in teaching youth with severe disabilities are very important questions for additional research. We know that physical educators' perceived competency can be enhanced with coursework and practicum training (Hodge et al., 2002; Kowalski & Rizzo, 1996). But, we need to know more about what teachers do in inclusive GPE classes in teaching SwSD. There should be continuous high quality PETE preparation using various curricular and instructional strategies that would enable all teachers to work effectively with SwSD (Hodge et al., 2002; Kowalski & Rizzo, 1996).
The inclusion philosophy has the potential to have a positive impact on teachers' pedagogy. However, such potential may not be realized if teachers are not adequately prepared and lack supports in their classes. PETE faculty must prioritize curricular offerings to ensure adequate teacher preparation for effective inclusive practice.
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(1) Ajzen (1991, 2001a, 2001b) provide an excellent discussion and schematic representation of the aggregates comprising TPB. TPB postulates three conceptually independent determinants of intention: (a) attitude toward the behavior which refers to the degree to which a person has a favorable or unfavorable evaluation or appraisal of the behavior in question; (b) subjective norm which refers to the perceived social pressure to perform or not to perform the behavior; and (c) perceived behavioral control which refers to the perceived ease or difficulty of performing the behavior. These determinants of intention are assumed to be a product of three accessible belief systems: (a) behavioral beliefs which are posited to influence attitudes toward the behavior, (b) normative beliefs which constitute the underlying determinants of subjective norms, and (c) control beliefs which provide the basis for perceptions of behavioral control (Ajzen, 1991).
Jonathan O. A. Ammah
University of Education at Winneba, Ghana
Samuel R. Hodge
Ohio State University…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Secondary Physical Education Teachers' Beliefs and Practices in Teaching Students with Severe Disabilities: A Descriptive Analysis. Contributors: Ammah, Jonathan O. A. - Author, Hodge, Samuel R. - Author. Journal title: High School Journal. Volume: 89. Issue: 2 Publication date: December 2005. Page number: 40+. © 1999 University of North Carolina Press. COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group.
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