Positive effects in courses for preservice teachers about inclusion of students with disabilities and other exceptionalities have not been consistently shown, but it is possible that the lack of effect is due to the assessment technique that has been used. This study used a retrospective pretest to gauge the effects on attitudes in a course preparing students for inclusive classrooms. Having the students take a second, "retrospective," pretest after the posttest revealed positive results for the course not shown by traditional, pretest-posttest assessment.
Increasing numbers of students with disabilities being taught in general education classrooms have generated a corresponding number of teacher preparation courses designed to prepare prospective general education classroom teachers for these students. These courses have the meritorious purpose of preparing general education classroom teachers for the diversities which will exist in their classrooms (Cantrell, 2003). It has often been noted that specialized courses and training experiences are needed to prepare prospective classroom teachers for future inclusive classrooms (Martinez, 2003).
Yet, noticeably, even with blossoming numbers of these courses, literature describing these courses is scant. The literature one does find has varying records of their success. Attitudes are presumed to be the critical variable in the success of inclusion. Richards and Clough (2004) relate that teacher attitudes are presumed to be the critical variable in the success of inclusion. A principal concern then becomes the attitudes these future educators will have about teaching students with varying disabilities. There is some literature showing that even teachers who are currently in classrooms--who may not have had preparation for teaching these diversities--may not have hoped-for attitudes toward teaching these students or the ready willingness to teach them (Martinez, 2003). Martinez points out: "Despite documentation that general education teachers believe that regular classrooms are the best placement for children with disabilities, their attitudes are frequently ambivalent or negative toward increased mainstreaming practices"
In the limited research that does exist, studies have found these teachers' attitudes and beliefs about inclusion to be negative (Garriott, Miller, & Snyder, 2003). Some writers have declared that attitudes may be positive as an initial predisposition, though they may not have conducted specific assessment of those attitudes (Richards & Clough, 2004).
Additionally, there is limited evidence about the effects of interventions aimed at changing attitudes toward students with disabilities (Martinez, 2003). This is echoed by the limited evidence for the impact of introductory inclusion courses in teacher preparation programs, with resulting impact on attitudes being inconsistent. Although those who take such courses may show increases in their readiness to teach these students, and that is an "improving trend" (Sharma et al., 2008, p. 783), they may not have had a corresponding increase in attitude. Moreover, course instructors have the perception that students do leave such courses feeling more confident and excited about the opportunities they will have in their classrooms (Peterson & Beloin, 1999). Still, the contradictory findings could lead to the conclusion that one course may not be sufficient to produce the hoped-for attitudes (Martinez).
One example of such a course is provided by Martinez (2003), who assessed attitudes with the Opinions Relative to the Integration of Students with Disabilities (ORI) (Antonak & Larrivee, 1995). This researcher compared pre-and posttest results of an inclusion course on the ORI, a measure of teachers' sense of efficacy, and interviews. Pre- and posttest comparison on the attitude scale did not show differences, although the researcher points out that at the end of the course students had "overwhelmingly positive attitudes about inclusion" (p. …