Pre-Service Teachers' Perceptions of Students with Learning Disabilities: Using Mixed Methods to Examine Effectiveness of Special Education Coursework

By Greenfield, Renee A.; Mackey, Megan et al. | The Qualitative Report, February 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Pre-Service Teachers' Perceptions of Students with Learning Disabilities: Using Mixed Methods to Examine Effectiveness of Special Education Coursework


Greenfield, Renee A., Mackey, Megan, Nelson, Gretchen, The Qualitative Report


Since learning disability (LD) is the largest federal disability category (IDEA, 2004), it is highly likely that pre-service teachers (PSTs) will encounter students with LDs when they enter the profession. If teachers' perceptions towards students with LDs directly impact students' outcomes (Good & Brophy, 2007; Woodcock, 2010), it is essential for PSTs to examine their perceptions of students with LDs prior to their work in the field. Teacher education programs can serve as a dynamic space where both PSTs and teacher educators engage in classroom research, in an effort to combine the scholarship of teaching and learning. In doing so, PSTs and teacher educators can examine PSTs' perceptions and how those perceptions can impact the education of students with LDs. Further, this context provides essential feedback for teacher educators as they create and revise teacher preparation programs.

Relevant Research

In the last 20 years, researchers (i.e., Aldrich, 2000; Berry, 2010; Bowlin, 2012) have examined both in-service teachers' and PSTs' attitudes about inclusive education. Some have explored teachers' perceptions and attitudes toward students with disabilities in general. Others have focused their research on teachers' perceptions and attitudes toward students with specific types of disabilities. Few studies have explored PSTs' perceptions and attitudes towards students with LDs.

A number of researchers have studied in-service teachers' attitudes toward inclusive education (Berry, 2010; Cook, Cameron, & Tankersley, 2007; Gal, Schreur, & Engle-Yeger, 2010; Scruggs, Mastropieri, & Leins, 2011). Others have explored both pre-service and in-service teachers' attitudes toward inclusion (Berry, 2010; Burke & Sutherland, 2004; Cook, Tankersley, Cook, & Landrum, 2000; Douglas, 2014; Gokdere, 2012; Sar?, Celikoz, & Secer, 2009). However, the most extensive body of research pertains to PSTs' attitudes toward inclusive education (Ahsan, Sharma, & Deppeler, 2012; Ajuwon, Lechtenberger, Griffin-Shirley, Sokolosky, Zhou, & Mullins, 2012; Aldrich, 2000; Bowlin, 2012; Casarez, 2012; Casarez, 2013; D'Alonzo, Giordano, & Cross, 1996; Forlin, Earle, Loreman, & Sharma, 2011; Forlin, Loreman, Sharma, & Earle, 2009; McHatton, & McCray, 2007; Oswald & Swart, 2011; Rao & Lim, 1999; Romi & Leyser, 2006; Savolainen, Engelbrecht, Nel, & Malinen, 2012; Scruggs, Mastropieri, & Leins, 2011; Sharma, Forlin, & Loreman, 2008; Shippen, Crites, Houchins, Ramsey, & Simon, 2005; Soodak, Podell, & Lehman, 1998; Swain, Nordness, Leader-Janssen, 2012; Taylor & Ringlaben, 2012).

Romi and Leyser (2006) examined the attitudes toward inclusion of 1,155 PSTs in Israel. Participants expressed support for inclusion. Ahsan, Sharma, and Deppeler (2012) employed two standardized scales to examine 1,623 Bangladesh PSTs' attitudes toward inclusion. Results revealed that PSTs' attitudes were impacted by the length and level of their training and interactions with people with disabilities. Bowlin (2012) used a pre- and post-survey to examine the impact of a completing a one-semester special education course and watching either a co-teaching video or an in vivo observation on the attitudes of 153 pre-service general and special education teachers. Results revealed that special education courses can positively influence PSTs' perceptions and attitudes toward inclusion. Casarez (2012) surveyed 172 pre-service teachers about their attitudes toward inclusion. Results revealed that PSTs held positive beliefs and attitudes toward inclusion. Each of the four studies described above relied entirely on survey instruments or scales to gather data.

A few studies examined PSTs' perceptions of students with disabilities (SWDs) (Aldrich, 2000; Forlin, Loreman, Sharma, & Earle, 2009; Hastings & Oakford, 2003; Sharma, Forlin, & Loreman, 2008; Sharma, Forlin, Loreman, & Earle, 2006; Sze, 2009). …

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