Teacher Attitudes and Attributes concerning Disabilities

By Briggs, Jeffrey D.; Johnson, William E. et al. | Academic Exchange Quarterly, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Teacher Attitudes and Attributes concerning Disabilities


Briggs, Jeffrey D., Johnson, William E., Shepherd, Duane L., Sedbrook, Steven R., Academic Exchange Quarterly


Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate selected teacher attitudes and attributes with regard to specific disabilities. Participants of the study were 512 teachers (419 females, 75 males) teaching in a variety of educational levels, representing 12 school districts in a Midwestern state. Each participant completed a Revised Version of the PEATH II survey instrument to assess attitudes toward teaching students with disabilities. Results indicated that general classroom teachers were found to have more negative attitudes toward students identified with emotional and behavioral disorders than those with cognitive, sensory, and orthopedic disabilities. Analysis of teacher attributes suggested the need for additional learning experiences for pre-professionals and increased in-service opportunities for experienced teachers.

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The Regular Education Initiative in 1986 brought forth the idea that a dual system of separate and general education classrooms was inappropriate for students with mild disabilities. The interpretation of this initiative became consistent with what is now referred to as inclusion, wherein students with disabilities are placed and receive instruction in the general classroom (Block, 1994).

Proponents of inclusion support a philosophy that all students, including those with disabilities, be placed and receive appropriate educational services in the general education classroom; with provisions for all necessary support and assistance (Block, 1999; Sherrill, 1998; Stainback & Stainback, 1990). Numerous school districts throughout the United States have implemented various instructional models promoting the education of all children, regardless of the type or severity of disability, in the general education classroom (Schattman & Benay, 1992). These models and subsequent different interpretations of inclusion philosophy and placement resulted in varying acceptance and degrees of success. This philosophy/trend continues to raise considerable debate and controversy within the academic community as to the educational and functional value of full inclusion. As a result of past and current legislative mandates, funding initiatives have been presented to states and school districts geared toward improving the process of integrating students with special needs into the general education classroom. These initiatives have impacted all aspects of education, including public school administration, currently practicing educators, students involved in professional preparation programs, and university faculty charged with preparing future educators to meet the needs of a diverse student population.

Previous research concerning successful inclusion indicates several teacher and student variables have been found related to teacher attitudes (Rizzo & Vispoel, 1991). Teacher variables identified include gender, age, years of teaching experience, previous experience with students having disabilities, specialized coursework at the post-secondary level, and the teacher's perceived competence of addressing student's individualized needs in the classroom. Student variables found to influence teacher attitudes include the student's grade level as well as the type and severity of disabling condition. The attitudes of professional educators toward teaching students with disabilities is identified by a number of authors as a teacher attribute critical to the success of these inclusion efforts (Bricker, 1995; Rizzo & Wright, 1987; French & Henderson, 1984; Minner & Knutson, 1982; Aloia, Knutson, Minner, & Von Seggern, 1980). Furthermore, Bricker (1995) contends attitudes exhibited toward teaching students with disabilities appears to be the single most important teacher attribute necessary for successful assimilation of students with special needs into general education classes.

To date, results from studies attempting to assess the attitudes of educators toward teaching students with disabilities have not been conclusive. …

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