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Presented at ISEC 2000

Views of General Education Teachers about Inclusion: An International Perspective

Gilada Avissar (Ph.D. Beit Berl Teachers' Training College ISRAEL )

Abstract

Mainstreaming and inclusion of special needs students into regular classrooms has been practiced on a voluntary level in Israel for the past 30-40 years. Special Education legislation passed in 1988 included as one of its cornerstones the mandate to mainstream students with disabilities into regular classrooms to the maximum extent possible. The purpose of this study was to examine regular teachers' views about inclusion. Pre-service education trainees conducted in-depth interviews with 50 general education teachers.

The major findings revealed that inclusion was practiced in all the schools, however not all teachers felt that they were actively involved in it, despite the fact that students with disabilities were mainstreamed into their classrooms. Several educational models of inclusion were identified, yet each school seemed to have used its own variation and interpretation of inclusion.

Teachers' attitudes toward inclusion were favourable, yet they identified several difficulties and issues related to inclusion. These included teacher knowledge in remedial practices, lack of professional support, class size, behaviour problems and school climate.

With regards to the understanding of the concept of inclusion, teachers' responses revealed a varied yet somewhat blurred picture. Findings are compared to data reported in similar investigations in U.S.A., Canada, U.K. and Australia.


Mainstreaming and inclusion of special needs students into regular classrooms has been practiced on a voluntary level in Israel for the past 30 - 40 years. Special Education legislation passed in 1988 included as one of its cornerstones the mandate to mainstream students with special needs into regular classroom to the maximum extent possible. The process of implementation has been going on for the past 8 years. By the 1998-99 school year it became mandatory for all schools to practice inclusion. (Leyser & Ben-Yehuda, 1999; Reiter, Schanin & Tirosh, 1998).

Mainstreaming or inclusion describes the process of integrating students with disabilities that hinder learning into general education classes. In order for it to be effective it is generally agreed that the school personnel who will be most responsible for its success, the general classroom teachers, should be more receptive to the principles and demands of mainstreaming and inclusion. (Soodak, Podell & Lehman, 1998; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996; Blanton, Blabton & Cross, 1994).

Much of the relevant information regarding the perceptions of general education teachers toward teaching students with disabilities in their classes is found in teacher surveys or is derived from talking to teachers. It is understood that general educators' willingness to include students with disabilities in their classes is critical to the successful implementation of inclusion (Bender, Vail & Scott, 1995 Vaughn & Schumm, 1995) .

The term "Mainstreaming" typically refers to placement in general education classes with some time spent in a separate resource room placement. The term "Inclusion" generally means ending all separate special education placement for all students and full time placement in general education classes with appropriate special education supports within that classroom (Garvar-Pinhas & Schmelkin-Pedhazur, 1989; Lipsky & Gartner, 1996).

The purpose of the present study was to examine regular teachers' views about inclusion. The underlying assumption is that teachers' support for inclusion will influence the effort they expend in its implementation.

The participants

The following table presents the participating teachers by gender, school level, years of experience in teaching and their level of education.

Variable Value N %
N 50    
Gender   Male -- --
Female 50 100
School Level     Elementary (1 - 6) 27 54
Middle School ( 7 -9) 17 34
High School (10 - 12) 4 8
Years of experience intaeching     1 - 10 22 48
11 -20 12 26
21+ 12 26
Mean 12.87 SD 7.56      
Level of Education     B.Ed 28 56
B.A. 18 36
M.A. 4 8

Methodology:

Data Collection and Analysis Pairs of pre-service education trainees conducted in-depth open-ended interviews with regular education teachers. This was part of the requirement in an undergraduate course on Inclusion taught by the researcher. In this study the methodology combined qualitative as well as quantitative measures. The raw data gathered is qualitative by nature. Content Analysis was carried out in the following manner: Step I: A general summary of the interview based on the impressions of the interviewers. The two interviewers carried it out. Step II: Relevant units of the texts were coded to identify recurring themes. These themes focused on teachers' views and attitudes toward the integration efforts. The researcher carried it out. Step III: "Breaking down" the main categories found into sub-categories. A team of two carried it out - the researcher and a professional colleague. Step IV: A different team of two re-grouped the sub-categories following statistic analyses. The team consisted of a methodology advisor and the researcher.

Step II suggested four categories:

1st. A definition of inclusion as perceived by the participating teachers;
2nd. Advantages of inclusion;
3rd. Difficulties associated with implementation of inclusion;
4th. Existing models of inclusion in the teachers' respective schools.

Step III. Suggested the following sub-categories:

For category A - Definition of Inclusion - content analysis of the texts relied upon Kauffman, Gottlieb and others (1975) in sorting the following sub categories: 1. The physical aspect of inclusion i.e., the physical placement of the child in the regular classroom for over 50% of the school day; 2. The social aspect of inclusion i.e., focusing on the child's acceptance by his peers and his natural involvement in the class's social activities; 3. The educational/instructional aspect of inclusion i.e., defining inclusion through the paradigm of instructional methods, curricular adaptations and the learning environment and 4. Systemic aspects of inclusion i.e., looking at the whole school and the role of the administration in implementing inclusion;

For category B. Advantages of Inclusion content analysis of the texts revealed four areas of advantages: 1. Social advantages for the SN child. These include prevention of stigma and improving self-image and self-esteem of the SN child; 2. Social advantages for the other children in the class. These include developing awareness, tolerance and acceptance of diversity; 3. Educational advantages for the SN pupil these include an opportunity to excel within a normative framework and an opportunity to study the subjects of the regular curriculum; The fourth area related to the teachers themselves and focused on the opportunity to work collaboratively.

For category C. Difficulties associated with implementation content analysis of the texts revealed three main areas of difficulties: 1. Alienation of the SN pupil whether social or academic; 2. The changes imposed on the teacher in an inclusive classroom, i.e., altering instructional methods; having to collaborate; Too much paperwork (in particular the IEP); Classes too large to attend to individual needs; Lack of knowledge in special education and a concern regarding the "price" paid by the regular pupils.

For category D. Existing models of inclusion, content analysis of the texts revealed four different models: 1. Full inclusion i.e. where the general teacher, the homeroom teacher is responsible for all the students. The SN children are there for the whole school day. The general teacher is responsible for carrying out the needed curricular adaptations. 2. Collaboration i.e., For most of the school day there are 2 teachers in the classroom. One is the general teacher the other is the special education teacher. They share the instructional responsibilities and the prevalent mode of learning is cooperative, in small groups. 4. "Pull-out" i.e., SN are addressed by a special education teacher outside the classroom in an area designated for that purpose or in a special classroom within the school.

Early studies showed that teachers were very apprehensive about the quality of the academic work that children with disabilities in inclusive classes could produce. They also expressed a number of other fears, including concern about their own level of preparation for inclusion and the amount of individualized time that children with L.D. may require. More recent research has indicated a more favorable perception of inclusion services by general education teachers (Bender, Vail & Scott, 1995; Bacon & Schultz, 1991). Following are some citations from the interviews:

One. definition of inclusion -
* Inclusion means putting SN students into the regular class in order to improve their motivation to study and to excel.
* It means using a variety of instructional methods that aim at assessing and teaching the students who have difficulties in the general classroom.
* Inclusion refers to the current policy imposed by the Ministry of Education - to integrate SN students and their peers and to cater to all their needs within the general classroom.
* Inclusion means putting the exceptional child in a regular class so that he can function better socially and academically.
Two. advantages:
* Inclusion enables the exceptional child to integrate socially and at the same time enables the others to become acquainted with diversity and exceptionality. In addition, inclusion forces the teachers to collaborate. All the students in the class benefit from the instructional change.
* I can mention four rewards - integration of the students with LD with his peers; elevating his self esteem; changing the stigma attached to LD, and providing an opportunity for collaborative work.
* Inclusive practices contribute to self realization and personal achievements for students with LD.
Three. difficulties:
* The SN children are alienated - they cannot keep up with the class academically. Deep inside they know they are different and will always be so.
* Inclusive practices put more demands on the teachers: Changing my methods of instruction, questioning how I assess and evaluate my students, how the class is organized etc.
* There is too much paperwork! There isn't enough time to do it all! Co-teaching can be a burden too. There is always the risk of being criticized by your colleagues.
* It is very difficult to constantly pay attention to different needs. It is very tough to cater to special needs during the course of a regular lesson. Sometimes I feel my efforts are at the expense of my regular students.
Four. models:
* The students study in the regular class all day. They participate fully in all school activities including extra curricular activities.
* When there are two teachers in the class, the children work mostly in small groups. The groups vary depending on the subject taught. Both of us take responsibility for all the students. It the lesson conducted is "frontal", one of us sits next to the SN children.
* Since the home-room teacher doesn't want me inside the room during class time, I take my 6 kids outside and work with them separately.

Results of content analysis:

Results of statistic analyses:

Following the procedure of content analysis, the categories and sub-categories were coded and statistic tests were carried out to determine possible correlation between the different variables as follows:

a. Do background variables affect one's definition of inclusion and one's view of the advantages and difficulties?
b. Does the model of inclusion practices at a given school correlate with one's definition, advantages and difficulties of inclusion?
c. Does a teacher's definition of inclusion correlate with the advantages and difficulties cited?

Significant correlations were found between years of teaching experience, level of education, in-service training and citing more advantages of inclusion: Teachers with a higher level of education, with more years of teaching experience and with more in-service courses taken - had more positive views and noted more advantages to inclusion.

In addition, several trends were noted:

- Teachers who have no previous experience in inclusion speak less of the advantages of inclusion. They speculate about possible improvement in self-esteem and possible educational advantage. They tend to define inclusion from the physical aspect.
- When the model prevalent in their school is a collaborative model the teachers tend to cite more (75% of the statements) difficulties linked to the change in their way of working.
- Teachers who define inclusion from the physical aspect cite more difficulties for the students.
- Teachers who define inclusion from the educational/instructional aspect cite more difficulties pertaining to the work of the teachers.
- Elementary school teachers tend to define inclusion either from a physical aspect or from an educational aspect.
- Teachers in middle school tend to define inclusion mainly from an educational aspect.
- High school teachers tend to view inclusion from a systemic aspect.

In conclusion:

Selected Bibliography

Bender, W.N., Vail, C.O. & Scott, K. (1995). Teachers' Attitudes Toward Increased Mainstreaming: Implementing Effective Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 28(2). Pp. 87-94.

Blanton, L.P., Blabton, W.E. & Cross, L.S. (1994). An Exploratory Study of How General and Special Education Think and Make Instructional Decisions about Students with Special Needs. Teacher Education and Special Education. 17 (1), pp. 62-74.

Garvar-Pinhas, A. & Schmelkin-Pedhazur, L. (1989). Administrators' and Teachers' Attitudes toward Mainstreaming. RASE: Research and Special Education, 10(4), pp. 38-42.

Leyser, Y. & Ben-Yehuda, S. (1999). Teacher Use of Instructional Practices to Accomodate Student Diversity: Use of Israeli General and Special Educators. International Journal of Special Education. 14(1), pp. 81-92.

Reiter, S., Schanin, M. & Tirosh, E. (1998). Israeli Elementary School Students' and Teachers' Attitudes toward Mainstreamed Children with Disabilities. Special Services in the Schools. 13, pp. 33-46.

Scruggs, T. & Mastropieri, M. A. (1996). Teacher Perceptions of Mainstreaming/Inclusion, 1958-1995: A Research Synthesis. Exceptional Children, 63, pp. 9-23.

Soodak, L.C., Podell, D.M. & Lehman, L.R. (1998). Teacher, Student and School Attributes as Predictors of Teachers' Responses to Inclusion. The Journal of Special Education. 31(4), pp. 480-497.

Vaughn, S. & Schumm, J.S. (1995). Responsible Inclusion for Students with Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 28(5), pp. 264-290.

 

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