Friday, October 31, 2014

Teachers' Attitudes Toward Persons with Disabilities

Attitudes of Teachers Toward Persons with Disabilities
This study specifically aimed to explore attitudes of teachers toward persons with disabilities since the assessment of educators’ attitudes towards persons with disabilities is an important step towards the integration of students with disabilities into the general education classroom (Alghazo, 2002). Teachers’ attitudes and beliefs have been shown to be important factors in the inclusion or exclusion of students with disabilities at school, and have a significant influence on children’s emotional, social and intellectual development (Kearney, 2009; Parasuram, 2006).
 According to Gargiulo (2012), negative attitudes toward the student with disability affect performance and lead to ineffective learning environment. Inside the classroom, teachers are major characters. If teacher’s attitude is positive, upbeat and carries with expectation that all students, including those with disabilities, will be successful; the feeling is contagious and encouraging (Waldron, 1996). Teachers set the tone of the classroom, and as such, the success of inclusion may well depend upon the prevailing attitudes of teachers as they interact with students with disabilities (Carroll et al., 2003).
Sensitivity and awareness on the part of the general education teachers is essential to promote successful inclusion (Chopra, 2008). In fact, Hwang (2010) stressed that if general education teachers retain any educational prejudices and a rigid sense of boundaries in the provision of education programs for all students, including students with disabilities, then the provision of support and resources may not be enough to maximize outcomes for everyone. Inversely, if teachers do not perceive students with disabilities to be worthy, if they do not value them, and believe that some students have more rights than others, then it is unlikely that these students will be included, and inclusive education is also unlikely to be realized (Kearney, 2009). Thus, making schools more inclusive may require staff in a difficult process of challenging their own discriminatory practices and attitudes (Booth et al, 2004 in Frederickson, 2009). To state this simply, children with disabilities should not be thrust upon teachers who are unable to accept them fully (Telford and Sawney, 1972).
It is undisputable that teachers serve as role models, and are significant players in the holistic development of students. Thus, it may be becoming more socially appropriate for teachers to espouse positive attitudes towards disability (NDA Ireland, 2006). Schultz (1998) as cited in Bahn (2009), found that the more positive and flexible the teacher acts toward the student with disabilities, the more adaptable and accepting the rest of the students will be. Conversely, when teachers displayed prejudices attitudes and behaviors toward students with disabilities, it is likely that they were encouraging, in other students, forms of prejudice (Kearney, 2009).
Scruggs and Mastropieri (1996, as cited in Baldo, n.d.) summarized research findings covering the period from 1958-1995 regarding teacher attitudes toward inclusion of students with disabilities in their regular classes. The results indicated that there has been little change in teacher attitudes. Teachers favored some degree of inclusion and were willing to accommodate students with disabilities in their classroom. However, they were less positive on including students with more severe disabilities. They also were less likely to agree that general or regular classroom was always the best environment for all students with disabilities.
In a study conducted by Pivik et al. (2002) regarding barriers and facilitators of inclusive education, parent-respondents singled out attitudinal barriers as the biggest difficulty for their children. These attitudes include condescending attitudes by teaching staff and generally being treated differently from other students. They pointed out teachers who had no or obsolete information about disabilities, had condescending or negative attitudes and did not have the information or interest in adapting the teaching environment to include a child with disability. Furthermore, these attitudinal barriers were identified by the student-respondents with disabilities as the most deleterious in their school experiences.
          In a study of Arab pre-service educators, results indicated that the respondents hold negative attitudes toward persons with disabilities in general (Alghazo, Dodeen and Algaryouti, 2003). Among educators, Algazho (2002) found that educators’ attitudes towards persons with disabilities were negative. In a qualitative study, Kearney’s (2009) findings indicated that there was a belief from general education teachers that students with disabilities held less value and had fewer rights than students without disabilities in mainstream education. For the teacher-respondents, the rights of “other” students (without disabilities) had to be considered before the rights of persons with disabilities who were not describe as part of this “other” group. On the other hand, Parasuram (2006) and Carroll et al. (2003) yielded neutral attitudes towards persons with disabilities from their teacher-respondents.

          Results from different studies on teachers’ attitudes towards persons with disabilities imply that teachers hold varying attitudes. This discrepancy is perhaps due to the differing instruments and research techniques used by the researchers as well as the respondents’ personal, contextual and cultural backgrounds. For this study, it is aimed that both societal and personal attitudes of teachers be assessed using quantitative forms of measurement namely Attitudes Toward Disabled Persons Scale by Yuker and Block (1970) and Interaction with Disabled Persons Scale by Gething (1993).

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