04 SES 01 C, Student, Teacher And Pre.service Teacher Attitudes Towards Inclusion
The introduction and establishment of inclusive education changed not only school practices but also research interests. The attitudes key people, such as teachers, hold towards inclusion has become a quite popular research subject during the last two decades. According to Eagly and Chaiken (1993), attitudes consist of three components, the cognitive, the affective, and the behavioral one. As far as attitudes towards disability are concerned, they are shaped by knowledge about disability, feelings about individuals with a disability, and, lastly, willingness to interact with disabled people.
At the same time, there has been an increased emphasis on teachers’ readiness and perceptions of self-efficacy since they consist the main agents of implementing inclusion. The concept of self-efficacy was first coined by Bandura (1977) forty years ago and referred to “….the conviction that one can successfully execute the behavior required to produce the [intended] outcomes” (p.193). According to Bandura (1997), self-efficacy perceptions consist of the successful prior experiences of a person in certain tasks, the experiences of observing people capable of performing the task, the social belief of others that the person can effectively complete the task, and, finally, the emotional state of the person at the time the self-efficacy perceptions were shaped.
Peer tutoring is a form of collaborative learning, in which knowledge is generated through active cooperation and individualized instruction and practices among peers in pairs or small groups (Berghmans et al., 2014; Bowman-Perrott, Burke, Zhang, and Zaini, 2014; De Backer, Van Keer, and Valcke, 2012). Peer tutoring is influenced by the principles of cognitive constructivism. Both Piaget (1989) and Vygotsky (1978) have acknowledged the role of the social context in the learning process. Constructivism suggests that peer interactions are of great significance for children’s cognitive development (Evans and Moore, 2013; Iserbyt, Elen, and Behets, 2010; Tsuei, 2012). Peer tutoring appears in the literature as a feasible instructional strategy, which is particularly suitable for promoting the inclusion of children with SEN in mainstream classrooms (Jones, 2007; Temple and Lynnes, 2008; Wang, Bettini, and Cheyney, 2013).
The present study examined the extent to which regular teachers’ attitudes and self-efficacy perceptions towards inclusion predict their willingness to implement a peer tutoring program in their class as an inclusive instructional approach. Differences between regular and special teachers were examined with respect to their attitudes and perceptions of self-efficacy. The study sought answers to the following research questions:
• What are the attitudes and self-efficacy perceptions that regular teachers hold towards inclusion and how these differ from the ones held by their special counterparts?
• What benefits do regular teachers perceive as emanating from the implementation of a peer tutoring program?
• To what extent do regular teachers’ attitudes and self-efficacy perceptions towards inclusion and peer tutoring predict their willingness to implement a peer tutoring program in their class?
• What are the regular teachers’ perspectives on barriers to and preferred methods for implementing a peer tutoring program?
The study adopted a cross-sectional survey design involving the administration of a three-part questionnaire. The first part collected demographic information about the teachers (e.g., gender, age, teaching role, teaching experience, educational qualifications, number of students in their class, number, and type of students with SEN in their class, training on inclusive education). The second part collected information about teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion and their self-efficacy skills on inclusive practices. The attitude measure used was the Core Perspectives Scale (12 items) drawn from the My Thinking about Inclusion (MTAI) instrument developed by Stoiber, Gettinger, and Goetz (1998). This 5-point Likert-type scale addresses the teachers’ perceptions concerning the general philosophy of inclusive education. The self-efficacy perceptions’ measure was the Teacher Efficacy for Inclusive Practices (TEIP) instrument developed by Sharma, Loreman, and Forlin (2012). This is a 6-point Likert-type inventory consisting of three factors namely: ‘efficacy to use inclusive instructions’; ‘efficacy in collaboration’; and ‘efficacy in managing behavior’. The third part included a dichotomous question assessing the teachers’ willingness to implement peer-tutoring in their class alongside with Likert-type scales rating peer tutoring’s benefits for students with and without SEN; peer tutoring’s benefits for the teachers themselves; and teachers’ self-efficacy perceptions in implementing peer tutoring in their classrooms. The research was carried out in Greece and involved administering the survey questionnaire to general and special teachers working in regular primary schools. Convenience sampling was adopted resulting in the collection of 294 questionnaires from various parts of Greece. This sample consisted of 225 general primary teachers and 69 special education counterparts. The analyses of the data were carried out at various stages. First, the psychometric properties of all scales included in the instruments were confirmed through principal component analysis. As anticipated, the factorial structure of these scales was confirmed with all factors yielding satisfactory Cronbach alphas. Following this, composite scores were computed for every factor and comparisons between general and special teachers were conducted. Next, the analysis focused solely on the general teachers’ sample, calculating their perceptions of the student benefits and teacher benefits gained through peer tutoring. Finally, logistic regression analysis was conducted to examine the predictive validity of attitudes to inclusion and self-efficacy variables on the teachers’ willingness to implement a peer tutoring programme in their classrooms.
Results indicated that general teachers held neutral attitudes towards inclusion while positive self-efficacy perceptions to teach in inclusive classrooms. Interestingly, with the exception of the managing behavior dimension, regular teachers’ self-efficacy perceptions were lower than the perceptions held by their special education counterparts. This finding could be attributed to the insufficient training on inclusive education matters that the participating general teachers possessed. General teachers emphasized mainly the social gains achieved by students participating in a peer tutoring program and, to a lesser extent, the intended academic benefits. Regarding teacher gains, they considered peer tutoring as an effective means for including students with diverse needs in their classrooms and managing disruptive behavior and, to a lesser extent, as a means for meeting teaching targets and covering content material. Importantly, this study found that teachers’ attitudes and self-efficacy perceptions towards inclusion largely predict their willingness to implement a peer tutoring program in their classrooms. The paper concludes with highlighting the need to offer regular teachers substantial training on peer tutoring and provides guidelines for its content based on the analyses presented.
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