04 SES 01 C, Student, Teacher And Pre.service Teacher Attitudes Towards Inclusion
In order to fulfill the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), policy makers as well as researchers and practitioners seek for answers to the question of how “full and effective participation and inclusion” (UN Convention, §3) can best be implemented within the school system. As school teachers are the agents who put inclusive schooling into practice, a wide branch of research focuses on teacher attributes that are linked to successful inclusive teaching practice.
Since subjective attitudes and beliefs are important predictors of behavior (e.g. Ajzen & Fishbein, 2005), positive attitudes towards inclusion (‘pro-inclusive attitudes’) – in addition to the development of individual competencies for inclusive teaching – are regarded as the key factor for a successful implementation of inclusion in schools (e.g. Forlin, Earle, Loreman, & Sharma, 2001; McElvany et al., 2018). Accordingly, the questions of what determines pro-inclusive attitudes and how these attitudes can already be promoted during teacher education have become a major topic in educational sciences over the last years (e.g. Laubner & Lindmeier, 2017). However, only little research has been done so far which helps to shed light on the question of how individual experiences prior and during teacher education influence pro-inclusive attitudes of pre-service teachers and individual teaching competencies and how these experiences might interact (Ruberg & Porsch, 2017). As students who decide to become teachers e.g. considerably vary in their amount and quality of motivation to do so, differ in their choices of specific teaching subjects, and have already collected different experiences with inclusion and disability even before studying, it can be expected that pro-inclusive attitudes and perceived competencies also vary considerably depending on the students’ prior experiences.
In our paper, we therefore focus on analyzing the interplay between different factors that are set before studying and that come into play while studying for a teachers’ career concerning their influence on pro-inclusive attitudes and perceived competencies of future teachers. Based on a standardized, quantitative empirical study with n=424 pre-service teachers in Germany, we applied structural equation modelling procedures to approach the following research questions:
1) To what extent are pre-service teachersʼ pro-inclusive attitudes and self-perceived competencies for inclusive teaching predicted by
- the amount and quality of motivation to take up a teacher education programme;
- the amount and evaluation of experiences with people with a disability before entering the teacher education programme;
- the choice of specific teaching subjects;
- the choice of the school types for future teaching practices (e.g. primary, secondary, grammar or comprehensive schools);
- the amount of learning opportunities on inclusion during teacher education at the university (i.e. attendance at university courses on inclusive teaching) and
- practical learning opportunities during teacher education (i.e. practical experiences with inclusive teaching, e.g. internships focusing on inclusion and disability)?
2) What is the relative predictive power of these factors (a-f) for the development of pro-inclusive attitudes and self-perceived competencies for inclusive teaching?
The results presented in our paper are based on the data of the German study ELBI (Einstellungen von Lehramtsstudierenden zu Behinderung und Inklusion – Pre-service teachersʼ attitudes towards disability and inclusion). The data was collected in spring 2018. Our sample consists of n=424 pre-service teachers in Lower Saxony (74% female) who filled in an online-questionnaire (software: Questback). On average, the participants were in the second year of teacher education and 23.51 years old (SD=3.89). The standardized questionnaire consists of both newly developed as well as established scales and different individual questions to assess various aspects of (a) prior experiences and (b) the amount and quality of opportunities for theoretical and practical learning on inclusion during teacher education. (a) To access pro-inclusive attitudes, we developed two 4-item-scales based on existing scales (e.g. De Boer et al., 2012; Forlin et al., 2001; Gebhardt et al., 2011; Schwab & Seifert, 2015; Seifried & Heyl, 2016), one measuring (i) the evaluation of the positive impact of inclusion for the included pupil with a special need and the other one measuring (ii) the evaluation of the positive impact of inclusion for pupils without special needs. Participants indicated their ratings separately for three different types of disabilities (physical/mental/psychological). Confirmatory factor analyses revealed an overall good fit for the differentiation of the two factors (i) and (ii) assessed for each type of disability (CFI≥.96, SRMR≤.06, RMSEA≤.09). The internal consistencies of all subscales are acceptable to good (.71≤α≤ .82). (b) To measure the self-perceived competencies for inclusive teaching, we used both a self-developed as well as an established scale. The self-developed scale consists of eight items that show good fit values for the expected one-dimensional model (CFI=.97, SRMR=.03, RMSEA=.09; internal consistency α=.89) and reflect the competencies for inclusive teaching that are listed in the official national requirements for inclusive teacher education. As an established scale, we adapted the 10-item-teachers’ self-efficacy scale by Schwarzer and Schmitz (1999) to the topic of inclusive teaching (α=.87). To access the amount and quality of motivation for starting a teacher education programme, we used the FEMOLA-scales (Pohlmann & Möller, 2010) that measure the strength of six different motives: (i) educational interest, (ii) subject-specific interest and (iii) utility (value components) as well as (iv) ability beliefs, (v) low difficulty of the study (expectation components) and (vi) social influences. The intenal consistencies of all subscales are good (α≥.80).
In order to answer our research questions, we adopted structural equation model (SEM) procedures with Mplus 8 to determine the relative predictive power of (a) the amount and quality of the motivation to start a teacher education programme, (b) the amount and evaluation of prior experiences with people with a disability, (c) the choice of specific teaching subjects and (d) the chosen school type for future teaching practices, (e) the attendance at university courses on inclusive teaching, and (f) practical experiences with inclusive teaching for inclusive attitudes and self-perceived competences for inclusive teaching. Our first analyses reveal significant correlations of inclusive attitudes with the strength of the study choice motive educational interest, with the evaluation of prior contact with people with a disability and with the choice of specific teaching subjects. Self-perceived inclusive competencies, however, are predicted significantly by the amount of prior contact with people with a disability and theoretical learning opportunities during teacher education. Overall, on the one hand our results point out the heterogeneity of pre-service teachers at the beginning of their studies and its impact on the development of inclusive attitudes and self-perceived inclusive competencies. On the other hand, they reveal that inclusive attitudes differ depending on the specific choice of teaching subjects and that the implementation of learning opportunities for inclusive teaching indeed leads to higher self-perceived inclusive competencies, but not to more positive attitudes towards inclusion. We will discuss these results and their implications for teacher education within the international perspective of successful implementation of inclusion in all schools.
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