04 SES 08 C, Working In The Inclusive Classroom: Are Teachers Really Prepared?
Implementing inclusive education has become a central issue in the global educational system, and the trend has been enforced as a worldwide agenda (UNESCO, 1994; United Nations General Assembly, 2015). Although education for all is a common goal in the world, the meaning and implementation of inclusive education are different between countries complexly affected by historical, cultural, political and economic backgrounds (Artiles & Dyson, 2005). Comparative study considering these factors, thus, enable us to understand the processes and outcomes of inclusive education in each country (Savolainen, Engelbrecht, Nel, & Malinen, 2012). This research aims to compare Japanese and Finnish teachers’ perceptions of inclusive education and their relationships with teachers’ self-efficacy (TSE) for inclusive practices through their historical, cultural and political contexts.
Teachers’ attitudes towards and perceptions of inclusive education
Recently, researchers have shown that not only teachers’ skills and knowledge but also their positive feelings on inclusive education are important for teachers to be a successful inclusive education practitioner (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; de Boer, Jan Pijl, & Minnaert, 2011). A literature review by de Boer et al. (2011) indicated that teachers’ attitudes towards including pupils with special needs in regular classes were depended on their training in inclusive education, their experience in teaching pupils with special needs, and types of pupils’ disabilities.
Teachers’ perceptions of inclusive education have also been studied by many researchers, which is sometimes used interchangeably with their attitudes towards inclusive education. Perceptions can be defined as a process of acquiring the knowledge of objective world (Maund, 2003). The study of residents’ perceptions about hosting mega sport events pointed out that if residents perceive that hosting the mega sports events is beneficial, they will have positive attitudes towards them utilizing social exchange theory (Jin, Zhang, Ma, & Connaughton, 2011). Applying this statement to an inclusive education scenario, teachers who perceive benefits of inclusive education may have positive attitudes towards it.
Teachers’ self-efficacy for inclusive practices
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the theme of self-efficacy, which commonly defined as one’s belief in his/her capabilities to plan and perform the courses of action that is necessary to produce the desired outcomes (Bandura, 1997). TSE is specific to teachers, and TSE for inclusive practices has been gained great attention of researchers. Adopting Bandura’s (1997) self-efficacy theory, Sharma, Loreman and Forlin (2012) proposed that teachers with high TSE for inclusive practices would believe that they can teach students with special needs effectively in their regular classrooms.
The positive relationships between teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education and their TSE for inclusive practices has been suggested in several studies (Weisel & Dror, 2006; Yada & Savolainen, 2017). In addition, there is evidence that the sociocultural factors play a crucial role in understanding the relationship between teachers’ attitudes and TSE (Savolainen et al., 2012; Yada, Tolvanen, & Savolainen, 2018). Since the concept of perceptions of inclusive education has been used interchangeably with the term attitudes towards inclusive education, very little is known about relationships between teachers’ perceptions of inclusive education and their TSE, although much more attention is devoted to the relationships between teachers’ attitudes and TSE.
The following research questions are addressed to achieve the aims of this study:
(1) What is the magnitude of the Japanese and Finnish teachers’ overall and specific perceptions of the most suitable educational environment for students with different disabilities?
(2) Do teachers’ perceptions correlate with TSE for inclusive practices in Japan and Finland?
(3) Is there any difference between the Japanese and Finnish samples on how the perceptions correlate with TSE?
The participants in this study were 359 Japanese (Mage=42.41, SD=11.82) and 872 Finnish (Mage=44.46, SD=9.07) teachers working in primary and secondary levels. Percentage of female was 53.5% for the Japanese and 73.9% for the Finns. Data were collected using a questionnaire which consists of two scales. The first 16-item scale asked participants to choose which educational environment they think is suitable for students with different disabilities to meet their special needs (Moberg & Savolainen, 2003). The types of disability included eight categories, and each was separated into two levels: moderate and severe disabilities. Respondents used a 6-point Likert scale: (1) Full time in mainstream teaching; (2) Most of the time in mainstream teaching (over 75%); (3) Most of the time in special class or small group teaching (over 75%); (4) Full time in a special class within a mainstream school; (5) Full time in a special school; and (6) Full time in a boarding school or a corresponding unit. The lower score in each item indicates that the more inclusive settings the participant chose as preferable for different disability groups. Reliability of this scale was calculated using Cronbach’s alpha, and it was 0.908 for the Finns and 0.912 for the Japanese. The second scale was the Teacher Efficacy for Inclusive Practices (TEIP) scale (Sharma et al., 2012) that consists of 18 items. While the items supposed to be divided into three sub-scales (efficacy to use inclusive instructions, efficacy in collaboration, efficacy in managing behaviour), previous studies have suggested that a one factor model is reasonable because of the high correlations between the three factors (Malinen, Savolainen, & Xu, 2013; Yada et al., 2018). Thus, only overall TEIP score was used in this study. A 6-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 6 (strongly agree) was used, and the higher TEIP scale score indicated participant’s higher self-efficacy in implementing inclusive education. Cronbach’s alpha was 0.899 for the Finnish sample and 0.927 for the Japanese sample. The data were analyzed using the SPSS software version 24 and a statistical web-page for calculating significance of the difference between two correlation coefficients. An independent samples t-test was conducted to compare the mean scores of perceptions items between the Japanese and Finnish samples. Next, the associations between teachers’ perceptions and their TSE were examined using Pearson’s correlation coefficient. Furthermore, differences in correlations between the two groups were identified using Fisher’s Z-transformation.
There are three major findings in the light of perceptions of the best educational placement for students with different disabilities. Firstly, the results suggested that the Finnish teachers’ overall perceptions of the suitable environments were more inclusive than Japanese teachers’. Secondly, in the both samples, more segregated environments were chosen for students with severe disabilities than for students with moderate disabilities. Finally, teachers’ perceptions were highly affected by each country’s cultural and historical backgrounds, in which the Japanese teachers perceived segregated educational settings were more suitable for students with severe hearing, visual and physical disabilities. Conversely, although Finnish teachers generally recommended more inclusive environments, they were critical to include students with severe intellectual and hearing disabilities, and behavior problems. These findings can be explained by each country’s history of educational system, in particular, how students with different disabilities have been educated and how much effort for integration of those students have been made by the governments. Regarding correlations between teachers’ perceptions of inclusive education and their TSE, it was found that high-efficacy teachers recommended more inclusive placement in the Finnish sample. On the other hand, the Japanese teachers’ TSE was correlated only with the perceptions of the placement for student with moderate disabilities. In other words, even the teachers who hold high self-efficacy for inclusive practices thought that students with severe disabilities are better educated in segregated educational settings. Furthermore, only statistically significant difference in correlation coefficients was found in the correlation between perceptions of students with severe behavior problems and TSE. Greater effect was found in the Finnish sample, that means, the Finnish teachers with higher self-efficacy held more inclusive view on students with severe behavior problems than the Japanese teachers. The overall findings show that it is important to consider sociocultural and historical factors to develop inclusive education.
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