04 SES 01 D, Attitudes Towards Inclusive Education: How Much They Affect Future Teachers Training?
By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN, 2006), Austria agreed to implementing an inclusive educations system. In an inclusive school, diversity is understood as an asset rather than a challenge (Sliwka, 2010). In Austria, currently approximately 65% of the students with disabilities are taught in inclusive classrooms (Statistik Austria, 2019). By implementing a new curriculum in teacher education in 2013 (BMBWF, 2019), Austria set an important step towards a more inclusive school system.
Recent political developments, however, do not necessarily aim at the same direction. Government currently intends to strengthen exclusive tendencies in the education system (Bundeskanzleramt, 2018). By the way of example, students with another first language than German (being the language of instruction in Austria) have been taught in separate classrooms since last year (BMBWF, 2018). With a broad understanding of inclusion as it is, for example, described by the UNESCO (2009) or by Ainscow, Booth and Dyson (2009), inclusion considers all different kinds of students. Ainscow et al. (2009, p.25) describe inclusion as being “concerned with all children and young people in schools; it is focused on presence, participation and achievement; inclusion and exclusion are linked together such that inclusion involves the active combating of exclusion”. In this understanding, not only students with special educational needs (SEN) are the focus of inclusive intentions. Similarly, refugee students, who speak another first language than the language of instruction should, hence, be taught in an inclusive classroom.
Studies have reported that future teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion in general are rather positive (for Austria: Schwab & Seifert, 2014). Yet, some concerns are often mentioned when it comes to including certain groups of students into mainstream classrooms. The type of disability has been frequently reported to influence teachers’ attitudes. Students with social-emotional difficulties were often seen as particularly challenging to integrate (e.g. Svecnik, Sixt, & Pieslinger, 2017).
Bešić, Paleczek and Gasteiger-Klicpera (2018) have shown that the general public’s attitude towards inclusion into primary school is influenced by several student characteristics. Gender, refugee status and type of disability played important roles and intersectional disadvantages could be shown. This study – as others (Bešić, Paleczek, Krammer, & Gasteiger-Klicpera, 2018) – has not separated the refugee status from German language skills. In the present study, this intertwining of characteristics is taken into account.
Additionally, the attitudes of future teachers towards inclusion of students in mainstream classrooms (in the broader understanding of inclusion that takes all students – not only those with SEN – into account) have not been focus of research. Since future teachers and their attitudes are crucial factors to successful inclusion, we also wanted to gain more knowledge in this area.
Therefore, the following research questions emerged:
- Do future teachers feel prepared to teach in inclusive classrooms?
- Which groups of students do future teachers perceive as easier to include?
- What do future teachers expect from teacher trainings in order to feel prepared for teaching in diverse classrooms (i.e. content)?
To answer these questions, we used a mixed methods design. Twelve future teachers were interviewed (average duration one hour). The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analyzed using theory based content analysis. The focus of the interviews was on the future teachers’ attitudes towards the inclusion of certain children into mainstream classrooms as well as their experiences of theory-practice-transfer concerning teaching in diverse classrooms. The interviewees were undergraduate students from semester 4 to 6. All of them had already some experience in teaching in diverse classrooms. Additionally, 187 future teachers answered an online questionnaire. The respondents were between 18 and 44 years old (M=21.8; SD=4.2) and studied at Austrian teachers colleges (first to seventh semester; 88.1% female). The respondents answered the online questionnaire during courses at teachers college. The questionnaire consisted of three sections: (a) future teachers’ background information (age, semester, books at home, etc.), (b) a scale (8-point-Likert scale ranging from strong disagreement to strong agreement for 14 statements) concerning the attitudes towards inclusive education for (c) a student described in one of eight different case descriptions (labels). The labels described combinations of certain characteristics (refugee vs. non-refugee, social-emotional difficulties, physical disability, refugee with no German language skills vs. good German language skills) taking into account the intersection of characteristics. By the way of example, a refugee student with social-emotional difficulties and no German language skills was described by following label: ‘A nine-year-old child who was born in Syria arrived in Austria two weeks ago. The child does not speak or understand German. The child is supposed to enroll in a Grade 3 primary school classroom close to where you live. The child has social-emotional difficulties: non-compliance, unwilling to follow directions, restless with difficulties to concentrate.’
In general, the twelve interviewed students described their attitude towards inclusion as positive. Even though they mentioned the existence of some basic skills teachers need to have to facilitate successful inclusion (such as patience, empathy, trust), future teachers stressed that there are also specific skills required that depend on the student’s situation. Regarding refugee students in particular, most of the interviewees mentioned knowledge about trauma reactions as an important requirement for successful inclusion. However, they did not feel sufficiently prepared in this area. As one of the most important factors on the path towards successful inclusion, future teachers emphasized the need of practice and experience. Concerning the online questionnaire, an ANOVA (F7,179=3.476; p=0.002) with post-hoc comparisons revealed that a non-refugee child who was described by the label with social-emotional difficulties was rated as significantly more challenging to include than (a) a non-refugee child with a physical disability, (b) a refugee child with good German language skills and a physical disability (c) a refugee child without disabilities and good German language skills. There was no significant difference between future teachers’ attitudes towards the other labels. Hence, the German language skills of the described child were not connected to the attitudes of the respondents. Future teachers do not seem to perceive the lack of German language skills as a challenge to inclusive education (unlike the Austrian government). There seem to be a dearth of knowledge about how to successfully include students with social-emotional difficulties. These results are discussed in an international light, focusing on offers that need to be part of teacher education as well as training.
Ainscow, M., Booth, A., & Dyson, A. (2009). Inclusion and the Standards Agenda: Negotiating Policy Pressures in England. In P. Hick & G. Thomas (Eds.), SAGE library of educational thought and practice. Inclusion and diversity in education (pp. 14–28). Los Angeles, Calif.: SAGE. Bešić, E., Paleczek, L., & Gasteiger-Klicpera, B. (2018). Don’t forget about us: attitudes towards the inclusion of refugee children with(out) disabilities. International Journal of Inclusive Education. Bešić, E., Paleczek, L., Rossmann, P., Krammer, M., & Gasteiger-Klicpera, B. (2018). Attitudes towards inclusion of refugee girls with and without disabilities in Austrian primary schools. International Journal of Inclusive Education. Bundeskanzleramt (2018). Zusammen. Für unser Österreich. Regierungsprogramm 2017-2022. Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung (BMBWF) (2019). Pädagog/innenbildung Neu. Retrieved from https://bildung.bmbwf.gv.at/schulen/pbneu/index.html Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung (BMBWF) (2018). Deutschförderklassen und Deutschförderkurse. Leitfaden für Schulleiterinnen und Schulleiter. Retrieved from https://bildung.bmbwf.gv.at/schulen/unterricht/ba/deutschfoerderklassen.pdf?6hwy6c Schwab, S., & Seifert, S. (2014). Einstellungen von Lehramtsstudierenden und Pädagogikstudierenden zur schulischen Inklusion – Ergebnisse einer quantitativen Untersuchung. Zeitschrift für Bildungsforschung. 5 (1), 73-87. Statistik Austria (2019). Schülerinnen und Schüler mit sonderpädagogischen Förderbedarf 2017/18. Retrieved from http://statistik.at/web_de/statistiken/menschen_und_gesellschaft/bildung_und_kultur/formales_bildungswesen/schulen_schulbesuch/029658.html Svecnik, E., Sixt, U., & Pieslinger, C. (2017). Wissenschaftliche Begleitung der Inklusiven Modellregionen: Einschätzung der Ausgangssituation durch Schulaufsichtsorgane, Schulleiter/innen, Leiter/innen von ZIS/PBZ und regionale Leitungspersonen von (außerschulischen) Unterstützungseinrichtungen. Graz: bifie. http://www.bifie.at/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Inklusive_Modellregionen_final.pdf UN (2006). Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilitis and Optional Protocol. UNESCO (2009). Policy Guidelines on Inclusion in Education. Paris: UNESCO.
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