04 SES 07 C, Teachers' Perspectives On Inclusion: Taking Stock
The inclusion of students with disabilities in general education classrooms is a worldwide trend that has motivated several governments to implement policies congruent with such aim. Such policies alone, however, cannot ensure that inclusion is favorably accepted and successfully fulfilled by those most responsible for its effective implementation, that is, teachers (Campbell, Gilmore & Cuskelly, 2003; Vieira-Rodrigues & Sanches-Ferreira, 2017). In fact, the successful implementation of inclusive education largely depends on what teachers – as key elements of the whole educational process – think and do in their classrooms. This assumption underlies the relation between personal beliefs and behaviours evidenced in teachers’ practices towards children with disabilities and has led to numerous studies on teachers’ attitudes of inclusive education and beliefs about their ability to teach all children in general classrooms (e.g., Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; Forlin, 2001; Lee, Tracey, Barker, & Fana, 2014; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1996). A study examining the perspectives of 330 elementary school general and special education teachers regarding inclusive education, made possible to identify teachers’ profiles based on their opinions as inclusive, integrators and segregators (Sanches-Ferreira, 2007). Inclusive teachers were identified as those that believe in inclusive principles, perceive differences as a value, value more favourably the importance of pedagogical knowledge and are particularly flexible to implement teaching accommodations and to make them effective.
This paper aims to examine the opinion of Portuguese general education teachers regarding the inclusion of children with disabilities in general classrooms, evaluated at two moments over the past 15 years.
Two studies were conducted following a similar methodology, one in 2006 and the other in 2016. Four-hundred forty-eight teachers participated in the first study and two-hundred forty-four teachers in the second study. Teachers worked in public and private schools in two geographical regions of Portugal. These schools were located in Porto and Madeira and were randomly selected from a list of schools located in these regions. Teachers’ opinions regarding inclusion were collected through a questionnaire consisting of five short descriptions of students’ functioning – vignettes compatible with different disabling conditions – and eight questions for each vignette. These questions sought for teachers’ acceptance of the student described in each vignette in their classroom, variables that influence that acceptance and the past experience with similar situations.
The findings showed that the acceptance of a child with disabilities in the general education classroom depends on the disabling condition the child presents. In this sense, both studies demonstrate higher levels of acceptance of children with ADHD in comparison to children with cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder. In 2006, the more accepted disabling conditions – ADHD, intellectual disability and learning difficulties – were the ones that teachers considered to have less knowledge to teach and that less benefit from being in the general classroom, when comparing with the other more severe disabling conditions, such as cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder. This finding needs to be read in the context of its occurrence. In 2006, teachers were struggling with the presence of children ADHD, intellectual disability and learning difficulties in the classroom. The presence of children with cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder was not a reality and, therefore, did not trigger questions such as the perception of the knowledge to teach or the time-consuming situation for the group. In 2016, the number of teachers reporting their confidence to teach students with ADHD, intellectual disability and learning difficulties had significantly improved, suggesting that the inclusion of these disabling conditions in general classrooms was already embedded on teachers’ daily routine. On the other hand, teachers reported the lack of knowledge to teach students with cerebral palsy and autism spectrum disorder. In fact, the presence of these disabling conditions in general classroom is more recent. The findings suggest that teachers become progressively more confident about their knowledge and less critical of the time consumed in teaching as they gain experience in dealing with students with disabilities. Teachers need time to convert the inclusion of children with disabilities into a routine.
Avramidis, E. & Norwich, B. (2002). Teachers’ attitudes towards integration/inclusion: a review of the literature. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 17 (2), 129-147. Campbell, J., Gilmore, L., & Cuskelly, M. (2003). Changing student teachers' attitudes towards disability and inclusion. Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 28(4), pp. 369-379. Dawson, H., & Scott, L. (2013) Teaching Students With Disabilities Efficacy Scale: Development and Validation. Inclusion, 1(3), 181-196. Forlin, C. (2001) Inclusion: Identifying potential stressors for regular class teachers. Educational Research, 43 (3), 235-245. Lee, F., Tracey, D., Barker, K., Fana, J. (2014). What predicts teachers’ acceptance of students with special educational needs in kindergarten. Australian Journal of Educational & Developmental Psychology, 14, 60-70. Sanches-Ferreira, M. (2007). Educação Especial Educação Regular, Uma História de Separação. Porto: Afrontamento. Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (1996). Teacher Perceptions of Mainstreaming/Inclusion, 1958–1995: A Research Synthesis. Exceptional Children, 63(1), 59-74. doi: 10.1177/001440299606300106 Vieira-Rodrigues, M. & Sanches-Ferreira, M. (2017). A Inclusão de Crianças com Necessidades Educativas Especiais no Ensino Regular em Portugal: a Opinião de Educadores de Infância e de Professores do 1º Ciclo do Ensino Público e Privado [The Inclusion of Children with Special Educational Needs in Regular Education in Portugal: The Opinion of Early Childhood Educators and Teachers of the 1st Cycle of Public and Private Education]. Revista Brasileira de Educação Especial, 23(1), 37-52. (SCOPUS: Q2)
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