04 SES 06 B, New Approaches To Investigating Teachers' Attitudes And Beliefs Concerning Inclusive Education
Numerous studies have shown teachers as key players in the successful implementation of inclusive education (Miesera & Gebhardt, 2018; Lee, Yeung, Tracey & Barker, 2015), and their attitudes towards inclusion are predictors of the success of inclusion efforts and teaching strategies for both students with and without special educational needs (SEN) (Ruberg & Porsch, 2017). Attitudes are defined as “a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favour or disfavour” (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993, p. 1). They arise through individual biographical development and milieu-specific experiences (Nentwig-Gesemann, Fröhlich-Gildhoff, & Pietsch, 2011). Teachers’ professional attitudes are oriented towards social discourses, whereby specific patterns of interpretation, expectations and role perceptions become part of it (Feyzioğlu, 2012). They are usually seen as relatively stable constructs containing cognitive, affective and behavioural elements (Bizer, Barden, & Petty, 2006).
Preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion are rarely researched, although they play an important role in the successful implementation of inclusion (Lee, Yeung, Tracey & Barker, 2015). Previous studies predominantly focused on attitudes of teachers on the primary and secondary school levels, and very little is known about preschool teachers’ attitudes and the influencing factors (Lee, Yeung, Tracey & Barker, 2015). Similar to many countries in the international context, empirical studies on inclusive early childhood education and attitudes of preschool teachers towards inclusion are also scarce in China and Germany (Tan, 2020; Wiedebusch & Albers, 2016). A number of researchers have made attempts to understand what factors may influence preschool teachers ’attitudes. Attitudes towards inclusion are often not based on ideological arguments, but rather on practical concerns about how inclusive education can be implemented (Malinen, Savolainen & Xu, 2012). From the limited previous studies, it is found that various professional, institution-related and child-related influencing factors are relevant when considering preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education (e.g., Brunner, 2018). The current study will explore Chinese and German preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion from the cognitive, affective and behavioural elements, and explore the potential factors that influence their attitudes.
This study analysis will apply the cultural-historical framework as suggested by Artiles and Dyson (2005). A comparative analysis that takes cultural-historical factors into account will enable the researchers to develop an understanding of variations and identify patterns in the ways in which inclusive education, such as teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education around the globe, is shaped by societal, political, economic and cultural forces (Artiles & Dyson, 2005). Research focusing on teachers’ attitudes by comparing two different countries may shed lights on the role of factors that are context specific, which may generate valuable implications both for inclusive teacher training as well as policy making (Miesera & Gebhardt, 2018; Sharma, Forlin, Loreman, & Earle, 2006). Nevertheless, there have been no studies comparing Chinese and German teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion, let alone preschool teachers’ attitudes. Thus, our study would serve as one of the first endeavours to explore in this direction. This paper thus focuses on the following research questions:
1. What attitudes towards inclusive education do preschool teachers have in China and Germany?
2. Are there any differences between Chinese and German preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education?
3. Are there correlations between Chinese and German preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion and their age, number of professional training, the years of work at the preschool?
The current study intends to apply a cross-cultural analysis of preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education in China and Germany. Convenience sampling was used to recruit the participants. The sample is made up of a total of 304 preschool teachers: 238 teachers (N=219 women) from 26 preschools in Germany and 66 teachers (N=59 women) from two preschools in China participated in the study. The Multidimensional Attitudes towards Preschool Inclusive Education Scale (MATPIES; Lohmann, Wiedebusch, Hensen & Mahat, 2016) was used to collect the data, which was adapted from Mahat's (2008) English version ‘MATIES’ for surveying preschool teachers’ attitudes toward inclusive education in German-speaking countries. This questionnaire was translated into Chinese by the first author in order to be able to assess the same items. The Chinese translation of the scale was then sent to a Master student who majors in translation between Chinese and English in China for proofreading, and any changes were carefully discussed with the first author. MATPIES breaks down attitudes towards inclusive education into cognitive, affective, and behavioural components, which form a scale of the instrument with six items each. It comprises a total of 18 items, which are to be assessed on a six-level rating scale (1: fully disagree to 6: fully agree). Lohmann et al (2016) addressed the validity of this German-adapted instrument and the reliability and validity were adequate (between 0.73 and 0.83). Within our study, the reliability of the scales was tested with Cronbach's Alpha separately for both country contexts. For scale cognitive attitudes, the Cronbach's alpha for German teachers is in the middle range and for Chinese teachers in the acceptable range. For the scale affective attitudes, the Cronbach's alpha of both groups can be described as acceptable, and for the scale behavioural attitudes as good. Firstly, repeated measures ANOVA was applied to compare the assessments of the three subscales for Chinese and German teachers to see whether there are significant differences for teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion from the three attitude elements. We then used repeated measures ANOVA again to examine group differences between Chinese and German preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion. In the end, we applied Bonferroni correction to look into the correlations between teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education and their professional experience, the years of work at the current day care centre, their age, and the number of further education and training courses.
The current article shows both Chinese and German preschool teachers’ positive attitudes towards inclusion while German preschool teachers having a significantly more positive attitude towards inclusion compared to their Chinese counterparts. While German teachers’ cognitive attitudes are only slightly correlated with their ages, Chinese teachers’ cognitive attitudes are more strongly correlated with their teaching years at the current preschool and the number of their training and educational courses. It serves as the first research study that examines and compares Chinese and German preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion and the factors that influence their attitudes (Tan, 2020). It strengthens the validity and generalizability of the MATPIES scale to examine German preschool teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion, and provides first evidence to show the construct validity of the scale in an Eastern cultural context. Two potential reasons could explain the differences between Chinese and German teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion while referring to the previous international comparison studies. German teachers have more positive attitudes towards inclusion than Chinese teachers since inclusive education has a relatively more prominent role in teacher education in Germany, and that the inclusive school system is more established in Germany compared to China (Miesera & Gebhardt, 2018). Secondly, agreeing with Sharma, Forlin, Loreman and Earle (2006), cultural differences like individualism and collectivism may influence Chinese and German teachers’ responses style. As one example of the potential cultural contingency of teachers’ response style, “modesty bias” is very predominant in the collectivist Chinese culture, where to present oneself as average within a group is preferable, likely resulting in lower scores on such measures as attitudes. The cross-cultural analysis reveals interesting similarities that show Chinese and German teacher’ positive attitudes towards inclusion and differences that show how different factors influence their attitudes. Further research is warranted to offer firm answers to explain them.
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