04 SES 09 A, Attitudes towards Students with SEN in Mainstream Schools
Over the past decades, the field of special needs education has moved from a segregation paradigm through integration to a point where inclusion is central to contemporary discourse. Students with SEN, generally defined as ‘students with various (combinations of) impairments and/or difficulties in participating in education (Pijl, Frostad, & Flem, 2008, p. 389)’, are increasingly been educated in regular schools. One of the factors that is often linked to a succesful implementation of inclusion is the attitude of people involved (i.e., classmates, parents, teachers,…) towards inclusion. Research has found that positive attitudes of for instance teachers, classmates or friends towards students with SEN can facilitate the outcomes of inclusion for students with SEN. Therefore, assessing the attitudes may be an important step towards succesful inclusion of students with SEN.
Attitudes are often described as a multidimensional concept, including an (a) affective component, involving statements of feelings towards children with disabilities, (b) behavioral component, involving statements about actual or intended behavior towards children with disabilities and (c) cognitive component, involving statements about beliefs and knowledge. about children with disabilities (Triandis, 1971). Attitudes are also described as ‘‘learned predispositions reflecting how favorable or unfavorable people are towards other people, objects or events’’ (Triandis, 1971, p. 266). Consequently, attitudes are assumed to be subject to change. However, before we can change attitudes, we need a comprehensive insight in the attitudes of different people involved in inclusive education, an insight in factors influencing these attitudes and as such psychometrically sound instruments to measure these attitudes.
This symposium addresses several aspects of the attitudes towards students with SEN in mainstream schools from different perspectives (i.e., in-service teachers, pre-service teachers, students and working people) in three different countries, i.e., Austria, England and Belgium. The paper presented by Elias Avramidis elicits in-service teachers’ experiences and attitudes towards inclusion in the North of England. Teacher attitudes were explored with reference to the institutional contexts and to wider Local Authority’s policies. The second paper, presented by Katja Petry, addresses the attitudes of pre-service teachers in Flanders towards students with SEN in mainstream schools and the effect of factors such as teacher training programs, subjects/courses in special needs education, type of disability, experience with persons with disabilities and knowledge of policy and law on the attitudes of pre-service teachers. The third paper by Susanne Schwab and Markus Gebhart, presents the construction and psychometric validation of the Attitudes Towards Integration Scale (ATIS), a case-based scale that has the potential to measure the attitudes towards inclusion of layman with little or no experience with the inclusion of students with SEN.
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