exploring preservice teachers attitudes towards inclusion
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International Journal of Inclusive Education
ISSN: 1360-3116 (Print) 1464-5173 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tied20
Exploring preservice teachers' attitudes towardsinclusion
Isabel Killoran, Dagmara Woronko & Hayley Zaretsky
To cite this article: Isabel Killoran, Dagmara Woronko & Hayley Zaretsky (2014) Exploringpreservice teachers' attitudes towards inclusion, International Journal of Inclusive Education,18:4, 427-442, DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2013.784367
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2013.784367
Published online: 25 Mar 2013.
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Exploring preservice teachers attitudes towards inclusion
Isabel Killoran, Dagmara Woronko and Hayley Zaretsky
Faculty of Education, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Winters 269, Toronto, ON,M3J 1P3, Canada
(Received 19 September 2012; final version received 6 March 2013)
This study responds to a call for research into existing teacher-educationprogrammes and their impact on teacher candidates attitudes. An inclusiveeducation course that examined the difference between soft inclusion (inclusionwhich addresses the issue of place rather than substance of learning) and genuineinclusion was used to explore pre-existing teacher candidate beliefs andassumptions. Using the Opinions Relative to Mainstreaming-Adapted, fourclasses of students from two different teacher-preparation programmes within theFaculty of Education at York University in Toronto, Canada, were surveyed pre-and post-course. A statistically significant change in the scores was found for allof the classes. A significant difference was also found between the changes inscores of the two programme groups. Results indicate that the course wassuccessful at shifting preservice students towards inclusion and gave the studentsa foundation that will hopefully translate into practice.
Keywords: inclusion; attitudes; preservice; teachers; Ontario
Inclusive education of students with disabilities is a matter of human rights, wherebyaccess to quality education is coupled with respect and equity in the learning environ-ment (Moran 2007; Rioux and Pinto 2010). Internationally, Article 24(1) of the Con-vention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations 2006) requiressignatory nations to provide learners with an inclusive educational experience. InOntario, the Ministry of Education aligns inclusive education with rights to non-dis-crimination and dignity under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms andthe Ontario Human Rights Code. The Ministrys Equity and Inclusive Education Strat-egy (2009) emphasises respect for student diversity and the importance of meaningfulparticipation in education for all learners. Successful and equitable inclusive class-rooms necessitate the presence of committed, competent and adaptable teachers. Effec-tive inclusive teachers hold positive attitudes towards children with disabilities, areskilled in delivering curriculum to a diverse population of students and feel confidentin their ability to promote inclusivity in their classrooms (Berry 2010; Blecker andBoakes 2010; Darling-Hammond 2006a; Lancaster and Bain 2010; Ryan 2009). Con-versely, the absence of positive attitudes and a sense of commitment to principles ofinclusion can negatively affect teachers efforts to effectively educate students withdisabilities (Berry 2010; Jordan and Stanovich 2004; Rioux and Pinto 2010). Thisabsence of positive attitudes and practices can also adversely impact peer attitudes
# 2013 Taylor & Francis
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International Journal of Inclusive Education, 2014Vol. 18, No. 4, 427442, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2013.784367
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and intentions to engage socially with children with disabilities (Roberts and Smith1999; Ryan 2009).
Teachers face a number of pressures that may detract from a focus on buildinginclusive communities. Globally, Slee (2006) points to a centralized fast curriculumand pedagogy development and production, high stakes testing, and teaching inspec-tion as enacting barriers to the realisation of inclusion (238). According to Slee(2006), when educators feel compelled to raise student performance in accordancewith uniform standards, disability can easily become understood as a threat in theschool setting (238). Elsewhere, Curcic et al. (2011) discuss how accountability press-ures may detract from collaborative working relationships amongst general and specialeducators, thereby preventing the sense of shared responsibility for all learners. Astrong commitment to the principle of inclusion may help educators navigate thesepressures and begin to enact change at a local level. Promoting positive attitudes andshared responsibility towards inclusion amongst teachers is an important foundationfor the creation of equitable learning environments.
The foundation of positive, equitable and inclusive attitudes towards the educationof students with disabilities can be laid in preservice-teacher-preparation programmes.New teachers, who find themselves struggling with the complex demands and chal-lenges of the inclusive classroom, often cite a lack of adequate preparation as onesource of their frustration (Horne and Timmons 2009; Loreman 2010; Sosu, Mtika,and Colucci-Gray 2010). To address these concerns, teacher-preparation programmesmust design courses that help prospective teachers appreciate environmental, socialand cultural contexts of learning, behaviour and teaching, and be able to enact theseunderstandings in inclusive classrooms serving increasingly diverse students(Darling-Hammond 2006a; Horne and Timmons 2009; Jung 2007; Sosu et al. 2010).
Darling-Hammond (2006b) outlined three fundamental problems associated withlearning to teach inclusively.
(1) The problem of the Apprenticeship of Observation: new teachers must under-stand teaching in ways different from and more complex than their own experi-ences as students.
(2) The problem of Enactment: new teachers must not only learn to think like ateacher, but also to act like a teacher.
(3) The problem of Complexity: new teachers must learn to understand andrespond to the dense and multifaceted nature of the classroom (35).
Teacher-preparation programmes should be responsive to these problems and thechallenges faced by new teachers. Effective preparation needs to address these criticalissues and foster positive attitudes and teaching strategies for inclusive classroom set-tings. Existing teacher-education programmes need to be researched in terms of theirimpact on teacher candidates human qualities, attitudes and practices (Falkenberg 2008).
The following study measures the attitudinal shifts of preservice teacher candidatesafter participation in a 36-hour Inclusive Education course offered in the Faculty ofEducation at York University. York University, located in Toronto, Ontario, is thethird largest university in Canada, with approximately 50,000 students. It has 11 fac-ulties, including the Faculty of Education, one of the largest in Ontario. Preservice
428 I. Killoran et al.
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(Bachelor of Education) students prepare for teaching careers through either a three-year concurrent programme, in which they complete an additional Bachelors simul-taneously, or a one-year consecutive programme, which is done after a Bachelors.Course work requirements are complemented with practicum placements. Preserviceteachers are working towards certification in one of the following division groupings:primary/junior (kindergarten to grade 6); junior/intermediate (grades 410) and inter-mediate/senior (grades 712). This study drew participants from the concurrent pro-gramme and a specialised consecutive cohort at York for those who have alreadygraduated with an early childhood education (ECE) degree or another degree and anECE diploma. Successful graduates of both programmes receive a Bachelor of Edu-cation degree, with a recommendation to the Ontario College of Teachers for teachingcertification (general education).
Within these programmes, some students are offered the opportunity to take a 36-hourcourse on Inclusive Education. In the consecutive programme, the course is offered as anelective only to the primary/junior students who are in the ECE consecutive group. All ofthe concurrent students have the option of choosing the Inclusive Education course as anelective. The ECE consecutive option is offered in a two-week module format, while theconcurrent option is offered over a 12-week term. The concurrent students in the electiveare generally in their second or third year of the programme, have completed a variety ofpractica and may be in any of the division groupings mentioned above (primary throughsecondary). Inclusive Education is a seminar course that focuses on the inclusion of chil-dren with exceptionalities in the general education classroom. [Exceptionalities is usedin reference to identified behaviour, communication, intellectual, physical or multiplelearning needs, including giftedness (MoE 2001, A18A