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Perception of Regular Teachers on Full Inclusion, Capstone Project Example

Pages: 12

Words: 3249

Capstone Project

Introduction

The debate over special education is keeping with the intensified agitation in the modern period of time, with some integration attempts succeeding and others failing. The integration idea emerged in state legislation in The Education of the Handicapped Children Act in 1975, and was further emphasized in the IDEA (1990) stating that:

“to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities … are educated with children who are not disabled, and that special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be attained satisfactorily.” IDEA Sec. 612 (5) (B).

The students with special needs are increasingly introduced in the regular classroom settings with various extents of success: Reynolds and Fletcher-Janzen (2007) note that 20% of children with disabilities from 6 to 9 years old are attacked and involved in fights in school, with 27% of children from 10 to 12 years old, 25% of 13-17-year-old children faced the same problems. Only 50% of schools report to have special needs equipment and services to meet the extended needs of students with disabilities, namely training and counseling services, nursing services, psychological services, physical therapy, and special transportation (Reynolds & Fletcher-Janzen, 2007).

These data show that still little attention is paid to the full integration of students with disabilities into the regular classroom. The logical consequences of lack o preparedness to house students with disabilities include lack of opportunity, segregation and isolation, behavioral conflicts and lower performance rates for special needs students. The role of teachers is also essential in mitigating the conflict: they may serve either the facilitators of students’ integration or the instigators of the conflict in case of lack of training. The present study is therefore concerned with finding out the modern state of affairs in the field of integrated education, identifying the problems preventing integration in fuller extents, and outlining the key issues that have to be addressed to make integrated education of students with disabilities in a regular classroom more effective.

Background of the Study

Education of students with special needs has been actively addressed within the past half of a century. Since the introduction of The Education of the Handicapped Children Act in 1975, the need to guarantee the fullest possible access to education for children with disabilities was recognized, and various policies and regulations have been designed to fit that need (Strosnider, Lyon, & Gartland, 1997). Since then the specific educational needs of students with disabilities have been receiving close attention with the intensified integration attempts. The reformulation of the EHCA into The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1990 the mainstreaming approach has been taken to special needs students (Strosnider et al., 1997). However, mainstreaming was reported to become more of a burden than a breakthrough for students with disabilities, as their performance turned out much lower than that of regular students, resulting in the inability to meet the regular education expectations.

Since then, multiple challenges and outcome of integrated education have come to the forefront of theoretical and practical attention of educators and researchers. The need to identify the realm of challenges students with special needs face in a regular classroom, as well as diverse educational policies to ensure a better integration process may give the proper idea to policymakers about the correct direction of integration implementation. There is a clear need for special education training for regular teachers, the allocation of resources to adapt accommodations and provide special equipment for special needs students. However, there is a set of other behavioral and academic challenges that need to be faced effectively; hence, the need for further research and acquisition of first-hand knowledge of the challenges from teachers is essential.

Research Questions

A set of research questions has been identified for the purposes of the present study:

  1. Do you have any special training in Special Education? (Yes or No)
  2. Have you or do you currently have a student with a disability in your classroom? (Yes or No)
  3. Do you have any training in Special Education? (Yes or No)
  4. What resources do you have available in your classroom to support students with disabilities? (aides, intensive support from administration, SPED teacher)
  5. What accommodations do you utilize?
  6. Do you think the money and available resources you currently have provided by the school is enough to adequately provide a quality instruction to all your students?
  7. What is your biggest challenge and concerns with inclusion of students with disabilities in your classroom?
  8. Do you think that the education of students with disabilities in the general education is a benefit for the student with disabilities? For all students in the classroom? (Yes or No)
  9. Do you spend more time planning for your special education needs student than your regular education student? (Yes or No)
  10. How would you categorize your experience with students with an IEP? (Positive/Negative)

Some questions are closed-ended, providing the researcher only with one answer of two given. However, questions 4-7 are open-ended ones, representing the field for discussion of all possible range of feedback that the interviewed teachers will give.

Literature Review

Integration of students with disabilities into the regular classroom is a challenge for the whole educational system, and it has to be addressed accordingly. With the recognition of the necessity to make schools inclusive, the need for close collaboration between regular and special education teachers has been repeatedly emphasized (Reynolds & Fletcher-Janzen, 2007; Strosnider et al., 1997; Cooley, 2007; Lapp, Flood, & Fisher, 2006. Ignoring special needs of students with disabilities has been assessed as non-productive, and the need for a constructive approach to behavioral and academic tasks in educating students with disabilities was singled out (Lapp et al., 2006). The commitment to inclusion was first addressed in the program of Madeline Will titled Regular Education Initiative (REI). It attempted to unify the effort of regular and special education teachers to provide a comprehensive, helpful and supportive environment for students with disabilities (Lapp et al., 2006; Cooley, 2007). The conclusion on the necessity of inclusion was further on supported by the International Reading Association in 2003 that declared the need of students with disabilities to have access to high-quality teachers in a regular classroom (Lapp et al., 2006).

The policy of inclusion undoubtedly required innovative policies to govern the inclusion process and to identify the special needs of students with disabilities. One of such programs was named Response to Intervention (RTI) and stressed less importance given to labeling disabilities and the need for early assessment of the students’ needs to identify the proper additional instruction techniques whenever necessary (Cooley, 2007). In addition, since the presence of students with disabilities has traditionally been considered disruptive in the classroom, the exceptional role of the teacher in devising the instruction techniques and allocating additional time for student with disabilities’ instruction was also recognized (Lapp et al., 2006).

The role of a teacher in integrating the student with disabilities into a regular classroom is attributed exceptional importance in many aspects. They include the promotion of positive relationships between students with and without disabilities (Slee, 1993), provision of proper education and enlightenment of students without disabilities about existing disabilities to prevent the emergence of fears and misconceptions about the disability their classmate may have (Nielsen, 2008). The teacher should stress the strengths and limitations the student with a disability has to teach other students proper behavior and treatment towards him/her; the success stories of people with disabilities may also help the educator generate a proper attitude of the class to the student with disabilities. Involvement of books, films and other materials for education about disabilities is widely encouraged (Nielsen, 2008).

The decisive importance of teachers in the inclusion process may be proven by the results of the Spanish survey conducted by Cardona (2000); 115 respondents including pre-service and in-service teachers were interviewed on the subject of their attitude to the policy of inclusion in education. The results revealed two diametrically opposite views on the process: the recognition of inclusion as a basic right for students with disabilities having a beneficial effect for students, and as an undesirable tendency because of the teachers’ reluctance to accept responsibility due to the additional workload, lack of skills and scarcity of resources (Cardona, 2000). The present survey shows that there are both reasons for the teacher’s intense participation in the process of inclusion as well as their avoidance of the mentioned practice. Together with the individual biases regarding the inclusion practices, teachers reveal the institutional constraints they face in the process of inclusive education.

However, the legislative provisions of IDEA indicate the attitudes and beliefs teachers should have towards students with disabilities. They should believe that the student can succeed, prepared to receive a student with disabilities in their class, and should collaborate with special education teachers on a regular basis (Including Students with Disabilities in General Education Classrooms, 1993). The schooling environment should also be supportive of the needs of students with disabilities: services and accommodations that fit the needs of students must be available in the school settings, e.g. the rubber thumbs to turn pages, pencil grips, large-type texts etc. (Nielsen, 2008).

Resulting from the consideration of all mandatory requirements for inclusion of special needs students into the educational process, one has to give a proper account of ways of instructional arrangements presupposed by IDEA for students with various kinds of disabilities (Fouse, 1999). They include the regular classroom placement (intended for students not needing any special services, such as those having Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism) , regular classroom placement with special education supports and services (it means full inclusion with special educational needs served in the regular classroom for children with low-functioning autism), and regular classroom placement with Section 504 services, State Compensatory Services (this way also refers to the full inclusion but differs in funding – state funding is allocated) (Fouse, 1999). Other ways of instructional arrangements for students with disabilities include separate classroom instruction.

Research Design and Methodology

The methodology of the present study was chosen due to the investigative purposes thereof; a qualitative approach has been utilized for the analysis of the teachers’ perceptions about the full inclusion of students in the classroom and challenges they face when working with students with disabilities. The study consisted of two stages:

  1. The comprehensive overview of literature available on the issues of teaching students with disabilities in a regular classroom.
  2. 20 mixed-method interviews (including both closed-ended and open-ended questions) with regular classroom teachers of several community schools.

The results of interviews were further on content analyzed, and provided sufficient material for the identification of themes and organization of findings according to the topical significance.

The contact with participants of the study was initiated through personal introduction by the school administration informed about the purposes of the study. Potential respondents were given the proper amount of information on the study aims and were provided with the guarantee of confidentiality before actual participation. Interviews were conducted in the school settings during the teachers’ office hours, that is, in the locations and timeframes convenient for the respondents. To reduce the interviewer bias, the respondents were first presented the closed-ended questions denoting the general areas of research. Open-ended questions were discussed in-depth afterwards, with the proper clarification requested when needed.

The open-ended questions for the interview were generated on the basis of the literature review and previous research dedicated to the full inclusion and education of students with disabilities. The gist of the questions was to elicit information on the following key areas of research representing the utmost importance for the researcher:

Availability of special education for regular teachers

Occurrence of full inclusion in the studied schools

Presence of specific educational needs and challenges faced by regular teachers in cases of having a student with disabilities in the classroom

Availability of accommodations and resources for providing the specific educational needs for students with disabilities

Attitude of regular students and teachers to the full inclusion issue.

All data collected by means of the in-depth interviews were analyzed with the help of a systematic content analysis, allowing to identify the response of the study to objectives and reflection of the key themes distinguished for the study.

Findings

The answers to closed-ended questions are represented in Table 1. The figures indicate the number of respondents who gave this or that answer (total n= 12):

Table 1. Answers to closed-ended questions.

  Yes No
Do you have any special training in Special Education? 8 12
Have you or do you currently have a student with a disability in your classroom? 13 7
Do you have any training in Special Education? 10 10
Do you think that the education of students with disabilities in the general education is a benefit for the student with disabilities? For all students in the classroom? 9 11
Do you spend more time planning for your special education needs student than your regular education student? 14 6
How would you categorize your experience with students with an IEP? Positive

9

Negative

11

As one can see from the results, the overall attitude to the inclusion of students with disabilities into the regular classroom settings turned out dominantly negative, with small numbers of teachers having any (let alone special) training in special education. The question of availability of resources for students with special needs in the classroom varied from the complete absence thereof (mainly in schools teachers of which indicated absence of students with disabilities in the classroom) to the full availability of supportive equipment (e.g. the rubber thumbs, pencil grips, large-font books for students with reading disabilities, special chairs and desks for students with mechanic disorders etc.) The question about the satisfactory amount of resources also showed much disagreement, depending on the type of disabilities students in the classroom had and the amount of resources available. The challenges and concerns teachers experienced also were reported in a diverse way depending on the school and availability of students with disabilities in the classroom. The question of accommodations received several responses, from absence of specific accommodations at all in schools where no students with disabilities were reported, to the provision of all necessary accommodations including elevators, stairs, doorways and classroom furniture. The answers to open-ended questions will be discussed in detail in the next section.

Discussion of Results

Due to the systemic content analysis of respondent’s answers, a set of recurrent themes has been identified to allow the researcher to make conclusions and generalizations relevant to the present study.

Availability of special education training for teachers. Since only four respondents reported their special training in special education, and only half of the respondents (n=10) admitted presence of any training in special educational needs, one can make the conclusion that both prolonged time for preparation, the inability to construct positive relationships in the class and discomfort of regular students arise from lack of proficiency of the teacher in handling the inclusive educational environment. Absence of resources may serve not as decisive in the behavioral aspects of inclusion as may the unpreparedness of the teacher to introduce the student with disabilities into a regular classroom. It is important to note that despite only six teachers reported having special education training thirteen of them actually had students with disabilities, which means that at least three students were managed by an inexperienced and untrained teacher in the classroom. These conclusions mark a clear need for introduction of mandatory special education training for all teachers disregarding their specialty and area of professional activity. A student with a disability may appear in the classroom at any time, so all teachers have to be ready to provide him or her with an adequate level of meeting special needs.

Negative attitude towards students with disabilities. Another recurrent theme noted in the course of interviews was the dominantly negative attitude to the inclusion scheme, both from teachers, and noted to be present in students. Again, the conclusion that can be made from these data is that there is no sufficient inclusion education for teachers and students. Lack of information and proficiency in the disability issues provide the negative feedback of students instigated by the neglect of teachers, which is the core to all other problems deriving from the initial isolation of the student. Surely, some responses included positive feedback of teachers about the experience with students with disabilities, but one should note that the number of teachers reporting the positive experience (n=9) is less than the number of teachers with training (n=10). This fact supposes the lack of congruence in introducing the inclusion program, the possible lack of experience or behavioral problems preventing to build the positive, supportive environment for all students.

Availability of resources and the specificity of environment for the student with disabilities. Only a half of respondents reported the adequate amount of resources for students with disabilities, and eight respondents ensured the adequate accommodations for them. What is important to note, is that two of respondents indicated absence of students with disabilities in their class and the school on the whole, which shows the dramatic shortage of resources in the schools with students with disabilities. This shortage may become the main reason for negative experiences of teachers and students urged to help students with disabilities and feeling constraints on the educational process, time loss and inconvenience resulting from that shortage.

Conclusion

The present study has revealed that despite the tendency of introducing the inclusion education practices nationwide and worldwide, there are still many drawbacks of the system of providing adequate resources and training to meet the needs of students with disabilities. The theoretical framework for inclusion is sound enough to provide for the diverse needs of students with disabilities, but the practical aspect of inclusion is still far from being ideal. The reality shows that provision of housing students in a regular school is not the precondition of the sufficient education and environment for them. Additional training and continuous collaboration with special education teachers is needed to meet the needs of students with disabilities. Accommodation and resources to meet their physical needs are a must to provide an uninterrupted and constructive educational process. Hence, the provision of those conditions should become the issue of utmost importance for policymakers and executives in the area of special and regular education both at the federal and state levels.

References

Cardona, C.M. (2000). Regular Classroom Teachers’ Perceptions of Inclusion: Implications for Teacher Preparation Programs in Spain. In C.W. Day & D. van Deen. Educational research in Europe: yearbook 2000. Leuven-Apeldoorn: Garant.

Cooley, M.L. (2007). Teaching Kids With Mental Health and Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom: How to Recognize, Understand, and Help Challenged (And Challenging) Students Succeed. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing.

Fouse, B. (1999). Creating a Win-Win IEP for Students with Autism: A How-To Manual for Parents and Educators. (2nd ed.). Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.

IDEA—the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1990). National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. Retrieved October 11, 2010, from http://www.nichcy.org/Laws/IDEA/Pages/Default.aspx

Including Students with Disabilities in General Education Classrooms (1993). ERIC Digest #E521. Retrieved October 11, 2010, from http://www.ericdigests.org/1993/general.htm

Lapp, D., Flood, J., Brock, C.H., & Fisher, D. (2006). Teaching Reading to Every Child. (4th ed.). New York: Routledge.

Nielsen, L.B. (2008). Brief reference of student disabilities –with strategies for the classroom. (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Reynolds, C.R., & Fletcher-Janzen, E. (2007). Encyclopedia of Special Education: A Reference for the Education of Children, Adolescents, and Adults With Disabilities and Other Exceptional Individuals. (3rd ed.). San Francisco: John Wiley and Sons.

Slee, R. (1993). Is there a desk with my name on it?: the politics of integration. New York: Routledge.

Strosnider, R. Lyon, C., & Gartland, D. (1997). Including students with disabilities into the regular classroom. Education, Vol. 117, pp. 234-241.

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