Teachers Training And Attitudes Towards The Inclusion Of Children With Special Educational Needs In russian Schools
Summary of Findings
The survey conducted during the process revealed a number of significant results based on the research objectives. In terms of the respondents’ awareness of students with special educational needs, majority of the teachers are familiar with this educational aspect. In addition, majority of the respondents are handling or have handled students with SEN. Most of the respondents also claimed that they were able to identify students with SEN by themselves. This however, appears to contradict on the apparent lack of training the respondents had gone through in relation to SEN management. Though there had been seminars for SEN management organized by local authorities, the lack of coordination between these authorities and the central government of Greece.
The participants also claimed that their lack of strong background or knowledge for managing children with SEN is typically worked out through research for further and more updated information from various publications. Survey results also indicated that majority of the respondents have not yet experienced designing educational programs for students with SEN. This has been related to the inflexibility of the Greek school curriculum as well as the lack of equipment for designing or conducting SEN programs.
The correlation analysis done for various survey variables also indicated significant relationships particularly in the attitude teachers have towards inclusion. The results showed that are very much open to the inclusion issue of students with SEN considering that majority of the participants have experienced handling SEN students; moreover, schools they are employed at also regularly discuss various possibilities for improving the management of students with special educational needs. The level of training, experience as well as the interest of the teachers to know more about SEN management appears to be related to their attitude towards inclusion as well. In particular, teachers who have SEN pupils in their classrooms believe in the capability of inclusion. Teachers who are also active in searching for additional resources regarding SEN management are those who have experienced handling SEN students.
Furthermore, teachers who have attended SEN seminars made them more confident and prepared in managing students with special educational needs. The results as well as the analysis then indicated that teachers who are not trained enough for SEN management or have less experience with SEN pupils have reduced drive to conduct their own researches that will improve their SEN teaching skills. In sum, training and experience play a crucial role in the attitude of the teachers towards inclusion.
Requirements for Inclusion
The results of this study clearly indicate that in order to promote a positive attitude on inclusion among teachers, certain requirements must be met. Several researches previously conducted had indicated these important requirements. These requirements are also necessary in order to support the learning of students with SEN. One of these essential requirements is sufficient funding. This particular requirement is necessary to support the establishment of learning institutions fit for the needs of students with SEN, conduction of trainings for teachers, development and assessment of SEN programs as well as enhancing existing teaching approaches. A total of 28 survey reports from 1958 to 1995 had been analyzed by (1996) and cited various requirements that teachers need in order to support SEN management and inclusion. These requirements include training, time, personnel resources and teaching materials such as curriculum resources and equipment.
Other authors have stressed that in order to make inclusion work for children with special educational needs, the curriculum should undergo total restructuring and radical changes. The utilization of separate curricula further promotes exclusion of students with special needs from those who can learn normally; thus, this requirement is essential (1997; 1994). Though this is considered a requirement, it should be noted that changing the curriculum to successfully carry out inclusion of SEN students is a challenging task. There are several reasons that support this statement.
The problems related on the formulation of the curriculum have always been connected to the inabilities of the children, when in fact such issue is brought about by curriculum inadequacy. Alongside this issue, others have argued on whether curriculum that was developed by special educators for disabled students should be so readily discarded. Although the curriculum for inclusion has been modified to suit the educational needs of the students, there is still a growing pressure for special schools to follow a core curriculum similar to the one applied in mainstream schools (1997).
Certain dilemmas and difficulties are encountered in designing a common curriculum that will meet all students’ need. For instance, students with disabilities may require special methods of instruction to compensate for their disability, or they may need special equipment or communication technology to enable them to learn from an unmodified curriculum (1997).
Inclusion, as well as the implementation of a modified curriculum, may be seem to be impractical and uneconomical for some as the closure of special schools and classes imply an end to many of the resources, expertise and other benefits. If disabled children will be included into mainstream schools, the outcome will not only require the utilization of many resources needed by students with disabilities, but this will also place unfair burden on regular class teachers who are attempting to face several changes implied by the restructuring of the education system as a whole (1997).
Aside from changing the curriculum, relevant literatures also stressed the significance of training the teachers and instructors who will handle such classes. The people who will implement and take charge of the implementation, as well as those who will monitor and evaluate the outcomes of inclusion, should be properly designated and trained. For this purpose, the quality of teaching should be based on the different needs of students. Teachers should be able to sort out special children’s behavior and able to cope environment with the lack of resources. Professional training is not the only necessary and essential qualities educators should possess. Experience, ability, passion, and patience for the children with difficulties are also important and should be part of the training.
Aside from the curriculum and training, (1997) also noted that an environment that will ensure maximum interaction among students with learning disabilities and their peers is also an important requirement for inclusion. (1989) identified specific environmental requirements that would support the success of inclusion for SEN students. Specifically, classroom and learning environments should be age appropriate; close enough to the students’ home in order to minimize excessive time spent on traveling to school; provide program interaction within the school building; procedures shall be implemented to encourage interaction between students with disabilities and non-disabled students; and no more than ten percent of students in any school should have severe disabilities. It should be noted however that developing an environment appropriate for inclusion should not be based on Sailor’s view alone, but other needs and support should be considered and provided to the students as well.
Another important requirement of inclusion identified in this study is the presence of coordination among involved parties. The survey and results analysis of the study indicated that though there had been available training programs provided by the local authorities, the attendance to these seminars appears to be low; knowledge of the Greek educational setting implied that this matter is most likely brought about by the local authorities lack of coordination with the central government. With limited support from essential parties for inclusion implementation, this educational approach will continuously encounter obstacles such as unprepared instructors and negative views. Thus, in order for inclusion to work and be accepted, collaboration of important departments should be maintained. In particular, parents, teachers and other education professionals should work together in order to achieve inclusion success (1995).
Collaboration among teams for inclusion success depends greatly on their ability to combine teaching skills, work principles and responsibilities together (1990). By means of working as a team, gaps among educators can be reduced. In turn, this can enable them to make the most of each other’s professional expertise. For instance, general education instructors can share their knowledge for basic instruction curriculum and processes while special education teachers can share how to adapt other instruction and intervention techniques (1992).
The collaboration of the involved parties however, can be a challenging requirement to meet. Due to differences in personalities, preferences and ideas, conflicts among team members are likely. Among educators, the differences in their educational level could also be a source of conflict, affecting the success of applying inclusion. In this case, it is essential that the responsibility of each member is clearly defined. As stated by and associates (1993), the clarification of the member’s roles is considered the most significant element of applying collaboration as an inclusion requirement. It is also important that the educators must know how to express their expectations on teaching styles and student performance.
Attitude towards Inclusion
The findings of this study indicated that without the presence of the said requirements SEN management and the process of inclusion for students with special needs may not result to good learning outcomes. The results also stressed that the attitude of the teachers towards inclusion greatly depends on the level these SEN requirements are provided or made available. A number of studies had also explained this research outcome. The study of and associates (1996) for instance, aimed to determine the perception of both mainstream and special educators’ towards inclusion through the use of focus group interviews.
The research concluded that the majority of the respondents who were not participating in any inclusive programs had strong negative thoughts and feelings about inclusion. Moreover, the participants stated that such system was impractical for decision makers to implement as it is not applicable to classroom realities. The teachers identified several factors that would affect the success of inclusion, including class size, inadequate resources, the extent to which all students would benefit from inclusion and lack of adequate teacher preparation ( 1996). This conclusion emphasizes that the lack of awareness or background on inclusion can make educators hesitant of applying this concept. Furthermore, the lack of training or knowledge regarding inclusion makes them incapable of realizing the positive side of allowing SEN students to attend mainstream schools.
(1992) conducted a similar research using secondary school teachers as respondents. Results showed that the differing levels of education of the teachers are an important determinant of their attitude towards the inclusion of handicapped children. Specifically, teachers who had completed a special education coursework have a more positive attitude towards inclusion. Similarly, a more positive attitude towards inclusion was displayed by teachers who had gone through inclusion in-service training than those without such training.
(2000) stated in their previous research that effective training for SEN educators play a crucial role in influencing their attitude towards inclusion. In a number of surveys, the significance of training for SEN educators has been overly stressed (1994). Not only does training enhance the capabilities of teachers, more importantly, training facilitates the establishment of positive attitude towards inclusion. This has been supported by the research results obtained by (1990) and (1992), which used tertiary college teachers as participants. Both studies were done in order to determine the attitude of the teachers towards the inclusion of SEN students to mainstream college courses. The findings indicated that teachers who received sufficient training to handle students with SEN expressed more positive attitudes and reactions on inclusion as compared to those who have not.
(1983) have stated that the ability or skills of the instructors to teach the students with special learning needs helps in fostering a positive attitude among teachers towards inclusion. Another study also concluded that the amount of knowledge as well as contact with SEN students influence the beliefs and attitudes of the teachers on inclusion and SEN management (1986). A more recent research noted that increasing the knowledge of the instructors on the inclusion of students with special educational needs could serve as a means of reducing the negative attitude of the teachers towards inclusion (1997).
The significance of knowledge and training background in influencing the attitude among teachers towards inclusion has been stressed in the research done by (2000). Using 125 teachers from a suburban high school in Texas, the researcher made use of an inclusion survey in order to measure the attitude of the participants on inclusion. The survey, structured in four-point Likert format, considered four aspects which include academic climate, social adjustment on the part of the students, teacher training and academic content/teacher effectiveness. The researcher made use of ANOVA in order to analyze the data gathered. Based from the results, teachers who obtained a higher level of training for special education as well as those who have more experience handling SEN students were found to express more positive attitudes towards inclusion.
The research also revealed that teachers who have a negative perception towards inclusion view this educational approach as a hindrance to existing teaching practices and responsibilities. These teachers believe that instructors who are not prepared enough to handle inclusion can negatively affect the well-being and education of the students with special learning needs. Several researches in the past ( 1997; 1996) had also reported similar results where the negative outcomes of inclusion are often attributed to the teachers’ lack of support and training. On the other hand, the lack of confidence instructors have in handling inclusion may also speak of inadequate knowledge, skills and training. This study also revealed similar findings as the current study wherein teachers who have a positive attitude towards inclusion have the willingness to be assigned in mainstream schools with SEN students as well as search for additional information or educational practices that could help these students.
Aside from knowledge and strong background about inclusion, the results of this research found out that the experience of the teachers on handling students with special educational needs is also an important influence on the attitude of the teachers towards inclusion. The research of (1996) also obtained similar findings. For a span of the three years the researchers studied the impact of inclusion in the state of Michigan. The findings showed that as the teachers gain more experience handling children with SEN increases, their confidence to teach children in inclusion settings also increases. The research finding seems to indicate that teachers’ negative or neutral attitudes at the beginning of an innovation such as inclusive education may change over time as a function of experience and the expertise that develops through the process of implementation. This finding is also similar to the ones obtained from previous studies.
The study conducted by and colleagues (1996) also obtained similar research results. The researchers found out that their participants favored the inclusion of children with SEN in mainstream schools. The researchers noted that teacher commitment often emerges at the end of the implementation cycle, after the teachers have gained mastery of the professional expertise needed to implement inclusive programs. This observation clearly suggest that as educators go through sufficient training and gain considerable experience teaching SEN pupils, the attitude of the educators on inclusion become positive as well. Experience was also identified as an important influence to the teachers studied in Colorado (1992). In this study, the researchers found that compared to regular teachers, instructors of special education expressed a more positive outlook on inclusion; this indicates that the experience of the latter influence their attitude towards the inclusion of SEN students to mainstream schools.
Some studies made a general conclusion on the factors that influence the attitude of the educators on SEN management and inclusion. (1991) for example, asserted that the nature and level of support teachers receive are the most important determinants of attitude towards inclusion. Using the UK context, the researchers gave this conclusion based on the observed variations in the support provided by the Local Education Authority (LEA); the attitude of the local teachers on inclusion tend to vary as they receive different levels of support services, staffing and capitation.
Differing level of promotion for inclusion also affect the attitude of the teachers. Specifically, various authors (1998; 1990) stated that while other areas are actively promoting inclusive education for students with special educational needs, other locations go through slow education developments and changes. This then result to different levels of awareness and acceptance for inclusion.
The results as well as the discussion of this study clearly indicate the requirements and the attitude of the teachers towards inclusion are related to one another and contribute to its success. Inclusion must have access to various important requirements to be effective; the availability of these requirements on the other hand, does not only support the success of inclusion but also the development of a more positive attitude towards this educational approach. As expressed by a number of authors, how educators perceive various innovative education programs such as inclusion is considered one of the most important determinants of success.
Considering these findings, the implementation of the inclusion approach in the Greek education setting should then consider the beliefs and attitudes of the teachers and administrators towards inclusion. Though there were respondents who were positive about the inclusion approach, it is apparent that the teachers lack the training to handle SEN students in mainstream classes. It is then essential that the requirements for inclusion success are provided. For example, in order to increase the teachers’ level of awareness and background on inclusion, schools should play a big role in enhancing the knowledge of their instructors. Not only will this help teachers apply the proper approach for SEN management, but this will also be useful in resolving attitude issues related to inclusion. Those with little or no training at all on special education should be supported more that just the provision of one-shot orientation or one-day seminars. Continuous training and staff development opportunities that would lessen the teachers’ anxiety or resistance to inclusion should be provided instead.
As explained in the discussion, teachers should have access to various resources and teaching materials that will boost their confidence in teaching special students in mainstream classrooms. Training programs should then be designed in such a way that the participants can learn useful instructional procedures or view demonstrations for managing inclusive classes. Teachers should also be trained on how to use planning routines, instructional methods and techniques effectively to meet the needs of all their students. The training seminars and workshops for teachers should also include other useful teaching techniques and strategies such as behavioral management, curriculum-based measurement, team-teaching approaches, in-school networking as well as class-wide peer tutoring practices in order to allow for more intensive and focused instruction.
As inclusion would involve the placement of SEN students in mainstream schools, teachers who will handle these classes may also need coaching or training on how to handle the needs of the students other than learning. They may need to learn how to manage students with health, physical or sensory impairments and chronic learning problems. Teaching the teachers these techniques to the teachers will improve their preparedness for inclusion, enabling them to be more positive towards this approach. These programs should also enable the teachers to share their teaching and learning beliefs to each other; this will help them resolve their issues with inclusion as well as learn from other participating teachers. With this feature, collaboration among educators will also be facilitated. In order to gain considerable experience, teachers who will handle inclusive classes should be given the time to adjust to the new approach. In addition, a feedback system should be developed once this approach is applied; through this problem areas and issues can be addressed right away.
In terms of collaboration, school administrators should coordinate well with other helpful parties such as local education departments, the parents and the government. Rather than conduct different training programs, the level of special education knowledge among Greek teachers should be standardized. With this approach, teachers, even from different school areas, will have a good background on inclusion and SEN management.
An official agency or organization focusing on the development of children with special educational needs can probably be established to maintain teamwork among the cited parties. In this way, information exchange and communication among these groups will be easier; conflicts will also be minimized or addressed immediately. Having an official organization for this purpose will also ensure of the continuous development on the application of inclusion and the practice of SEN management in the country.
In general, school administrators, teachers, parents and relevant departments should develop a common objective for students with special learning needs. This will allow them to act in accordance to the achievement of this common educational goal. Educators on the other hand, should work together in order to give the best learning experience to the students, especially those with special needs. Efforts to develop and apply new teaching approaches should then be a continuous practice. Furthermore, means of fostering positive attitudes towards these new approaches should be utilized so as to achieve innovation success.
Inclusion involves the reorganization of mainstream schools, in such a way that every school is capable of accommodating all students irregardless of their disabilities. The principle behind inclusion is founded on the broad agenda of human rights wherein segregation of any from is considered morally incorrect. Previous researches have cited the advantages of this education strategy to the learning development of students with special educational needs.
Despite its benefits, educators express different attitudes towards inclusion. This study was then conducted in order to learn more about the training Greek teachers undergo to prepare themselves for inclusion as well as their attitude towards it. A total of 149 teachers were then asked to participate in a survey process. Results of the questionnaire were totaled and analyzed afterwards. Significant variables were also correlated.
The findings of the survey revealed that majority of the respondents are familiar with SEN and students who have them. However, the research also found out that this awareness is not supported by adequate trainings or educational background. Though some of the respondents conduct their own researches to enhance their knowledge on SEN, majority did not receive any strong support that will make them more competent in handling inclusion. There were also seminars available for SEN management; nonetheless, only a few can attend them due to inadequate coordination among organizers and authorities. The respondents also cited that their experience in developing programs for SEN students is also limited mainly due to insufficient equipment and inflexible curriculum.
In the correlation analysis, other significant information was also gathered. Specifically, the analysis indicated that respondents who have gone through SEN training and seminars were the ones who realize the importance of inclusion for the special students. This has been indicated by their interest to attend relevant seminars and conduct personal researches for knowledge enrichment. In addition, teachers who are driven to learn more about SEN management and inclusion are those who have considerable experience in handling such students. From these results, a number of important findings can be drawn.
One of these important findings is that the efficacy of implementing inclusion depends on the availability of essential requirements. Training, curriculum modifications as well as the collaboration of relevant parties had been identified as essential from the results of this study. Gathered literatures have also cited similar requirements for inclusion. The essence of having these requirements present is not only for the achievement of inclusion success but also on the development of more positive attitudes towards it, especially among the educators.
As cited in other literatures, the success of the inclusion approach greatly depends on the outlook teachers have towards it. By means of providing the necessary requirements for applying inclusion in mainstream schools, teachers become more confident in handling special students in a regular class. Aside from confidence, supporting the teachers also help them adjust to new approaches involved in inclusive education. Fostering positive attitudes towards inclusion is also helpful in encouraging teachers to develop ways on how the inclusion approach can be developed further. With a positive attitude, the efficiency as well as the success of inclusion becomes more attainable.
The study results indicate that knowledge and experience are the two main components that teachers can gain out of the inclusion requirements. In turn, these two components help the educators develop a more positive attitude towards inclusion. These elements then share a strong connection with one another and should be considered as priorities in actual inclusion application. As the findings of the study revealed the inadequacy of trainings and preparation Greek teachers have for inclusion and SEN management, it is then essential that the cited factors are reconsidered. Integrating these will also help promote greater awareness as well as a more positive attitude for inclusion among Greek educators.
As a recommendation, local authorities organizing seminar on inclusion should start collaborating with the central government in order to achieve better participation among educators. Both parties should work together to increase the awareness and interest of the teachers on placing students with special educational needs in mainstream schools. By doing so, teachers will have more knowledge and skills in handling this new education approach. Aside from collaboration, school administrators should also support their teachers by encouraging them as giving them the opportunity to learn from these programs. Essential resources such as funds, training facilitators, equipment and time should be given to the teachers as well.
Teachers on the other hand, should also do their part to learn more about inclusion and its proper application. Rather than just sticking to conventional teaching practices, willingness towards change should be practiced among educators. By being more open to changes, educational development as well as learning enhancement that would benefit the students can be achieved. It should be considered that while inclusion may require major changes and adjustments, it possible capability of enhancing the learning development of students with special needs should be considered as topmost priority.
In conclusion, most of the Greek teachers are aware of what SEN is and the concepts of inclusion. Nonetheless, they would have to be provided with more support to handle this new education approach for students with special needs. This will also foster the positive attitude among teachers towards the inclusion approach. For this purpose, relevant parties should play their role in the inclusion process effectively. Furthermore, requirements that would make teachers more competent in handling SEN students should be made available, While there may be challenges in improving the training and attitude on inclusion among Greek teachers, it is essential for the educators to note that constricting oneself to norms will not achieve significant developments. Thus, approaches that could make help meet the needs of the special students should be considered.
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