Beyond disabilities: Broadening the view of special needs and the inclusive education challenges facing primary teachers

Year: 2006

Author: Fields, Barry

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Previous research on teacher attitudes and responses to inclusion has focused predominantly on the pedagogical challenges posed by students with disabilities in regular classrooms. The special education literature has been slow to recognise the significance of the impact of student diversity on the work of teachers and the reality that classrooms are populated with children who, while they may not have a recognised disability, nevertheless have a wide variety of special educational needs. This paper reports the findings of a study of the relative inclusive education challenges posed to primary teachers of a diverse group of students. Teachers were presented with 14 case descriptions of students in the form of vignettes. The students depicted where characterised has having special needs associated with such factors as disability, cultural background, dysfunctional family background, emotional/psychiatric condition, socio-economic disadvantage, mobility, homelessness etc. The teachers were asked to rate the students depicted in the vignettes on the level of difficulty they would have in providing an inclusive education for them and to identify what specific characteristics or attributes of the students they would find most challenging. This paper reports the findings of this survey and discusses the implications of the findings for both pre-service and in-service professional development.