Primary education preservice teachers' attitudes on inclusion and perceptions on preparedness to respond to classroom diversity

Year: 2008

Author: Spandagou, Ilektra, Evand, David, Little, Cathy

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper presents data from a project evaluating the implementation of a new teaching framework in preparing general education teachers for working in diverse classrooms. One of the aims of the research project is to establish what the preservice teachers' attitudes towards inclusion both prior and after the completion of a special and inclusive education unit of study are.

The overall aim of this research project is to develop and evaluate a Problem Based Learning (PBL) teaching framework for the two mandatory special and inclusive education units of study offered to all education students in a large University. One of these units is offered to all students enrolled in four-year undergraduate teacher training programs and the other to students enrolled in the postgraduate teacher training program.

The three members of the teaching team conducted a needs' analysis to identify approaches of improving students' learning experience. A PBL teaching framework (Johnson, 2004; Ockjean, Utke, and Hupp, 2005; Van Laarhoven et al., 2006; Lambe, 2007) was considered appropriate for integrating further the philosophical, theoretical, pedagogical, practical, and assessment elements of the course, as well as the practical experience undertaken by the students.

This paper presents data from the primary education cohort of the postgraduate teacher training program. The survey was administered at the beginning and the end of a six-week unit of study. The survey examines preservice teachers' attitudes towards inclusion and perceptions of their preparedness to teach in diverse classrooms. The analysis of the results indicates that there was a positive shift in all categories explored in the survey questions, and in particular in the participants' perception of their preparedness. It appears also that the preservice teachers' attitudes towards inclusion at the end of the course not only were more positive but also more informed in terms of a cohesive understanding of the issues involved.