Date of Award

8-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Correa, Vivian I.

Committee Member

Correa, Vivian I.

Committee Member

Hodge, Janie

Committee Member

McDuffie, Kimberly A.

Committee Member

Grimes, Larry

Abstract

The purpose of this research project was to explore the influences during fieldwork on preservice teachers' attitudes towards the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. An embedded, mixed-methods design was used to examine both qualitative and quantitative data. Preservice teachers completed the Opinions Relative to the Integration of Students with Disabilities (Antonak & Larrivee, 1995) survey before beginning full-time student teaching. This survey measured their attitudes towards the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. In addition, student teachers completed the Teachers' Sense of Efficacy Scale (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001) prior to their full time student teaching. During the qualitative, explanatory phase, observational, artifact, and interview data were examined from selected participants in their student teaching practicum. Participants for the qualitative phase were selected based on their initial scores on the Opinions Relative to the Integration of Students with Disabilities survey. Three special educators and three general educators who scored lowest on the scale, indicating negative attitudes about inclusive practices, were chosen to participate in the qualitative exploration. In addition, three special educators and three general educators who scored highest on the scale, indicating support for inclusion, were chosen to complete the qualitative participant group. Finally, after student teaching was completed, all participants were administered both surveys again to determine changes in attitudes responsive to their student teaching experience. Findings indicated that preservice teacher attitudes changed significantly after student teaching and that there were significant differences between special education and general education participants. Although preservice teachers' self-efficacy significantly increased after fieldwork, their self-efficacy was not correlated to their attitudes about inclusion. The participants' attitudes before student teaching accounted for most of their attitudes after student teaching, although the preservice teachers indicated their cooperating teacher was also very influential. Personal experience with individuals with disabilities and type of disability, severity of disability, and age of the student were all influencing factors of the preservice teachers' attitudes about inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom. Overall, participants' attitudes fell along a continuum, with some preservice teachers ambivalent or undecided, while others were negative or positive about inclusive practices.

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