Does Initial Teacher Education Make a Difference? The Impact of Teacher Preparation on Student Teachers' Attitudes towards Educational Inclusion

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Volume 36, Issue 4 , pages 389 – 405 (November 2010 )
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aims to explore the development of attitudes towards educational inclusion among prospective primary school teachers in Scotland.

The focus of inclusion is on how teachers respond to individual differences during teaching, the choices they make about grouping and how they use specialist knowledge (Florian 2008). It emphasizes the use of inclusive pedagogies whereby teachers adapt mainstream pedagogical strategies to assist students identified as having special educational needs to access the curriculum (Florian 2008; Hart et al. 2004).

Methodological design

This study uses a mixed methods research design incorporating both quantitative and qualitative surveys (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, and Turner 2007).

Quantitative survey
The specific research question was: Is there any difference between entry and exiting student teachers' beliefs about educational inclusion?

To address the research question, cross-sectional data were obtained from two cohorts enrolled on the programme: first year entry cohorts in 2008, which included 125 students,
and final year exiting cohorts in 2009, which included 71 students.

Qualitative interview and survey 
Two research questions were explored in this section:
What does educational inclusion mean to final year student teachers?
How do final year student teachers perceive the educational inclusion input they received on the Bachelor of Education programme?

Discussion and conclusion

The findings from the quantitative approach suggest that the programme contributed to significant changes in student teachers' attitudes. The most positive increases were observed in attitudes towards inclusive mindset and learning expectation. These changes generally show the impact that ITE can have on student teachers' attitudes toward inclusion (Villa et al. 1996) which, in turn, may influence their classroom practice (Sherman, Rasmussen, and Baydala 2008).

The findings from the qualitative interviews showed that student teachers hold an enhanced understanding of inclusion as conceived on the programme. The student teachers' conceptions of inclusion pointed to a focus on creating an environment of belongingness, fairness, sensitivity and provision of support to enable all children to access the curriculum.

The findings from course evaluation show that student teachers' knowledge about the nature of inclusion and the observed changes in their attitudes are attributable to the programme. This is evidenced by the student teachers asserting that aspects of the programme contributed to the questioning of their own beliefs as well as to an understanding of inclusion.

It is suggested that input on inclusion provides opportunities for student teachers to observe an inclusive curricular and pedagogy in action (Agarwal et al. 2010). Such input should consist of practical exemplars of inclusive pedagogy on campus-based modules and during field experience.
In conclusion, this article highlights the need for pedagogical scaffolding to facilitate successful implementation of inclusive pedagogy. Further, the study demonstrates how a mixed method approach can be effectively employed in evaluating the impact of ITE programmes on future teachers.

Agarwal, R. , Epstein, S. , Oppenheim, Oyler C. and Sonu, D. (2010) From ideal to practice and back again: Beginning teachers teaching for social justice. Journal of Teacher Education

Florian, L. (2008) Special or inclusive education: Future trends. British Journal of Special Education 35:4 , pp. 202-208.

Hart, S. , Dixon, A. , Drummond, M. J. and McIntyre, D. (2004) Learning without limits. Open University Press , Maidenhead.

Johnson, R. B. , Onwuegbuzie, A. J. and Turner, L. A. (2007) Toward a definition of mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research 1:2 , pp. 112-133.

Sherman, J. , Rasmussen, C. and Baydala, L. (2008) The impact of teacher factors on achievement and behavioural outcomes of children with attention deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD): A review of literature. Educational Research 50:4 , pp. 347-360.

Updated: May. 26, 2011