Can We Have Inclusion if Teachers Aren’t Ready?
One of the major movements in special education in recent years has been the push toward an inclusion model in which special education students are included in general education classroom settings, often with a co-teaching model of a special education teacher and general education teacher sharing instructional tasks. However, a successful inclusion model depends largely on both special education and general education teachers having a knowledge base of information about how to best instruct and include students with disabilities in their classroom.
A study by Singh and Sakof indicates that general education teachers often feel unprepared and ill-equipped to successfully include students with physical disabilities in their classrooms. In their survey-based study, the authors posed five important questions about the ability of general education teachers to include students with physical disabilities in their general education classroom:
- Do general education teachers have adequate knowledge about the disability specific characteristics and health related need of students with physical disabilities?
- Do general education teachers have adequate knowledge about the educational needs of students with physical disabilities?
- Do general education teachers have adequate knowledge about adaptive equipment needed by students with physical disabilities?
- Do general education teachers have adequate knowledge about the environmental adaptations required by students with physical disabilities?
- Do general education teachers perceive themselves as competent and adequately prepared for the inclusion of students with physical disabilities?
The authors then created a survey to address these questions. The survey was distributed to 115 teachers, all of who worked as coordinating teachers for university teacher candidates within the state of Connecticut. The teachers served in rural, urban and suburban areas; the average number of years of teaching experience was 16. Each teacher completed a 20-25 minute survey that was broken into five sections, with each section corresponding to one of the major research questions listed above. The teachers indicated their agreement or disagreement with various statements in a Likert scale format.
As indicated by the results of this survey, general education teachers do not feel well prepared to work with physically disabled students in their classrooms. In response to question one, most general education teachers do not have adequate information about health-related needs and disability specific related information about students with physical disabilities. The second section indicated that teachers do not have adequate knowledge about the education needs of students with physical disabilities. Section three answers showed that teachers do not have adequate training in the types and uses of adaptive equipment for students with physical disabilities. The fifth section indicated that 61% of teachers did not feel confident or adequately prepared for the inclusion of students with physical disabilities into their general education classroom.
The only bright spot in the findings was the fourth section, in which teachers indicated that they did feel they had adequate knowledge about the environmental adaptations that students with physical disabilities need in a general education classroom.
In all, the results are disheartening. Most research indicates that special education students benefit greatly from an inclusion model of education, which allows them to remain integrated in school’s academics and social networks. However, the results of this survey indicate that teachers—even highly experienced teachers—do not feel well-prepared to make this model work for students with physical disabilities. The results, I believe, point us back to the need for high-quality teacher education programs that prepare all teachers to accommodate and educate students with a variety of exceptionalities.
Singh, D. and Sakofs, M. (December 2006) “General Education Teachers and Students with Physical Disabilities: A Revisit.” ERIC Online. Available online at: http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/27/fa/4a.pdf'
This page was created by Terra White