Secondary Special Educators’ Attitudes and Sense of Self-Efficacy Toward Inclusive Education
Since the 1970s there has been a growing legislative focus, in the United States and abroad, on providing inclusive education for students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment alongside their typical peers. However, this shift in policy has not resulted in a comparable shift in practice. Key factors shown to influence the success of implementing inclusive educational practices are teachers’ attitudes and beliefs. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between secondary special education teachers’ attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities and their sense of self-efficacy related to supporting students with disabilities included in the general education classroom.
The mixed-methods design was grounded in the theories of planned behavior and self-efficacy. Quantitative data collection included a survey with questions regarding (a) demographic information and background of the teacher, (b) teachers’ sense of self-efficacy regarding the inclusion of students with disabilities, and (c) teachers’ attitudes toward the inclusion of students with disabilities. The qualitative portion of the design included individual interviews regarding teachers’ perceptions of their own efficacy with and attitudes towards inclusive education and the relationship between these factors. Teacher participants included secondary special educators in a large suburban school district undergoing a shift in special education service delivery practices toward increasing the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education.
The aim of this study was inform teacher training and professional development efforts. Among the key findings was the conclusion that the special education teachers in the district of study lacked a clear, shared understanding of inclusion as well as their roles and responsibilities in a more inclusive special education service delivery model. These special educators had an overall positive attitude toward the theory of inclusion, but held negative attitudes towards the actual practice of inclusion; specifically, teachers expressed a strong resistance to the elimination of self-contained special education classrooms. Similarly, special education teachers in this study reported high senses of self-efficacy for supporting students with disabilities overall, but had doubts about their abilities to apply these skills in the general education classroom. The results of this study will inform professional development efforts toward increasing the inclusion of students with disabilities, as well as areas of need for additional research. Limitations of the study, as well as implications for practice, are discussed.