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Teaching is regarded to be an art and skill, which plays significant roles in nation building process all around the world (Bhalla, Jajoo & Kalantri, 2012). The teachers in various education levels promote the intellectual and social development of children during their formative years (Fakolade, Adeniyi&Tella, 2009). The teachers have a role in aiding the students in developing their intellectual, spiritual, social, religious, emotional and physical wellbeing in a well-balanced and harmonious way by providing the tools and the environment for them to become responsible and productive adults (Oluremi, 2015). Teachers have a role in enabling the students to attain cognitive, sensory and behavioral aim as well as gains with the range identified by the educational system (Bhalla et al., 2012). The quality of teaching in schools, as well as the outcome of the education system, is dependent on several factors that include the teacher’s formal education and experience, as well as love, dedication, attitudes, and devotion of the teacher towards the subject of the knowledge and the student (Bhalla et al., 2012).
An attitude, which is a person’s prevailing psychological tendency to respond favorably or unfavorably to something or an object, is a vital factor affecting students’ academic performances in the education system (Ulug, Ozden&Eryilmaz, 2011). Teachers’ attitudes can be categorized as positive or negative. Teachers’ positive attitudes are described as understanding, compassionate, helpful, seeing the student as an individual, communicating, motivating, being genuine and tolerant, encouraging participation in social events and being friendly and interested (Ulug et al., 2011). Teachers who have a positive attitude towards classroom teaching, teaching profession, child-centered practices and educational process react to ideas and feelings of students and create an emotional climate in the classroom
(Greene, 2017)The positive attitude of teachers is associated with the better academic performance of the students as well as numerous benefits (De Souza Barros &Elian, 2012). Teachers’ attitude towards reading in the content areas specifically, can affect the probability that teachers will execute literacy instruction as the curriculum intends in the subjects they teach. Teachers that have positive attitude in their instruction lead to significant improvement in student reading achievement (Chimhenga, 2016)
Teachers’ negative attitudes also influence the learning process (Unianu, 2012). Negative attitudes can include teachers’ lack of confidence caused by poor conceptual and phenomenological physics foundations, teachers’ that do not bring innovations of new curricula and methodologies, lack of coherence between classroom attitudes and their expressed belief on active techniques of interaction and that teachers tend to see school failure due to the socio-psychological deprivation (De Souza Barros &Elia, 2012). Various factors influence the teacher attitude in schools consequently affecting the kind of education provided. It is essential to study teacher attitudes to give teachers the adequate support to implement inclusive education to its optimum potential (Hassanein, 2015). The significance of attitude in the education system has led to increased attention to teachers’ attitudes towards special needs students (De Souza Barros &Elia, 2012).
The Nigerian education system is a public enterprise that has led to government complete and dynamic intervention as well as active participation. Inclusive education practice in Nigeria is seen as a way of serving special needs children with the general education classrooms(the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004). In 2004, the Nigeria’s National Policy on Education introduced the program known as ‘special education’ to cater for disabled citizens, the disadvantaged and the gifted and talented involving people. The country also developed a policy to ensure that special needs children receive education at all levels without any payment. It included the introduction of the integrated special classes in public schools under the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme and regular census and monitoring to ensure educational planning for children living with disabilities. The integration of inclusive education in Nigeria has been identified as the only type of education that can prevent discrimination as well as lead to receiving of education for all (Adetoro, 2014). The resulting diversities on normal children and children with disabilities are among the main reason leading to study on how teachers altitude affects the performance of children of different physical status (Rodríguez, Saldana & Moreno, 2012).
Special education program
Teachers have to ensure quality education for all the students. A quality education includes cognitive learning as well as human values, attitudes, skills, and competencies (Rodríguez et al., 2012). The performance of children living with disabilities in regular schools is affected by several factors, among them the teachers’ attitude. Attitudes are conceptualized as relatively stable constructs consisting of cognitive, affective and behavioral components. The integration of regular educational programs within the classroom can lead to positive teachers’ attitudes, which in turn consequently result in successful inclusion for children with disabilities in regular classrooms (Rodríguez et al., 2012).
Special education is an educational program with a ‘unique curriculum and syllabus’ that is uniquely designed and taught by teachers trained in special education to meet the needs of students with disabilities (Chimhenga, 2016).The inclusion practice in the education system is based on the notion that all children should be equally valued members of the school culture (Rodríguez et al., 2012). According to Chimhenga (2016) some educational systems, however, the inclusion of children with disabilities within regular classrooms is advocated. Inclusion or inclusive education gets interpreted as the philosophy and practice of educating special needs children in general education settings. Special needs children such as educable mentally disabled students, emotionally disturbed and learning disabled students benefit highly from inclusion program (Alghazo, 2012)
Inclusive education requires that teachers in Nigerian public education system play their roles to ensure that all the children learn as well as feel they belong in that environment (Tyagi, 2016). Teachers have to undertake certain roles to create an all-inclusive environment. First, the teachers must identify and accept the children with special needs and develop positive attitudes towards both the disabled and normal children. Second, the teacher should place the children living with disabilities in strategic positions in a class where they are comfortable and benefit adequately from the class sessions. Third, the teacher should modify the curriculum to accommodate the students with special needs during learning and prepare teaching aids that assist them in learning. Fourth, the teacher should coordinate with all medical and physiological panels, social workers, parents and special education teacher for the benefit of the student. Lastly, the teacher should undertake parental guidance and counseling as well as have a public awareness program in the school (Tyagi, 2016).
Statement of the Problem
The underlying problem is that; for over two decades, Nigeria has not been committed to tackling the problems that face the education system, and especially that of disabled children, who have been neglected and have limited access to education. Nigeria has limited infrastructure for the education of the disabled children and many of them lack access as well as appropriate learning aids and tools (Beukelman&Mirenda, 2012; Buron, Wolfberg& Gray, 2014; Hunter-Johnson, Newton & Cambridge-Johnson, 2014; Patricia, Prelock, & McCauley, 2012; Vaughn &Bos, 2014). A study by Adetoro (2014) reveals that Nigeria has about 10% perceived disabled children, but only 0.42% are enrolled in schools as compared to 67.05% of the children in the normal school programs. The data shows the need for inclusive education in Nigeria to address the problem of limited access to education by the disabled children. The world has risen through the initiative of inclusion, which is defined as the core principle of ensuring that disabled students are included at a classroom level towards accessing education (Billingsley, McLeskey, & Crockett, 2014). Nigeria and Bahamas have embraced the program, but the notable response according to the government of Bahamas is not friendly (Kakonge, 2017). The Bahamas government report on inclusion integration progress shows that disabled students are frustrated in various ways, beginning with the unfriendly environment (Hunter-Johnson et al., 2014). As a result, their performance has been negatively affected (Hunter-Johnson et al., 2014).
The specific problem to be addressed by this study is that students’ performances have not been reflecting appropriately by the resources that governments are investing in the program; part of the success of the disabled students’ performance is based on the teacher’s attitude of the program (Movallali, Hassanzadeh&Moravej, 2014). The inclusive education policies demand the association from the various stakeholders towards enhancing the implementation of the inclusion program (Shareefa, n.d). The instructor mostly creates a healthy learning environment. Thus, the purpose of defining their attitudes’ affects the performance in particular (Bhatnagar& Das, 2014).
When all other associated factors and limitations are met, the performance will never get improved (Billingsley et al., 2014). Instead, the students will be more frustrated, limiting their ability to learn, as they should (Bhatnagar& Das, 2014). The failure of examining the teacher’s attitude will give no positive understanding of the poor performance of the children (Kakonge, 2017). Therefore, it is appropriate to research the effects of the teacher’s attitude on the disabled student’s performance (Kakonge, 2017). The attitude can be either positive or negative, and its effects do vary.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this qualitative case study is to assess teachers’ perceptions and attitudes of inclusive education programs toward student academic performance of physically disabled students who are mainstreamed into Nigerian public secondary schools. The study will use a theoretical framework that teachers have accepted the integration of an inclusive education practice in the school curriculum and are vital in determining the overall performance of the students (Mertens, 2014). A purposeful sampling approach will be used to obtain a sample of 15 teachers at Nigerian public secondary schools. The criteria used to select the teachers for the study will include those already teaching within inclusive education programs of public secondary schools in Nigeria. Another criterion for selection includes those already teaching physically disabled students and must have an experience of three years and more. This will ensure that only teachers having experience dealing with disabled students are included in this study. The teachers will however not be selected from any particular subjects; specified subjects include Math, English, and Social studies. Data will be acquired through individual interviews with participating teachers and grades of disabled students within the participating teachers’ class using a questionnaire. Discourse analysis will be used to analyze interview data. Discourse analysis is a strategy that is used to analyze oral, written and sign language. Discourse analysis depends on different objects: writing, conversation, discourse and communicative event (Wodak& Meyer, 2009). Discourse analysis will be used because it does not only look at the basic meaning of the words and sentences used during the interviews, rather, it will help understand the historical context in which the sentences are made. The grades of the students will be analyzed descriptively to support interview data collected from teachers who teach physically disabled students in Nigeria. The results of the study will help to highlight the effects of teacher attitudes and perceptions on the academic achievement of the students. The grades are used as a means of assessment of students and so will be used to support interview data and determine whether the negative attitude of teachers affects the performance of students. The study may help provide an understanding of potential teacher influences on student performance, attitudes explicitly toward teaching physically disabled students within mainstream public secondary schools in Nigeria. The recommendations of the study will be highlighted to improve the quality of education for disabled students in the mainstream Nigerian school system.
Figure 1 below demonstrates a framework for the analysis of teaching attitudes and practices, which will be used in this study. Teacher background that comprises of professional experience and training influence the professional competence and related beliefs and attitudes of teachers that consequently affect the student outcomes (De Souza Barros &Elia, 2012).The background of the teachers will be evaluated to determine whether they affect their attitude and perception. For example, some teachers have believed that learning disabilities are permanent characteristics of a student while there are others who have considered themselves to be responsible for the achievement of the students irrespective of the disability status of the students (Hornstraet al., 2010).
Studies have shown that teacher training is crucial in developing the affirmative attitudes and skills needed for a successful inclusive education program; positive, inclusive attitude is associated with the formal education of the teacher (Agbenyega, 2011; De Souza Barros &Elia, 2012; Vaz et al., 2015). The teachers’ classroom practice, the classroom level environment, the school level environment and the teachers’ professional activities, along with students’ background such as socioeconomic status or special needs, consequently can affect teacher attitudes and in turn affect student outcomes. The framework for the analysis of teaching attitudes and practices considers the teacher background, school background, processes, and student background as the primary aspects that influence the student outcomes. The experience of the teacher will determine the nature of the classroom-level environment. This will in turn influence the manner in which teachers include and provide for disabled students. This will determine the assessment methods used by the teacher and how he or she will motivate the students.
The use of the constructs above allows for the investigation of teachers ‘attitudes and beliefs on special need education. The constructs cover the fundamental aspects of teachers’ beliefs (general pedagogical knowledge), quality indicators of education at the classroom level (such as classroom disciplinary climate) and at the school level (quality of school relations), the teachers’ activities (such as teaching practices and teachers’ cooperation) and the general job related attitudes. The assessment of the professional competence of teachers is a crucial aspect of determining teacher’s attitudes and beliefs on special education needs and affects student learning and outcomes. In most instances, teachers with a high professional competence have a positive attitude towards special education unlike those with limited knowledge about education. The assessment of the quality indicators of education at the classroom level such as disciplinary climate and the school level, such as relations, is important aspects of consideration regarding special education. Teacher activities and staff cooperation have a significant impact on student learning and outcomes. The overall job-related attitudes such as self-efficacy and job satisfaction affect the mode of delivery and in turn, affect students’ learning and outcomes.
Nature of the Study
Qualitative research method and case study design will be used for this study to help understand the attitudes and perceptions of teachers towards disabled students. The qualitative research and case study design are used to find differences in the education system as well as the learning of students by comparing attitude expressed by teachers on special needs children and normal children (Iro& Sanni, 2013). In both qualitative research and case study design, attitudes in education are conceptualized as relatively stable constructs that comprise of affective, cognitive and behavioral elements (Billingsley et al., 2014).
Qualitative research has a benefit in that it has an insight into behaviors, attitudes, and motivation that it gives the researchers/investigators. Qualitative research allows interviewer interaction with respondents. Thus there is in-depth probing of concerns and produces significant detail in responses. Qualitative research also allows for the interaction between respondents, in which the interaction stimulates discussion that uncovers concerns unexpected during the design phase (Taylor, Bogdan & DeVault, 2015). The application of case studies particularly in education research allows researchers to determine the impact of actions over time.
Case studies are accurate in obtaining data by approaching the unit or units under study (Yin, 2013). In this research, a case study will aid in making the questionnaire more focused towards the issue of concern. In-depth studies of issues enable the investigator to acquire sufficient understanding of the problem under study resulting in the accurate formulation of questionnaire items (Christensen & Johnson, 2016). The case study approach is therefore appropriate to evaluate the attitudes of teachers, a construct comprised of affective, cognitive and behavioral elements, towards special needs children in Nigeria. Teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education are based on practical concerns about how it can be implemented. The research design involves the use of the theoretical framework to determine the techniques that teachers have accepted in handling students with disabilities (Mertens, 2014).
Interviews and questionnaire, as well as observations, will be used for data collection. The researcher uses interviews to measure the outcomes as well as the contributions in the study with the participants at the same time (Iro& Sani, 2013). Interviews will capture participating teachers’ perceptions of inclusive education in assisting students with special needs and of student performance when mainstreamed into Nigerian public secondary schools. Questionnaires are suitable for the study because the researcher will be able to gather information quickly and economically from the sample group. Questionnaires will be administered to participating teachers before interviews to gain initial data on practices of inclusive education as well as demographic information. Observations will also be conducted. Data gathered from observations will be used to support teacher interview and questionnaire responses, specifically in teacher practices of inclusive education toward students with special needs in Nigerian mainstream public secondary schools. Discourse analysis will be used to analyze all the data collected from the interview, questionnaire, and observational data because it provides the best way of investigating in a conversation. The method of analysis uses primary data gathered from the participants making it easy to make inferences and conclusions. Results from data collected will elicit information on the attitude of teachers to students with Disabilities. Questionnaires are suitable for the study because the researcher will be able to gather information quickly and economically from the sample group.
The research questions were developed in consideration of the key participants. The research questions will help to create a better understanding of how inclusive education is understood and implemented by teachers toward improving student performance among students with special needs in Nigeria. The research questions adopted for the dissertation are:
Q1. How do teachers in Nigerian mainstream public secondary schooling perceive inclusive education to assist students with special needs?
Q2. How do teachers in Nigerian mainstream public secondary schooling practice inclusive education towards students with special needs?
Q3. What are Nigerian teachers’ perceptions of student performance among students with special needs when mainstreamed into Nigerian public secondary schools?
Significance of the Study
The quality of education provided to learners in a nation is crucial in ensuring that the country is innovative and accomplishes its socioeconomic goals by producing a workforce or graduates who will contribute to its development and growth in the future (Greene, 2017). Hence, it is necessary to continue with research on the status of the education system and to determine the various factors that influence it in one way or another. One main factor in the education system is the teacher (Peng et al., 2014). The teacher is an important factor in the education system because teachers, as main stakeholders, play significant roles in our education system. The teacher enables the student to attain cognitive, sensory and behavioral objectives through teaching, give lectures, making exams and giving grades, and so on; therefore necessary to ensure the best conditions for them to carry out their job (Greene, 2017).Teacher attitude and practices have significant influence in the whole equation of collaborative learning of the education system and the academic performance of students. The teacher attitudes and practices can either enhance or diminish collaborative learning and success of academics for all students (Savolainen, Engelbrecht, Nel & Malinen, 2012).
Various ground rules can be used to analyze the teacher practices and attitude in schools that include listening to understand others, respecting others, maintaining open and positive attitudes, encourage participation, being open and non-defensive concerning one’s ideas, as well as being clear and concise (Alghazo, 2012). The ground rules can also be influenced to change thus improving the present situation. It is vital to understand what factors affect the learning of special needs children because these children have a more extensive range of difficulties compared to other children who have no disabilities (Bhatnagar & Das, 2014). Teacher attitudes towards inclusion are selected as a factor of study because it is regarded as a major predictor of the level of success among children living with disabilities in the education system (Savolainen et al., 2012). The existing teacher attitudes towards inclusive education of special needs learners in regular education classrooms could assist to develop remedies and supportive strategies that can be executed to enhance the success of inclusion programs’ outcomes in our education system (Savolainen et al., 2012). Additional research on teacher influences of the kind of training offered to them affects their attitude towards their job and students and can lead to policy change to offer a better education to teachers (Alghazo, 2012). Also, the understanding of the role of working environment or teacher support when carrying out their role in an inclusive student setting can enable policymakers to implement policies or measures to ensure the development of a positive attitude towards inclusion (Savolainen et al., 2012). Consequently, the ability of teachers to undertake their job in an inclusive environment is affected as well as influence students’ success in the education system.
The study may help provide extensive information about teachers’ current feelings, challenges, and issues that teachers may have about inclusion. The findings will contribute to an improvement of the education system, particularly special needs education. The goals of the study that includes; the factors that affect teachers’ attitudes and behavior towards special needs education in Nigeria and its impact on academic performance; are timely in improving our education system. Policy makers, governments or administrators to address challenges in the education system, as well as to formulate and implement appropriate policies and measures that ensure positive teachers’ attitude in the future can adopt the findings and recommendations of this study (Bhalla, Jajoo & Kalantri, 2012). Educators and administrators will be able to identify any biases that teachers have towards special needs children that may affect the way they interact with these children in an inclusion program (Savolainen et al., 2012).
Definitions of Key Terms
Academic performance. Academic performance refers to the extent or ranking of the attainment of the short or long-term educational goals by a student, teacher or institution (Billingsley, McLeskey, & Crockett, 2014).
Attitude. Attitude refers to person’s prevailing psychological tendency or feeling to respond favorably or unfavorably to something or an object or the behavior or set of values displayed by a person towards an object (Billingsley et al., 2014).
Collaborative learning. Collaborative learning refers to the technique of teaching in which two educators are responsible for planning, of course, teaching and monitoring the success of all the students in that course (Mertens, 2014).
Inclusion. Inclusion refers to the core principle of ensuring that disabled students are included at a classroom level towards accessing (Alghazo, 2012).
Special needs. Special needs refer to a person (whether a child or an adult) who comes from a disadvantaged background or a mental, psychological, emotional, or physical disability or at high risk of developing one that present difficulties in day-to-day life (Billingsley et al., 2014).
Special education. Special education refers to recognized education service and programs offered to children with any of the following characteristics: hearing, impairment, visual impairment, maladjustment, cognitive impairment, mental handicap, physical handicap, and learning difficulties (Mertens, 2014).
The problem is that; for over two decades, disabled children have been neglected and denied their right to accessing education. The specific problem addressed in this study is that students’ performances in Nigeria have not been reflecting appropriately the resources that the Nigerian government has invested in special education program; part of the success of the disabled students’ performance is based on the teacher’s attitude of the program (Beukelman&Mirenda, 2012; Buron, Wolfberg& Gray, 2014; Hunter-Johnson, Newton & Cambridge-Johnson, 2014; Patricia, Prelock, & McCauley, 2012; Vaughn &Bos, 2014). The purpose of this qualitative case study is to learn teachers’ perceptions and attitudes of inclusive education programs toward student academic performance of physically disabled students who are mainstreamed into Nigerian public secondary schools. The theoretical and conceptual framework shown in figure 1 to be applied in analyzing the teaching attitudes as well as practices considers teachers’ background, school background, processes, and student background as the primary aspects that influence the student outcomes.
Qualitative method and case study design will be used to address the research questions for this study. A sample of 15 teachers from Nigerian public secondary schools will be asked to participate in data collection techniques of interviews, questionnaires, and observations. Discourse analysis will be employed in the study to allow the researcher to recover as well as examine attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors concerning inclusive education in Nigeria. The study will provide an understanding of potential teacher influences on student performance, attitudes explicitly toward teaching physically disabled students within mainstream public secondary schools in Nigeria.
Based on the problem identified to guide the research, it will be necessary to search for relevant and recent literature that aligns with the research questions and objectives. There has been a widespread challenge in Nigeria in the adoption of the inclusive education system where students with special needs are accorded a chance to acquire education similarly to those in those in the regular system. In search of the relevant literature to support the research problem, the article eligibility criteria used involved gathering articles from databases that related to education, special education, school psychology, and then using keywords and Boolean operators (AND and OR) to refine the search. The databases that were used for the search include ProQuest, Education Research Complete (EBSCO), SAGE Full text, JSTOR, and ERIC. Also included in the search was Google Scholar, which provides journal articles of a diverse nature, but modified using keywords. The databases contain relevant information about inclusive education, the impact of teacher attitudes to learning outcomes, teacher perspectives based on the learning environment, and the need for assessing and the factors that affect teachers in inclusive education. The keywords/phrases used for the search of literature were; teacher attitudes on special education, teacher attitudes and student achievement, factors affecting inclusive education programs, and special education needs in Nigeria. The inclusion criteria used in the research study involved consideration of articles that met certain requirements. The articles had to be focused on education in Nigeria, must have been published recently (not more than five years), relevant to the research problem, much emphasis on teacher attitudes and impacts to student achievement, and ought to involve either teachers or students as the participants.
This research is based on a theoretical framework that highlights the variables that will be considered in assessing teacher attitudes towards special education programs as shown in figure 1. It is important to understand the basis of the research with a focus on gathering data that will provide additional and new ideas on what is already presented in the literature. In studying the impacts of teacher attitudes on student learning and outcomes, some of the issues at play include teacher background, teacher training, professional competence, classroom and school environment, and teacher experience. The background of a teacher comprises of the professional experience and training acquired that greatly influences professional competence. In practice, such factors coupled with related beliefs and attitudes of teachers have been found to affect student outcomes (De Souza Barros &Elia, 2012). In this research, teacher background will be evaluated to establish the effect on attitude and perception towards special education programs. The diverse attitudes and beliefs that teachers demonstrate to students account for the differences in student achievement irrespective of the disability status of the students (Hornstraet al., 2010). Researchers have shown that teacher training is crucial in developing the affirmative attitudes and skills needed for a successful inclusive education program (Agbenyega, 2011; De Souza Barros &Elia, 2012; Vaz et al., 2015). The teachers’ classroom practice, classroom environment, the school environment and the teachers’ professional activities, as well as students’ status, such as special needs; may have a significant effect on teacher attitudes and in turn affect student outcomes. The designed framework for the analysis of teaching attitudes and practices includes the factors such as teacher background, school background, processes, and student background as the primary aspects that influence the student outcomes. An analysis of the factors will help to establish the underlying issues associated with teacher attitudes, and the impact of teacher attitudes on student learning and outcomes. The factors also influence the way teachers include and meet the education needs of the students with disabilities. A review of the factors will form a basis for the recommendation of appropriate inclusion methods that can be used by the teacher and how to motivate students to achieve as desired.
Review of Literature
Students with special needs require tender care by the teachers to ensure that they benefit from the skills acquired. The teacher’s attitude has a significant impact to the performance of the students with special needs since they help to enhance the development of the intellectual, spiritual, social, religious, emotional, and physical well-being of the students. As highlighted, the quality of instruction and the outcome of the education system depend on factors such as formal education and experience of the teacher, love, dedication, attitudes, and devotion (Ibrahim, Ibrahim, Arshad, Arshad, Salleh & Salleh, 2017). The core problem that forms the basis of this dissertation is the low performance reflected by special education students in Nigeria which implies a failure of appropriate use of resources that the government invests in the program. To a large extent, the success of the disabled students’ performance is based on the teacher’s attitude on the programs in place. Despite the initiative of inclusion at the classroom level, the response towards it is not as positive as expected.
There has been an unfriendly environment for the concept of inclusivity in which student performance has been negatively affected. Inclusivity policies are effectively implemented based on the teacher’s attitude on the program. It requires close collaboration among various stakeholders to ensure effective implementation of the inclusion program. In this qualitative case study, the purpose is to assess teacher’s perceptions and attitudes on the inclusive education program towards student academic performance of students with special needs in mainstream Nigerian public secondary schools. There is a general acceptance by teachers of the integration of an inclusive education program as crucial in determining the overall performance of students. Based on the identified research problem and the purpose of the study, this chapter will focus on a detailed literature review to reinforce the dissertation purpose.
Teacher Attitudes Impacts on Student Achievement
Student achievement is the amount of academic content that a student acquires within a specific duration. A study by Oluremi (2015) sought to investigate the attitude of regular and special teachers to the students with special needs in the mainstream public secondary schools in Nigeria. The focus was on the teacher qualifications in comparison to the academic performance of students with special needs as related to the regular students. Based on the study findings, it was evident that majority of teachers included in the study has a positive attitude to the students with special needs (Oluremi, 2015). Only a few teachers had negative attitudes, and others had neutral views. It has been established that inclusivity entails the attempts made in responding to pupils as individuals as well as organizational restructuring to enhance equality in the access to opportunities. The author notes that attitude concept affects the way of thinking, acting, and behaving and has significant implications to the learners, the teacher, and the social group that learner relate (Oluremi, 2015).
Children with special education needs find it challenging to socialize with regular peers and teachers, and many people lack concrete information about the needs of special children. According to the study findings, the teachers’ attitude to students with special needs had significantly improved as attributed to workshops, seminars, and conferences that developed positive attitudes to students with special needs (Oluremi, 2015). The teachers with negative attitudes towards students with special needs need to learn on how best they can create an atmosphere of love. The result based on the analysis of data on the difference between the performance of the regular students and those with special needs showed a significant difference. Achievement is a component of students with special needs, and if a child is properly taught, the outcome is expected to be successful. Oluremi (2015) proposed some steps that would be essential for ensuring successful integration of students with special needs. Among them is having a policy of employing specially trained teachers that are integrated into mainstream schools and making an effort to expose teachers to integration settings. The study aligns with the dissertation purpose since it sheds light on the impact of teacher attitudes towards the performance of students with special needs in the mainstream public schools in Nigeria. There have been several attempts to deal the problem of poor performance of students with special needs in the mainstream schools, which is a characteristic of teacher’s attitudes towards them.
Factors Affecting Teacher attitudes in Inclusive Education
In a different study, the attitude of teachers towards the inclusion of special needs children in the general education classroom was evaluated and gave important findings on the topic. The study by Fakolade, Adeniyi, and Tella (2014) was based in Nigeria, and the findings revealed that professionally qualified teachers tend to have a favorable attitude towards including special needs students than qualified non-professional teachers. The authors cited the need for teachers to attend seminars and conferences to enhance their knowledge about the means of practicing and accepting inclusion for the benefit of the special needs children (Fakolade, Adeniyi & Tella, 2014).
The adoption of the inclusive education policy was a result of the assertion that inclusive education is the most effective and reliable strategy of dealing with discriminatory attitudes and building an inclusive society for achieving equal educational opportunities for all learners. However, critics of inclusivity have argued that it does not adequately meet the needs of the disabled. They prefer the segregated schools other than the inclusive schools. As such, it becomes necessary to assess the attitude of teachers towards the inclusion of special needs children in general education. Many countries have adopted the policy of inclusion in the education policies, and Nigeria is no exception. The National Policy on Education of 1998 stipulates the integration of special needs students into a regular classroom set up (Fakolade, Adeniyi & Tella, 2014). However, the attitude of the society, government, and the citizens on the special needs children; has been negative and degrading, making the disabled lack capacity of contributing meaningfully to the society. Of interest is the teacher attitude that influences their productivity. Teacher attitude has a major impact on the teaching style and makes the incorporation of traditionally segregated students into the general education classroom either a failed a successful endeavor (Fakolade, Adeniyi & Tella, 2014).
The essence of teacher’s perspectives of the class is a likely cause of classification of students into groups of those who can learn something and those who cannot. Nigerian teachers and administrators have used the terms in the past to deny educational opportunities to the students who do not do well, which is a result of negative attitude towards the children with special needs (Fakolade, Adeniyi & Tella, 2014). The relationship between teacher’s attitudes on the inclusion of children with special needs in the physical education settings as well as the levels of success attained in comparison to those without disabilities has been reviewed. The teachers with a positive attitude towards inclusion tend to provide all the students with more practice attempts resulting in a higher level of success. There has been extensive research on the factors associated with successful inclusion of students with special needs and the role of teachers’ attitudes. Much of the research is based on the assumption that a positive attitude towards inclusion is necessary for successful inclusion of children with special needs into physical education (Fakolade, Adeniyi & Tella, 2014).
The results from the different analysis show that female teachers have higher levels of positive attitude towards including special needs students in comparison to the male teachers. The professionally-qualified teachers also tend to have a favorable attitude towards including special need students to the general classroom than the qualified non-professional teachers. In line with other studies, the study reported negative attitude of teachers towards inclusivity, which is largely attributed to lack of knowledge (Fakolade, Adeniyi & Tella, 2014). The relevance of special education of the teachers is on the rise alongside the teaching requirements of the traditional classroom. Teachers are required to integrate several programs into the lives of children for them to accommodate the special needs of each within the general education classroom settings.
Teacher education, training, and experience
A different study by Greene (2017) focused on the teacher’s attitudes toward inclusive classrooms. The author highlights that some teachers tend to have negative attitudes towards teaching students with special needs in the regular classroom. It is crucial to establish how teacher education, training, and experience contribute to the attitudes of teachers towards inclusive education. The results indicated that teachers had positive attitudes on the inclusion of teaching practices, but they conveyed negative attitudes on the aspects of inclusionary teaching practices (Greene, 2017). According to Greene (2017), the negative attitudes of teachers towards students learning with disabilities in the regular classroom have been extensively researched in literature. The extent of the negative attitudes varies based on the local school setting, and the extent of the attitudes is associated with teacher education, training, and teaching experience.
Demands from the model of inclusion
Inclusive education model entails an extension of the responsibilities and teaching practices of the regular classroom teacher. There are increased demands to the teacher that may develop negative attitudes towards the mode of learning. The purpose of studying teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education is to identify deficiencies in the education system that may be associated with negative perceptions (Greene, 2017). Successful implementation of inclusive education depends on the teacher willingness to accept the model. Negative attitudes towards the inclusion of special needs students in the mainstream school settings have detrimental effects on student learning and also hinder their success. Teacher attitudes contribute to the effectiveness of teaching and student learning effectiveness.
Impact of teacher attitudes to academic performance
Student performance is how well a student masters the material presented in class and can be measured through continuous assessment tests. In a study by Chimhenga (2016), an exploration of the teachers’ attitudes on its influence to academic performance of students with disabilities in secondary schools was done. The findings revealed that teacher’ positive or negative feelings towards their students with special needs had a significant effect on their educational attainment (Chimhenga, 2016). Instructor frustration and the negative attitudes also influenced the academic performance of the students. Labeling and classification of students can affect the academic performance of the students with disabilities. An important aspect in classroom interaction regards how teachers make sense of and also respond to the learning behavior of the students. Teachers’ attitudes and expectations can either improve or worsen the academic performance of the student. In teaching, the attitudes of teachers play a critical role in children’s academic performance. Chimhenga (2016) explains that teacher attitude to himself, his work, and other aspects depend on several variables which influence productivity.
Most of the regular education teachers who are unprepared and fear to work with students with special needs in the regular classroom, demonstrate frustration, anger, and negative attitude towards inclusivity in education which leads to low academic standards. The feelings of teachers towards students have a significant impact on their educational attainment (Chimhenga, 2016). It has been observed that teachers tend to develop a positive attitude towards students who are neat and clean in appearance and those from educated families. The labels given to the students with special needs largely influence the performance in class. The study findings indicate that subject teacher treated students with disabilities unfairly and thereby affecting their academic performance.
Mode of delivery
Teachers’ attitudes contribute positively or negatively to student learning and affect the delivery of instruction (Romero‐Contreras, García‐Cedillo & Fletcher, 2017). A positive attitude of the teacher is important since it enhances the achievement of the desired level of success and the aims of inclusive education. Teachers are the most influential people in the process of education, and thus, their attitudes and perceptions play a crucial role in student achievement and performance. The success or failure of the inclusion programs is based on the teaching strategies and attitudes of the teachers (Romero‐Contreras, García‐Cedillo & Fletcher, 2017). Negative attitudes towards incorporating special education need students to general classrooms has the potential of leading to a decrease in academic performance as well as an increase of isolation of the special education students. Teachers with negative attitudes create the most difficult barriers to the educational environment of the special education students (Romero‐Contreras, García‐Cedillo & Fletcher, 2017).
Teaching Students with Special Needs
Teaching students in inclusive settings is a challenging task and require enhanced cooperation and participation by all the relevant stakeholders. Teachers are reluctant to adopt inclusion, but it is important to shift that mindset and emphasize on the access to general curricula to all students despite their abilities and limitations (Romero‐Contreras, García‐Cedillo & Fletcher, 2017). Some years back, students with special needs were not often found in public schools. Their access to education was limited to the separate schools. The push for equality for all people and advocacy efforts in education helped to change the mindset, and separation of students is considered as discriminatory (Romero‐Contreras, García‐Cedillo & Fletcher, 2017). Recent research works have supported the concept of inclusion and are considered to have positive effects on student learning and outcomes (Shareefa, 2016). However, it is important to highlight some of the factors associated with the concept of inclusion as detailed in the next section.
Factors Associated with Inclusion of Students with Special Needs in Regular Schools
In a study by Vaz, Wilson, Falkmer, Sim, Scott, Cordier, and Falkmer (2015), the factors associated with primary school teacher’s attitudes towards inclusion of students with special needs in the regular schools were identified. The authors explain that teacher’s attitudes on inclusion are based on the practical implementation of inclusive education and not a specific ideology of inclusiveness. There is a complex pattern of factors that ought to be considered to promote positive attitudes towards inclusive schools (Vaz, Wilson, Falkmer, Sim, Scott, Cordier & Falkmer, 2015). It is important to provide education for all the children in an inclusive school. The teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion are based on the concerns about how inclusive education can be implemented and not based on any framework. The practical concerns as raised by the teachers include accommodating individualized time demands of the special education students without causing inconveniences and disadvantages to the other students. Other factors include lack of adequate support services and competence on the support of the inclusive educational practice (Vaz, Wilson, Falkmer, Sim, Scott, Cordier & Falkmer, 2015). Teacher education is crucial in the development of affirmative attitudes and skills necessary for successful inclusion. The findings contribute to the knowledge of the factors that ought to be considered to promote positive attitudes towards inclusive schools. Teachers need to have positive attitudes on the inclusion of special education needs learners in the mainstream classrooms for enhanced student outcomes.
Varied concerns by teachers
The teacher’s attitudes toward the inclusion of students with autism and emotional, behavioral disorder were performed by Cassady (2013) and revealed important findings on the current research. The author states that teachers express varied concerns about having students with autism and emotional behavior disorder in the mainstream education settings. Teachers’ attitudes towards the student population with special needs significantly affect the success and effectiveness of the method of instruction. The past few years has been characterized by a shift of children with disabilities from the segregated schools to the general education classrooms. The effectiveness of the concept of inclusion is influenced by the attitudes of the teachers who are directly involved. Majority of teachers have been found to be less receptive to inclusion since they do not understand how best to implement it (Cassady, 2013).
Demands of instructional and management needs
The teacher attitudes towards integration vary with the perceptions of the special needs as well as the beliefs about the demands on instructional and management needs placed on them (Cassady, 2013). It is necessary to identify teacher’s attitudes towards inclusion since it significantly affects performance and the success of children with special needs. Professional attitudes seek to facilitate and constraint the implementation of policies. Teachers, who accept the responsibility of inclusivity, tend to elevate the quality of instruction and the instruction is considered as more effective than of the teachers with other beliefs on inclusion. Increased receptivity towards the inclusion of students with special needs is related to enhanced teacher efficacy, higher rates of collaboration and increased the likelihood of differentiated instruction (Cassady, 2013). Negative views on inclusion tend to influence the interactions with children having special needs. The teachers with negative attitudes towards inclusion are less likely to use individualized lesson plans based on the student’s needs and are also less confident to implement the requirements of individualized education plans.
Lack of necessary support to the learning environment
The general education teachers having negative attitudes towards inclusion and are unwilling to include students with disabilities in their classroom, are not likely to provide the necessary support for a beneficial learning environment for the students (Cassady, 2013). Several factors affect the educational professional’s attitudes on the inclusion of students with disabilities such as the level of confidence on teaching children, the support received, and the opportunities for collaboration (Cassady, 2013). The provision of teachers with the necessary support helps to improve the overall implementation of inclusion for it to be more beneficial to students with special needs. The students with special needs pose serious challenges to teachers due to the difficulty of handling them, being time-consuming and frustrating as well. Such factors explain the need for special needs children to be handled appropriately since it has an impact on their performance (Cassady, 2013).
Training and professionalism aspects
On the factors that impact teacher attitudes, training and professionalism aspects stand out among others. Some teachers believe that they lack the level of training needed to teach special education students, which lowers their level of confidence. Others have a negative opinion on inclusive education, which is a consequence of the level of training acquired. Some of the teachers complain of lack of adequate, relevant skills on inclusive education and thus cannot effectively assist the students with special needs (Romero‐Contreras, García‐Cedillo & Fletcher, 2017).
In summary, the impacts of teacher attitudes towards the performance of students with special needs have been discussed, and important findings gathered. In the literature reviewed, it has been established that teacher attitudes have significant impacts on students’ level of achievement and performance (Romero‐Contreras, García‐Cedillo & Fletcher, 2017). Teachers with negative attitudes towards inclusive education tend to affect the achievement of students negatively and thus the overall success of the implementation of inclusive models of instruction (Cassady, 2013). On the contrary, positive teacher attitudes towards including special education students to mainstream schools have been shown to enhance their achievement. Of concern are the factors contributing to either positive or negative attitude by teachers, which ought to be addressed on an individual basis. With the increased adoption of inclusive models of learning, students will benefit more if teachers approach the issue with understanding (Greene, 2017).
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