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Inclusion is a concept that refers to an educator’s assurance that a child will be given the maximum quality of education in the school or classroom that he or she chooses to attend. This means that the child’s needs will be addressed in the specific academic setting chosen and not vice versa. Thus full inclusion would mean that children with special needs would be given the maximum services and support of a given school or teacher without having to move him or her to a special class or school, moved to a different setting.
The issue of inclusion in schools is a highly controversial topic. The same questions have been asked repeatedly. Are students treated equally in the school systems available today? Is inclusion truly an attainable concept given the present mode of operations of schools and teachers? Despite the efforts, equality between students is not an observable trait of present-day academic institutions. It is clear that the different aspects factoring into the success of inclusion still need to be understood and perfected.
One of the more important factors that inclusion are the teachers. The key to successful inclusion lies in the teachers’ hands. Without the correct confidence and attitude on the teacher’s part, any given child in a typical classroom setting will not be able to experience true inclusion. It is also important that a teacher have the skill and capacity to deal and serve not only children whose needs are within the norm but also with children having more special needs, such as those with physical handicaps or even those with advanced mental capacities. However, what can boost the more subjective aspects of a teacher’s craft? Skill can be taught and acquired through time. However, can confidence and the right attitude also be affected by training and experience?
This paper aims to understand the effects of training and experience on confidence and teacher’s attitudes. It also aims to understand the relationship between teachers’ confidence and attitude in achieving inclusion. It is hypothesized that training and experience are directly related to confidence and attitude. The more training and experience teachers have, the higher their confidence levels and the more positive their attitudes towards inclusion. Teacher’s confidence and attitudes are also hypothesized to be directly related to successful inclusion. High confidence on the teacher’s part and a positive attitude will ensure more successful inclusion. A review of a research study by Jung (2007) will show the merits of this hypothesis.
The purpose of Jung’s (2007) study was to establish the dynamics between training and a candidate teacher’s confidence level and attitude in dealing with children having special needs. The study looked at four specific questions to direct the research. First, would field experiences or special classes affect attitudes towards inclusion? Second, would the confidence levels and skills of preservice teachers improve if they were tasked to work with children having special needs? Third, how far are training programs for education students going to inform and arm them for inclusion? Fourth, what is included in these training programs? Based on previous studies, Jung hypothesized that field experience and special education classes would increase positive attitude towards inclusion and that confidence levels as well as skill of preservice teachers would increase with more experience in handling children with special needs.
Jung (2007) had a sample that consisted of 68 first year students enrolled in Introduction to Teaching in a Diverse Society and 57 student teachers. Results of the study showed that attitudes towards inclusion decreased in favorability after students were exposed to actual teaching experiences. However, training and special courses increased positive attitude towards handling children with special needs thus showing that working with such children worked to improve attitudes as well as confidence levels. This would shape a more positive attitude towards inclusion in general. Results show that training programs should specifically include a focus on increasing confidence levels in preservice teachers as training directly affects both confidence and attitude towards inclusion. Also, focusing on the quality and quantity of the content of training programs with regards to aspects of increasing confidence and fostering positive attitude towards inclusion is necessary. Having educators lead by example and showing more ways by which different disciplines can be applied to better aid education goals should also be done according to Jung.
The study showed clear and distinct ways by which confidence levels, attitudes, inclusion experience and training were related. In conclusion, the initial hypothesis of the paper is well-founded. Confidence levels and attitudes are directly related with training and experience. Also, successful inclusion is directly related with teachers’ confidence levels and attitudes. Although Jung (2007) performed a good research study, the variables it took into account may have been too many for the method he applied. Further research focusing more clearly on specific variables addressed in Jung’s study should be conducted. Also, the sample size used was limited and might have produced results that weren’t applicable to the general population. A bigger and wider sample size should be used in a replication study.
However, despite the limitations of the study, it is clear that the results of this paper and Jung’s study have far-reaching implications and wide-serving applications. Education students should be trained not only on the specific subject matters they will be handling but also in the development of their attitudes to the children they will be teaching. Confidence levels should be raised by having them work with students having special needs even before they start actual teaching. Training programs should have modules dedicated entirely to increasing knowledge and skill about inclusion in order to assure greater success rates in the future. With an investment in the training and of future teachers, inclusion has a hope for success in the future.
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