Classroom teachers' attitudes towards the mainstreaming of children with special educational needs : a small scale survey

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The primary aim of this study was to investigate the attitudes of primary school teachers in ordinary classrooms towards learners with low to medium special educational needs, and to discover under what conditions, if any, they would be willing to accommodate these learners in their classrooms. It was hypothesized that teachers are not willing to accept these students without considerable support. The secondary aim of the study was to explore individual teachers' reservations about mainstreaming and methods by which these concerns could be overcome. A research design and methodology incorporating both a quantitative and a qualitative dimension was used. The sample consisted of 113 teachers drawn from six primary schools in the broader Cape Town area. Two schools were included from each of the three ex-Education Departments. A questionnaire based on the Classroom Integration Inventory (Paul, Turnbull and Cruikshank, 1977) was developed and administered to the teachers. This provided the data for the primary investigation. The data for the secondary investigation was collected by means of semi-structured interviews which were conducted with the respondents who were least willing to accept learners with special educational needs. Contrary to the literature, the quantitative results of this study indicated that primary school teachers generally had positive attitudes towards mainstreaming learners with special educational needs. The qualitative analysis outcomes revealed that class size, a lack of skills, and the additional time and work which would be involved, were the most prominent concerns. Suggestions offered to overcome these reservations included decreased class sizes and in-service training. These findings were similar to those in the literature. This investigation was considered to be important as a policy of progressive mainstreaming is a currently debated proposal for the South African education crisis. The support of the ordinary classroom teachers would be vital for such educational reform to succeed. Although the quantitative results indicated a favourable response to mainstreaming, the data were gathered by means of questionnaires depicting a hypothetical situation, and some teachers may have supplied "politically correct" responses. Thus it was recommended that this finding be supported by further investigation.

Includes bibliography.