Pre-service teachers’ preparedness for inclusive education contexts in Bangladesh

2017-02-23T03:17:18Z (GMT) by Ahsan, Mohammad Tariq
Past research has indicated that teachers' attitudes, teaching-efficacy and concerns have a direct impact on their competence in the classroom and in students' achievements. Studies have identified that pre-service teacher education is the most appropriate time to prepare teachers with positive attitudes and high teaching-efficacy about inclusive education (IE). This research project aimed to understand pre-service teachers’ preparedness for IE in Bangladesh through exploring their attitudes towards, teaching-efficacy for and concerns about IE. The study was conducted in two phases. In Phase 1, a survey and semi-structured interview schedules were employed. A three-part survey questionnaire was used with 1,623 pre-service teachers that included a questionnaire for demographic information, the Sentiments, Attitudes, Concerns regarding IE (SACIE) scale for measuring attitudes and concerns and the Teacher Efficacy for Inclusive Practices (TEIP) scale for measuring teaching-efficacy of pre-service teachers. By applying a multiple regression analysis, it was found that variables such as length of training, gender, interaction with persons with disabilities, knowledge about local legislation and level of training involved had significant relationships with participants’ attitudes, teaching-efficacy and concerns. In addition, pre-service teachers’ teaching-efficacy was found to be positively correlated to their attitudes and negatively correlated with their concerns about IE. In Phase 1 of the study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22 institutional heads (IHs) of higher education, pre-service teacher education institutions to explore their beliefs and opinions about IE. Thematic analysis of the interviews indicated that some IHs conceptualised IE using a ‘medical-model’ of diagnosis and normative development and believed that IE was not suitable for children with a severe disability. Challenges were identified under four themes: attitudinal beliefs, academic challenges, challenges in practicum and challenges for beginning teachers. Interviewees further identified some useful strategies to address those challenges such as curriculum reform, emphasising more practicum opportunities than theories, human resource development, resource support and more empowerment of IHs to implement inclusion. The Phase 1 survey findings of the study indicated that the relationships of three variables, i.e. level of training involved, gender and length of training, with participants’ attitudes and teaching-efficacy were in sharp contrast to previous research. For example, Bangladeshi secondary level, pre-service teachers showed more positive attitudes and higher teaching-efficacy than their primary level counterparts: Bangladeshi pre-service teachers enrolled in a 1-year program showed higher teaching-efficacy than those who were in a 4-year program. Also, female pre-service teachers in Bangladesh had more positive attitudes but lower teaching-efficacy than their male counterparts. In order to further understand those inconsistent results, the Phase 2 study was designed, employing semi-structured interviews with 6 IHs. Thematic analysis of the interviews done in Phase 2 indicated that possible reasons behind the findings that appear to be in sharp contrast with those from previous international research. The differences in these findings are possibly explained by a number of curriculum, teacher-related and contextual variables. Based on the findings of the two phases of this study, a number of recommendations are made for policy makers, teacher educators and others engaged in inclusive education reform. The study investigated how socio-cultural contexts may have impacted background variables to predict pre-service teachers’ preparedness for IE. Several curriculum reform issues were identified: one significant finding was that it was the quality of the teacher education program that contributed to teacher preparedness for IE, rather than the length of the program. The study draws attention to the need for further research to investigate socio-cultural influences on variables such as gender and grade level of teaching to understand pre-service teachers’ preparedness for IE. Further research could explore the longitudinal effects of pre-service teachers’ readiness for IE through observing their classroom practices as regular teachers. In addition, further analysis could validate the scales employed in this study for the Bangladesh context.