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This study investigated teacher’s attitudes and experiences of teaching pupils with physical and intellectual disabilities. The factors that seem to impact teacher’s attitudes and experiences were their own attitude ,teacher training and the resources and lastly self efficacy and teachers experience. The findings have shown that teacher training has a big influence on teachers and lastly their experiences of working with children with SEN. The recommendations that have been given show that teachers trainees should been given experience with working with children and lastly with experience this all encounters for courses interacting with children with SEN.
Pupils with physical and learning difficulties can collectively be referred to as pupils with Special Education Needs (SEN) or SEN pupils; this is how they will be referred throughout this dissertation.
In 2010, just over one in five pupils in England (1.7 million school-age children) are identified as having Special Educational Needs (SEN) and around two-thirds are educated in mainstream schools (Ofsted, 2010) the prominence of SEN within schools is a startling statistic.
The definition of SEN has evolved over the years; the most recent definition is by the SEND code of practice (2015), which defines SEN as:
“If they have a learning difficulty or disability which calls for special educational provision to be made for him or her” (Tutt and Williams, 2015,p.15)
The picture was very different when special needs and education was first raised in Government. During the Second World War the 1944 Education Act established that children’s education should be based on their age, aptitude and ability and described children with SEN through eleven categories which included ‘handicap’, ‘educationally subnormal’ and ‘in educable’. During this time, the general philosophy was that the child should fit the around the school rather than the school fitting around the child (Hodkinson,2016).
By the late 1990s as part of the 2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA), made it illegal to discriminate against pupils because of their SEN, which reinforced the notion that ‘all teachers are teachers of SEN’. Currently, there have been many developments in policy changes to include increased awareness and provisions for SEN, such as the introduction of a Special Needs Co-Ordinator (SENCO) in every school and including SEN are a core part of the Initial Teacher Training, details of which will be explored in later in the Literature Review.
It is fair to say that in general, including provisions and support for SEN pupils in mainstream schools has improved across schools to an extent. However, the level at which provision and support is deployed at every school, and its effectiveness, varies a great deal by school, regionally and nationally which is contributed by a number of factors including local policies and practices, the individual practitioner’s experience and attitude and the level of resources available (reference)
The objective of this dissertation is to explore teachers’ perceptions of, attitudes towards and experiences of teaching pupils with physical and learning difficulties. These important factors believed to drive the most impact, which are:
- Teachers’ Attitude – To what extent does a teacher’s attitude impact teaching SEN pupils and what are the factors that drive this?
- Teacher Training – To what extent does teacher training support or impact effective teaching of SEN pupils?
- Resources for pupils with SEN – Is there effective resources in place for SEN pupils and does that impact the overall learning experience?
- Self-efficacy and teachers’ experience –Does self-efficacy and the teacher’s experience have any impact of producing a successful teaching experience for SEN pupils?
The dissertation consists of a literature review which reviews external research, studies and insight on the four factors and then overlays this insight with interviews carried out by three different types of teaching practitioners; the teacher, the SENCO and the teaching assistant. The overall aim to is to provide insight, conclusions and recommendations on what, if any, are the most important factors driving teachers’ perception, attitudes and experiences of teaching SEN pupils and what can be considered to improve the status quo.
The aim of the literature review is to provide a factual background into how policies, practices and provisions for SEN pupils have evolved in the UK as well as recent studies that consider various factors in relation to the four factors mentioned above that are regarded as key drivers in teachers’ perceptions, attitudes and experiences of teaching pupils with SEN.
Under the terms of the 1944 Education Act, children and young people with SEN were categorised by their disabilities and those described as being ‘severely educationally subnormal’ were considered ‘uneducable’ and so were deemed to be the responsibility of the Department of Health. In 1970, with the passing of the Education (Handicapped Children) Act, the responsibility for the education of ‘severely educationally subnormal’ children was transferred to local education authorities (LEAs) (now Local Authorities) and so for the first time, all children with SEN had the right to receive education, usually in a special school (Hodkinson, 2016).
The 1978 Warnock Report, followed by the 1981 Education Act, radically changed ideas and policies about special education: categories of handicap were abolished, the concept of special educational needs was introduced and an ‘integrative’ (later ‘inclusive’) approach was advocated ensuring that children’s individualised needs were catered fro in mainstream settings. Consequently, the 1980s and early 1990s saw enormous changes in the field of special education in England, at the heart of which was the increased inclusion into mainstream schools of children and young people with special educational needs (MALE, 2011).
By the late 1990s as part of the 2001 Special Educational Needs and Disability Act (SENDA), made it illegal to discriminate against pupils because of their SEN, which reinforced the notion that ‘all teachers are teachers of SEN’. However, following 30 years of cross-party movement toward inclusion, a change of government in 2010 appeared to result in a move in the other direction (Norwich, 2012). The policies by the Labour party have not been developed further by the current Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition administration. The Conservative Party’s 2011 Green Paper outlined plans to ‘remove the bias towards inclusion’ (DfE,2011,p 5) by providing parents with a greater choice of schools, including special schools. Indeed, this can be traced even further back, to 2007, when a Conservative Party-sponsored Commission on Special Needs in Education (Conservative Party, 2007) stated that inclusion was ‘a failed ideology’. So in the current landscape there now appears to be a ‘black hole’ as to how SEN pupils should be managed in terms of their educational needs which has dampened the concept of inclusion of SEN pupils in the mainstream school. The concept of inclusion requires the child to be present not only in the classroom but changes have to occur in values, attitudes policies and practices to ensure inclusion is fully met (reference). This is affected by, teacher attitudes, experiences and perceptions of SEN pupils, regardless of whether they have an intellectual or physical need, may vary based on many factors including the fact that there is no real clear policy in place at local authority level (Lauchlan and Greig, 2015).
An interesting factor when reviewing teachers’ attitudes is to look at what drives teachers to move into the teaching profession, especially for those supporting SEN pupils. There has been significant research on some of the key factors including the influence from family members and/or their own teachers and wanting to ‘make a difference’ to the next generation.
However an interesting study from Suzanna Mackeni and Day 2007 shows that there are differences in key drivers for generic teachers and those teachers who chose to teach SEN pupils. The studies describe that “parenthood is a ‘critical incident’ in anyone’s life, and especially for parents who have a child with SEN.” A ‘critical incident’ is referred to a significant event that occurs in someone’s life. This could influence the way they think, behave and general attitudes to life in the long term. Cole’s research (2005) stems from becoming a mother of a child with SEN. Her combined experiences as a teacher and a mother affected her views on inclusion and a quest to explore inclusion and exclusion (Cole, 2005).
The teachers who were also parents of children with special needs began to feel much closer to the children at school. They also felt a greater connection with parents and respected their feelings more as they understood how parents felt and developed a greater understanding of the advocacy role that parents take on (Cole, 2004; 2007). The studies illustrated that because these teachers were more closely involved with their own child’s experiences and had a higher desire for a good outcome for SEN pupils they also felt much more stronger towards building a strong inclusive environment for all children in mainstream school.
Another study considers how the nature or extent of the disability impacts the teacher’s attitude to supporting a SEN pupil. Center and Ward (1987), Male and Rayner (2009) are more supportive of the idea of inclusion for children wild disabilities. However, Avramidis and Norwich (2002) argue that teachers’ beliefs influence not only affect the teachers teaching style (Pearson, 2005). According to Kirk, Gallagher and Amastasiow (1997) levels of disability are distinguished between IQ levels thus, severe intellectual disability refers to persons with a 20-34 and mild disabilities refers to a lower IQ and that the issue does not lie with the types of disability rather with intellectual disability (McNally, Cole and Waugh, 2001).
Over the years the main issue that has been found several times is the concern with teacher’s perceptions towards an inclusive practice. This can be evident in the study by Mittler (2000) suggest that teachers perceptions play a great influence on inclusion in the classroom ( reference) and another study that support teachers attitudues are in an issue is by Cook et al (2007) teachers rejected pupils with SEN although they showed a great concern for pupils with SEN (reference).
This research suggest that the issue lies with teachers attitudes towards the concept of inclusion on the other hand Center and Ward (1987) found that teachers expressed to agree with inclusion overall, but their main concern was with specific disabilities (Campbell, Gilmore and Cuskelly, 2003). They have suggested that teachers were found generally to be more supportive of including children with physical and sensory disabilities than those with intellectual disabilities.
Another important factor considered to drive teacher attitudes is the emotional impact of teaching in general and how this differs to teaching SEN pupils.
Traditional research in this field tended to focus on stress whereas more recent research has examined a wider range of emotional experiences and highlighted the complexity of feelings associated with teaching. Teachers often possess a strong personal commitment towards their profession, and teachers’ emotions influence the formation of their identities and ultimately how they adopt pedagogy for all pupils (O’Connor, 2008 as cited in Teachers Talking Critical Events in the life history of staff working with children with special educational needs). Similar traits are found for teachers that specifically focus on SEN pupils, however some studies show that for SEN teachers the identity of wanting to make a difference is much stronger and is commonly formed from a young age, possibly through a ‘critical life incident’ which then becomes firmly established (Jones, 2004 as cited in Teachers Talking Critical Events in the life history of staff working with children with special educational needs).
Often, visiting a long stay hospital, for example, had a lasting impact. Such critical incidents helped to determine people’s motivation to work in SEN and often explained why they stayed in the profession for many years.
Conversely, negative emotions are also noted for teachers supporting SEN pupils,( MacBeath et al.’s study (2006) as cited in Teachers Talking Critical Events in the life history of staff working with children with special educational needs) is one of the few to explicitly discuss the emotional nature of teaching in SEN. Teachers often felt guilt and failure when working with children with SEN. MacBeath et al.’s study found that teachers felt guilt about letting children down by not giving them enough time or seeing very slow progress. Teachers felt that they were ‘muddling through’ and they were constantly weighing up the satisfaction felt through their commitment to the children with the stress that the job engendered. Staff spoke of the ‘hell’ that they had to go through before feeling a sense of achievement with pupils, especially those with challenging behaviour and complex needs Teachers Talking Critical Events in the life history of staff working with children with special educational needs).
To summarise, based on the research, it appears that some of the factors that impact teacher attitudes and motives for teaching in the first place are very similar across all teachers, however for those who choose to support SEN pupils specifically, they tend to have experienced events related to special needs or disabilities either through themselves, a family member or their children and so this creates a stronger, more positive need for them to support SEN pupils. However, the high demands of teaching SEN pupils also lead to negative emotions of frustration and guilt that could have a knock-on adverse effect in the long term.
Historically, the reform of the initial teacher training over the years has focussed more on raising the standards and promoting ways of increasing attainment with pupils. Therefore, the concept of SEN and inclusion historically has been given a lower priority and teacher trainees were expected to do school based learning and mentoring believed to be more important than training on the campus, a vital aspect in teaching (Golder, Norwich and Bayliss, 2005) Previous reviews of SEN training such as from Wedell and Daniels (1996) showed various studies that found trainees had a lack of practical training especially for SEN pupils, Brownlee and Carrington (2000) found that trainee teachers were reported to believe that their education course needed more practical experience therefore, trainee teachers did not feel prepared for their roles (Golder, Norwich and Bayliss, 2005). It also shows that over four years there was no progression over the improvement of teacher training and their experiences with SEN. Robertson (1999) supports this and states that the standards for newly qualified teachers are “too simple, slight and procedural and compliant to be able to promote inclusive education”. Studies also point towards the lack of preparation for teaching children with SEN being a primary barrier towards an inclusive society as suggested by Wedell and Daneil and Roberston (1999), Ofsted (2008) suggests that it is better for teachers to have ready prepared information as they lack expertise in the area and do not have confidence in something that sets them apart from a script (Golder, Norwich and Bayliss, 2005).
Currently, the understanding is that SEN training is covered at various depths depending on the route a person takes to become a teaching practitioner, however based on this research, the inclusion of the SEN topic appears to be just raising the awareness of SEN as opposed to providing some of the practical, detailed and even emotional aspects required when supporting SEN pupils as discussed in the above previous studies.
The legal qualification to become a teacher is the Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and enables the practitioner to be qualified to teach at any age range in England and Wales, this is obtained from the Initial Teacher Training course (How To Become A Teacher)
However, following the 2015 Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training developments have been made which mean that for the first time SEN will be a core part of the ITT course Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training ITT 1-81). The detail, states that providers should ensure trainee teachers understand they are obliged to set high standards to inspire, motivate and challenge ALL pupils for whom they have responsibility:
“This applies regardless of age, ability or aptitude, and includes pupils who might have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), and pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL). Providers should equip trainees to be able to inspire and provide extra challenge for the most able pupils.” Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training ITT 1-81).NEED a page number
It also states that providers should ensure that SEND training is integrated across the ITT programme. Trainees should be able to recognise signs that may indicate SEND, and support common educational needs through review of their teaching, making adjustments to overcome any barriers to progress and ensuring that pupils with SEND are able to access the curriculum (Carter Review of Initial Teacher Training ITT 1-81).
Whilst there appears to many developments in raising the importance of SEN in generic teacher training since a decade ago, it still remains unclear how the Carter Review recommendations have been put in practice if at all, having reviewed a few current ITT course contents, there was no visibility of SEN topics (Kingston University, University of Worcester websites for QTS courses). This could be due to the fact of the change in Government since the Review was conducted.
exist for teachers who want to specialise in SEN, but most are not free, or are do not come across a common knowledge.
A postgraduate course such as a PGCE can specialise in SEN as can other qualifications and advanced training courses. A good free, source for further education in SEN is found in the Government website which provides online interactive courses as well as documents that can be accessed any time (Training Modules And Resources For Teaching SEND Pupils-GOV.UK).
In 1994, the Code of Practice for the Identification and Assessment of Special Educational Needs placed a statutory obligation on all schools to identify a specialist teacher to co-ordinate provision for pupils with SEN. In 1998, the Teacher Training Agency, now Teaching Agency, (TTA) attempted to capture the ‘core purpose’ of the SENCO (Special Needs Co-ordinator), as someone who would take responsibility for the day-to-day provision made by the school for pupils with SEN and provide professional guidance (Great Britain. Teacher
Training Agency, 1998). The TTA identified four areas where co-ordination was essential for effective SEN provision: strategic direction and development of SEN provision in the school; teaching and learning; leading and managing staff; and efficient and effective deployment of staff and resources. Therefore there have been attempts to formalise a role for supporting SEN in all schools.
There has been many changes of the SENCO role over the years, which will be covered later under the SEN Resources factor, however in terms of training and qualifications, in 2014, The Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 [get reference Part 3 paragraph 49 [a] and [c]] states that governing bodies of maintained mainstream schools and proprietors of mainstream academies and free schools must ensure the SENCO is a qualified teacher employed by the school.
(Ref: file:///C:/Users/Akaf/Downloads/The%20role%20of%20the%20SENCO%20in%20schools%20-%20November%202015%20(1).pdf). CANT FIND REFERENCE.
In September 2009 it became law for every new SENCO in a mainstream school to gain the Master’s-level National Award for Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator within 3 years of taking up the post.
In addition, the new Teacher Standards, now in operation, place a greater emphasis on supporting pupils with SEN. Challenging professionals to adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils, the Standards also call on teachers to use and evaluate distinctive approaches to engage and support them (The changing role of the SENCO).
In summary, SEN training for generic teacher training courses appears to have yet to establish a place in the initial teacher training courses, based on research carried out. Whilst there have been many recommendations that have been considered by Government, the change in political leadership may have deferred any of the key recommendations to be effectively put in place. However there appears to be many developments made in specialist training and accreditations for SEN either through free online knowledge lessons or paid-for advanced courses. The most effective deployment of SEN practices appears to be through the SENCO role which has been strongly embedded into every mainstream school so that on-the-ground provisions for SEN are made.
As mentioned above, the key resource for any school for supporting pupils with SEN is the SENCO, who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the school’s SEN policy.
The SENCO will co-ordinate additional support for pupils with SEN and liaise with their parents, teachers and other professionals who are involved with them. The SENCO has responsibility for requesting the involvement of an Educational Psychologist and other external services particularly for children receiving support at School Action and School Action Plus. This also includes general SEN assessments, administration and parental support. The SENCO should have the support of the head teacher and other teachers to try and develop effective ways of overcoming barriers to a child’s learning and ensuring that they receive effective teaching through assessing the child’s needs and setting targets for improvement. SENCOs must also collaborate with curriculum co-ordinators at the school to make sure that the learning requirements of all children with SEN are given equal emphasis and priority. (Ref: http://www.specialeducationalneeds.co.uk/senco.html, file:///C:/Users/Akaf/Downloads/The%20role%20of%20the%20SENCO%20in%20schools%20-%20November%202015%20(1).pdf). CANT FIND REFERENCE.
The SENCO’S role varies greatly by school, Local Authority and nationally, some SENCOs facilitate CPD within their own school or arrange for outside agencies to provide specialist training and support as the need arises (Ref: PHD report).
It is also important to note that since the introduction of the Code in 1994, the demands of the SENCO role have increased substantially (Goodman and Burton, 2010 as cited in (TEACHERS TALKING: CRITICAL EVENTS IN THE LIFE HISTORY OF STAFF WORKING WITH CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS).
In addition, perceptions and understanding of the SENCO role vary greatly, some perceptions are that the SENCO is specifically focussed in the classroom, whilst others see the SENCO as a strategic co-ordinator for the school that is involved in a number of strategic decisions for the school practice and polices (TEACHERS TALKING: CRITICAL EVENTS IN THE LIFE HISTORY OF STAFF WORKING WITH CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS)
It is observed that an increasing number of Teaching Assistants (TAs) have supporting SEN pupils, the study by Webster (2015) shows that over a 35 year period, with data drawn from a set of large-scale systematic observation studies, conducted in the UK between 1976 and 2012, there is an increase in the number of teaching assistants in mainstream primary settings, employed and deployed to assist the learning and inclusion of pupils with SEN, which is identified as a key observable influence on the difference between the classroom experiences of pupils with and without SEN over time (Webster,2015)
A recent Guardian article (based on the Making a Statement Study study, raises the over reliance on TAs for SEN pupils as well as their parents, it states:
“schools arrangements for SEN are heavily reliant on TA support. They support or encourage a parent’s case for TA hours because it allows everyone to feel more confident about the likelihood of the child coping in a mainstream school environment. As the SEN process offers families and schools little alternative, it’s small wonder TAs are seen as a prerequisite for successful inclusion.”
The study found that students with high-level SEN receiving the most TA support made significantly less academic progress than similar pupils who received little or no TA support. The conclusion draws to the fact that whilst it is good to have TAs supporting SEN pupils, the pupils themselves do not get enough one to one attention from the teacher and so their performance suffers as a consequence (“The Making A Statement (MAST) Study”)
Some Local Authorities facilitate SEN conferences for their local communities to understand more about SEN, however with local budget cuts these have been reducing.
In addition, schools can commit time to develop awareness of SEN for their staff and parents, however again this varies significantly by school so the level of awareness of SEN and the effectiveness of each school’s SEN policy varies greatly (The Changing Role Of the SENCO).
A key factor to SEN resourcing is funding. Schools require Local Authority funding for all of their pupils, including those who have a form of SEN. The funding that schools receive is vital to providing the educational support for all pupils, and special educational resources for pupils with SEN (Faqs About SEN Funding).
As every SEN has different requirements so is the level of funding allocated for every school. Funding is dependent on the number of pupils in a school, whilst there is no exact amount, there is a general belief that it is the equivalent of £4,000 per pupil. In addition, schools can receive Additional Funding Support, and Top-Up Funding which could be as much as £6,000 each. In addition where the funding comes from and how it is allocated varies for mainstream schools and academies (Faqs about SEN funding).
It is important to note, as with many Public Sector services in the current economic climate, the level of funding inevitably impacts the successful education of SEN pupils and a recent report has highlighted how funding cuts are now impacting schools. The report from The Key (Ref: https://redirect.viglink.com/?format=go&jsonp=vglnk_149288735817212&key=9b4efad421c8b103b2c94b796db973b0&libId=j1tmgtqr0101b6gf000DA4j3yv6j9&subId=0d43c295dccc4a56738ca99f07e74930&loc=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.specialneedsjungle.com%2Fhead-teachers-warn-children-send-being-failed-budget-cuts%2F&v=1&out=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.thekeysupport.com%2F&ref=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk%2F&title=Head%20Teachers%3A%20Children%20with%20SEND%20are%20being%20failed%20by%20budget%20cuts%20-%20Special%20Needs%20Jungle&txt=The%20Key) , an organisation that provides leadership and management support to almost half of schools in England, surveyed leaders of 1,100 schools and showed that more than eight in 10 (82%) mainstream schools across England say they do not have sufficient funding and budget to adequately provide for pupils with SEND. In addition, almost nine in 10 (89%) school leaders believe cuts to local authorities’ services have had a detrimental impact on the support their school receives for pupils with SEND.
Many theorists suggest that the main concern that lies with teacher training as Brownell et al found, is that teachers with SEN qualifications appeared to be more positive. From this research it was found that teachers with SEN qualifications reported their teacher preparation experiences to be more positive, and that differentiated curriculum and knowledge about teaching and programming strategies during teacher preparation contributed to more positive attitudes about inclusion. Furthermore this increased exposure to teaching children with disabilities in practicum placements may also contribute to more positive views. However, an important link here is that positive attitudes were related to having a high self-efficacy. The term self-efficacy has been defined as; ‘a person’s level of being able to deal with various tasks, for example: math problems, facing barriers and the transfer of beliefs across various activities’ (Bandura, 1995). It has been suggested that teachers with a high self-efficacy and openness have more positive attitude towards an inclusive education. On the other hand, teachers with a low self-efficacy tend to see problems with an inclusive education and see problems that are associated within the child.
Empirical findings validate the associations between high self-efficacy in teachers and openness to implement varied instructional strategies for students of all ability levels, including those with learning difficulties  and more positive attitudes toward inclusive education [40–42]. Conversely, teachers with low self-efficacy in their teaching are more likely to see difficulties in learning to be attributable to the child (i.e., internal to the child) and less willing to adapt their teaching methods to suit the needs of students with learning difficulties [43–46]. Teachers with a higher efficacy attribute students’ difficulties more to external factors than those with a lower efficacy, suggesting that teachers who feel more competent are more comfortable in accepting some responsibility for students’ difficulties . Emerging evidence suggests that teachers’ self-efficacy beliefs are a better predictor of the attributes they uphold regarding inclusive education than their role (i.e., whether a teacher works in a special, mainstream, or learning support setting REWORD. REFERENCE NEEDED
The teachers in a study by Mackenzie appeared to demonstrate a high degree of resilience across their careers, and exhibited a huge commitment to working with children with SEN. This latter factor motivated them throughout their careers. The findings may be unsurprising, given the self-selecting nature of the sample. However, it is still noteworthy how and why such teachers maintained resilience for more than 15 years, and in some case for more than 30 years (Teachers Talking Critical Events in the life history of staff working with children with special educational needs).
Day et al. (2007) extended previous work on teachers’ careers by investigating the variations in the impact of critical influences on teachers and their effects in different phases of their professional lives. The existence of daily positive events found to be a predictor of teachers’ resilience; it is not negative events at school, but the absence of positive ones which is the best predictor of staff leaving the profession (Morgan, 2010).
Studies found that as teachers’ experience with pupils with SEN increased so did their confidence (Lambe and Bones, 2007).
In particular, teachers with 24 to 30 years of experience were more likely to face extreme life phase scenarios such as challenging pupil behaviour, new initiatives, adverse personal events and career stagnation. These were key negative influences on their morale and professional identity. Many of these teachers were aged 45 plus and were undergoing life phase transition and a change in identity and were facing increasing age-related deficits and work–life tensions. What was significant was resilient teachers’ capacity to build upon favourable influences and positive opportunities in their work and life contexts, to overcome the emotional tensions of the scenarios in the environments which they experienced and to maintain positive emotions and a sense of vocation over a sustained period of time (Day et al., 2007)
This study found similar internal values and motivations to serve but more specifically around meeting the needs of children with SEN. This was couched within a moral framework of a strong commitment to inclusive education which often fuelled their commitment to stay in teaching.
The purpose of this methodology chapter is to describe the theoretical framework for this research project in sufficient detail for a similar study. Therefore, this methodology chapter will contain the paradigm, and tools and instrument for this dissertation.
Paradigm has an important function because it sets out the framework to examine current practices (Cohen et al 2000) Firstly, a paradigm is a network of coherent ideas about the nature of world and the functions which is adhered to by a group of researchers, conditions; their thinking and this underpins the researchers actions (Bassey, 2000, p37). As Hitchock and Hughes (1995) state that ontology (reality) are important because they give rise to epistemology (evidence) and this together gives us the knowledge for collecting the data for this dissertation (Cohen et al 2000).
For this particular research project an interpretivist method was chosen. An interpretivist method allows the researcher to obtain the very basis of knowledge and how it has been formed. This was seen as the best method suited for this research because this will allow the researcher to understand the participants’ emotions and feelings (reference). In this instance, the participants that were involved in this research project are the teacher, teacher assistant and SENCO. This method will allow them to share their attitude and experience of working with children with SEN. The second factor to consider is the approach that will be taken. The approach chosen was a qualitative method as this is more beneficial because Miles and Huberman (1984) state that “qualitative data comes in the form of words rather than numbers”(Cohen,et al 2000 p.50 ).This method has allowed a deeper understanding to be obtained because of interviews allow the researcher to obtain inner experiences by the language, narratives and sign systems that were shown in the interviews (Silverman,1997).The advantages of using qualitative research method that it had the ability to engage with practitioners, learn and provide data that can be analysed to give a clarification of teacher’s attitudes and experiences of teaching pupils with physical and intellectual disabilities (Coyne 623-630)
Sampling is a way to obtain candidates’ for a research project and in qualitative research this is very complex. There are three main types of sampling that was considered for this research project, which were purposeful sampling, random sampling and theoretical sampling (Coyne 623-630)
Purposeful sampling selects candidates according to the criteria that are needed by the author (Devers and Frankel, 2000).
In simple random sampling each member of the population has a chance to be selected for example a random sample of teachers (Cohen,et al 2000).
Theoretical sampling is very similar to purposeful sampling as the researchers acknowledges where the sample has to be taken but a key difference is that the researcher does not know necessarily what to sample for and where it will lead to (Coyne 623-630).
Purposeful sampling was chosen and this can be justified because of two reasons; one being it enhances understandings of individuals this is accomplished by selecting specific individuals. Secondly, it allows the accomplishment of information to be gained for a purpose to obtain information for the research question (Devers and Frankel, 2000). Therefore, in this study it will be the teacher who has the most experience an estimation of 20 years, SENCO who has had the least experience for less than a year and teacher assistant who has been working for the school for many years. This will be beneficial for the research to know the candidate as this will provide a researcher with knowledge and experience that the candidates has had beforehand and whether it is advantageous to ask them to participate as the candidates need to articulate and express their opinions which can then be reflected on in the interview (Etikan 2016)
The major advantage of using this method it is selective on choosing the participants however but some suggest that this research conducted this way is bias because to what extent can this judgement be relied on? (Silverman,2007). Although there are limitations of using this method, this has been carried out because from all the types of sampling this is the most effective method to gain information; about teachers’ attitude and their experiences of working with pupils’ with SEN. This can be justified because of two reasons. Firstly random sampling an issue it presents is that a complete list of the population needs to be obtained which will take a lot of time (Cohen et al 2000). Secondly theoretical sampling the research does not necessary give what the researcher is looking for thus, being a bigger criticism because the researcher does not know what to sample for. So therefore the researcher is missing a key process by not knowing specific candidates that are needed for the research and in effect how should be chosen (Suri,2011).
This methodology has already covered the ontology, epistemology this has now led to the justification of the tools and instruments used. In regards to the tools and instruments a number of methods could be used to collect the information. The possible choices for the data collection was a semi-structured interview, questionnaire or an observation.
Semi-structured interview is a form of an interview where topics and open ended questions are written but the exact sequence and wording does not have to be followed with each participate for the interview (Cohen et al 2000).
Questionnaire is a method of obtaining information about the participant lives by asking a serious of questions on paper (Cohen et 2000).
An observation will allow the interviewer observe the participant behaviour and body language (Silverman, 2013).
The method that was used was a semi structured interview and this was carried out individually with the teacher, teacher assistant and SENCO. The advantage of doing a semi-structured interview is that the order of the questions do not have to be the same. In this way the researcher is able to build a rapport with the participant (Smith,Flowers and Larkin,2009). The location of where the interviews were carried out was where the participants’ work so they are familiar with the area. If any signs of complex behaviour is shown for example, if the participant is not looking at the interviewer this could possibly be a factor to be considered (MacDonald,2012).
An interview can be carried out either individually or in a group. For this purpose one to one interviews were chosen, as they are more suitable. This is because it allowed individuals’ view points’ to come across rather than group view points’ that may be held due to what should be said rather than how it is in reality. With group interviews, as Watts and Ebbutt (1987) note with conducting group interviews there is little use of personal matters to emerge thus, it was vital to explore teacher’s attitude and experiences individually (Cohen et al 2000).
This is because the term attitude can cause a lot of conflict between practitioners because disability is grounded with myths, beliefs and superstitions according to Hodkinson (2016). It is therefore vital for the practitioners to be interviewed by themselves. A questionnaire was not chosen because with questionnaires they is always a fear of not receiving any response from the participants’. This could lead to an on going circle which leaves the researcher without any data to analyse but with an interview there is a set time and data which allows the necessary information to be obtained in the time and there is no need to repeat the process over and over which is very time consuming in reference to carrying out questionnaires (Silverman, 2013). An observation was not chosen because with an observation requires many ethical considerations which is hard to obtain therefore this method was not chosen (Cohen at al 2000).
The pilot that was tested out was carried out with my family members to ensure that the questions were fit for purpose. It was also to ensure that they allowed the researcher to gain the correct information that is needed to carry out an interview. The interview practice was productive because this gave an indication of how to structure the questions in the interview. This ensured that the questions flowed and allowed the correct information to be carried out. However, during the interview timing was an issue because the interview lasted more than 20 minutes. This was an issue because all of the practitioners are given a limited time to do the interview because of all responsibilities that they have. The interview questions were amended again to make sure that they were specific and allowed the answers to be obtained to reach the aims of this research project.
Validity was ensured in this project by using appropriate sample, which were three people. This allowed triangulation to be shown which allows people to see the information from three different angles (Cohen at al 2000).
Firstly, for any method used in qualitative data it is vital to ask the participants for their permission (Silverman, 1997). In this instance the permission was gained by asking if they are willing to participate in a research project only a sentence or two was said and suggested the interviews will be carried out to look at the experiences of working with children with SEN. The permission was granted for both things that were necessary, firstly for the interview and the secondly for the taking notes during the interview reference. A time and date was fixed to interview all the participants on one day and a permission of 20 minutes was given. The word attitude was not at all mentioned because this can cause a lot of tension to teachers because the way that they perceive disability may differ. (Hodkinson, 2016).
On the date for the interview, the teacher came along and she suggested she wanted to commence the interview in the staff room. This was followed and then the SENCO was interviewed and finally the teacher assistant. The notes were made and candidates were assured that the information would only be shared with the supervisor after the type of the interview any notes will be destroyed.
The data will then be analysed by thematic analysis this is useful because it allows patterns and themes to be found within the data (Bearman and Dawson, 2013). This method was chosen because it is flexible and enables the researcher to go back to the literature review and identify themes (Macdonald, 2012).
Ethics “is a set of principles that embody what is good or right, or allow us to identify what is bad or wrong “(Miller,2012,p16).Firstly ,the first ethical issue to consider is the use of data and interpretations that have been analysed thus ,the first ethical dilemma ,is how much information will be shared with the public? Therefore ,all information should be given permission to shared witb the public or not.
Thematic analysis is a “process for encoding qualitative information”(Boyatiz,p.12) This method looks at differentiating the data by creating themes which can be identified between three of the practitioners. This will allow the relationship to be created by the themes that have been identified in the literature review and be able to look at the similaries and differences within the data. This method is best suited for the data because this allows a numerous factors, which are advantageous for this type of data collection. One of the advantages of doing a thematic analysis is according to Creswell (1994) is that is allows reseachers to combine two sorts of information that has been gathered one being the qualitative information and the other being the precision of qualitative method. Another being the purpose of seeing information , a way of making sence of new information and lastly a way of analysing information (Boyatziz,2012)
This section will summarise key insights gained from the various interviews and then through a discussion, will analyse the insights from the interviews and how they compare and contrast with the findings from the literature review.
The interview insights are summarised in the order of the four key factors explored in the literature review which are; Teachers’ Attitude, Teacher Training, Resources for SEN and Teacher Self-Efficacy and Experience. For each factor the responses will follow in order of participant; The Teacher, The SENCO and the Teaching Assistant.
One of the questions that was asked to set the scene, to take into account the teachers’ attitude with disabilities was the following, “what is your attitude to teaching pupils with physical disabilities and learning difficulties?
The teacher expressed that she did not see any difference in teaching pupils with SEN as she had previously stated that “that all pupils are the same and they have their own talents”.
The SENCO also stated a similar view to the teacher that she sees no differentiation between physical disabilities and intellectual disabilities. As all children are treated equally and fairly to achieve their potential.
However, the Teacher Assistant (TA) had a different view and stated “children with physical disabilities are easier to handle”. Another important factor that the teaching assistant said as she raised her voice was, “I spend majority of my time with pupils with SEN”. From this dialogue and her raising her voice this has clearly shown that she has had enough with working with children with SEN. This was seen from an observation in the classroom, the TA spends a lot of time with children with SEN. Although, she had expressed her view clearly she seemed really agitated by the fact she had expressed a lot of frustration. She felt that she shouldn’t go no further with her views due to the fear of her opinion being shared with other members of the schools, which could cause a lot of problems. This information is confidential therefore; the reassurance of confidentiality was given to the participant to ensure she left the room without the need to worry about what has been said at the interview room.
From the results above this could imply that the TA has a preference because she stated that she preferred to help pupils with physical disabilities rather than pupils with other learning difficulties. A possible factor for this could be that the TA spends more time with children with disabilities therefore this will have a greater influence on the TA attitude overall. The literature review only suggested that teachers had an issue with their preference of disabilities however, the result now show TA’S have an issue with specific disabilities. Thus, being in effect a greater concern because according to the literature review and results the teacher assistant has an issue with specific disabilities as she spends majority of time with them. Therefore, this will have an impact on pupils learning because they do not spend time with the teacher and this will segregate the pupil and teacher.
This presents a challenge to the literature review because it stated only the influence of the teacher not the teacher assistant having a preference. Furthermore the literature review does not consider other practitioners view points and implies that teachers are to blame for their attitude. As a result of this finding, it can be suggested that TAs from the literature review and the finding that TA”s are spending too much time with SEN pupils thus, having a direct impact on the time that the pupil spends with the teacher assistant.
This part of the findings suggested that TA has an issue with working pupils with intellectual disabilities. However, it was determined by the literature review what does a SENCO ‘s job involve on a day basis. It has been suggested that the SENCO decides how much time the TA spends with the pupil with the SEN. The TA articulated that she spends majority of her time with pupils with SEN. Therefore, this may be a reason why the TA may have a preference with specific disabilities because of the segregation between the pupil and the teacher. This could possibly be an implication of the results that has been collected as the teacher assistant stated that she spends a lot of time with pupils with SEN.
Furthermore, an area that Center and Ward have presented is teacher’s attitudes towards specific disabilities, which is still an area that needs to be discussed further. From the semi-structured interview it has shown that this was not the case with either the teacher or SENCO. Thus, the findings from the literature review cannot be proven as strongly because only one person out of three agreed that they have a preference. Although, two practitioners did not suggest that they had a preference this is again an area for future research.
Therefore, it can be concluded from these findings that teachers have attempted to adapt to inclusion as much as possible with disabilities and tried to address the concept of inclusion over the years. However the findings from the results cannot be generalised with the national population because the research was only carried out at one local school.
Furthermore, it cannot be established from just one question how do teachers feel about working with children with SEN. Therefore, another question asked in the semi-structured interview was asking the participants about meeting the needs of physical and intellectual disabilities. The teacher only referred to meeting children with physical disabilities ensuring that she has all the support possible whereas, the TA stated she helps both pupils the best she can but find children with physical disabilities are easier to handle. The SENCO stated that she has all the resources in place to meet all the pupils’ need. Therefore, unknowingly the teacher had given her attitude about children with intellectual disabilities by stating only the support that she provides for children with physical disabilities The TA did suggest that she does mind helping all pupils however, earlier on the interview she said preference depending on behaviour. Thus, Center and Ward and Avaramadis and Norwich finding can be evident from overall 2 out of three practitioners support this. The only person that can support this finding is the SENCO this could be because she is SENCO thus, having a bias will affect her job. This all is dependent on the other three factors if they have an influence on her.
During the semi structured interview the specific area that was questioned is how did they both become a teacher?
The teacher had completed a PGCE in primary education and did not have any specific training with pupils with SEN. The teacher’s opinion of teaching SEN pupils’ in a school was she felt “scared”. From conducting this interview it was clearly visible how the teacher felt because she was very expressive in her feelings. This was not only shown in her expression but her body language too because she was shook slightly when she remembered the first time of interacting with pupils with SEN.
The SENCO who is also a qualified teacher had completed a PGCE with SEN so had a prior advantage to the teacher because she has had previous experience with SEN during her teacher training.
This establishes the importance of teacher training because of the differentiation between two different types of courses that both the teacher and SENCO have completed. The teacher’s course did not provide her with any SEN experience with pupils therefore, she felt “scared”. A possible indication of why she was scared could be something that was mentioned earlier in the literature review. Which was view the history of SEN which gives the view that because she is middle aged therefore from that perspective it can still have an influence on her as an individual being scared. Although the teacher did not have experience with her teacher training she has been a teacher for a significant time quite, but she still felt scared. A clear indication of this is that she plans all her lessons according to needs of all pupils. This can therefore improve the experience for pupils with SEN. The literature review studies suggested that teachers needed more practice when dealing with pupils with SEN, it states that all “newly qualified teachers are influenced and too slight” however, the SENCO is newly qualified, but the development of PGCE providing opportunities to teach with SEN. This now becomes a factor to encounter because all the literature suggests that PGCE has an influence, but it does not look at the specific courses.
Although the TA had not carried out a PGCE she said that she believes that it has an influence on teaching. The TA had a lot of experience working with teacher trainees and had found that this influences their attitude more. The TA also suggested Teachers that have completed a PGCE with SEN are more experienced because this complies them with current practice which is vital . This implies that teachers training courses do not provide teachers trainees with any experience with working with pupils with SEN.
However, the research that was carried out was not on newly qualified teachers and thus, being a variance in the literature review as most of the literature review studies suggested that the issue was only with newly qualified teachers not those that have been qualified for a while. Thus, the literature should be challenged because all the studies state the issues are with newly qualified teachers, but does not state the influence that experience has on teaching SEN whether it is positive or negative. There seems to be a shortfall in SEN qualified teachers’ teaching SEN pupils according to the interview findings and even though it was only one respondent, it is surprising to hear that the experienced teacher interviewed felt “scared” to teach SEN pupils. Therefore it would be good to understand if there have been more studies that look at experienced teachers attitudes in teaching SEN pupils and what could be done to improve that in order to improve the learning outcome for SEN pupils, especially experienced teachers tend not to go through much ongoing training.
One of the key questions was on the resources for pupils with SEN. This area has been highly controversial and therefore chose an open-ended question, the effectiveness of the resources for pupils with SEN? In this way the participant would have to give an answer rather than a simple yes or no.
The teacher stated that the resources were not great with helping pupils with SEN. This was due to funding being an issue as they are unable to provide with the resources are essential. The teacher expressed that she felt strongly about the subject , this was evident from her emotions and it became crystal clear that this was the only topic that she had formed an expressive opinion on.
The SENCO stated that if she had more funding for the school she would able to pay for more SEN resources for the school, which were desperately needed. The SENCO showed a lot of emotion and care for pupils with SEN as she used the word desperate, which made it very clear that she is helpless in this situation because of the funding that, is given to the school.
The TA did say something similar to the other two practitioners, she stated that the current resources are not effective at all in providing an inclusive environment to the pupils with SEN. She had stated that pupils with SEN are still left feeling helpless at their work because the resources are not all effective.
This supports the implication by Toppling (2012) that current resources in schools do not support inclusion. Although, the SENCO agreed with them the resources needed to be increased. So this could imply that the SENCO is unable to do their job effectively as the teacher or TA. All three practitioners are complaining about the resources for pupils with SEN which holds the SENCO liable. This means that the resources play a vital role in terms of supporting inclusion in the school. Therefore, this can imply that the teacher’s attitudes or the TA’s preference of disability is not to blame for inclusion with pupils with SEN. The initial blame from the literature review and the findings suggest that the SENCO is liable therefore; inclusion is not being as effective as it should be.
Although, this just one the implications that have been suggested another statement that was not relevant to the four areas that have been discussed in the literature review. The teacher stated that the SENCO is doing a great job, as when the teacher was a SENCO at a another school she found it very challenging .As already noted in the literature review the changes that have occurred in the job role of an SENCO since the code of practice reformed. Therefore, this has undoubtedly made the job harder for individuals to manage all the tasks that they are given with one of the major issue is the paperwork that are given which only consist of tick box exercises.
Thus, although paperwork is a legal requirement it is not effective in changing the lives of pupils with SEN. From this statement that was suggested from the teacher the SENCO is struggling with managing the resources because of the unnecessary workload of paper that she has to complete. The reform of the job change has caused the priorities of the SENCO to be affected which needs to be reformed.
Most importantly as the SENCO stated that “that funding is an issue for the resources”. This could imply that a challenge for the SENCO is knowing what resources are needed in the school to support pupils with a total of 36 people with SEN that are on the register but not having the finance available to purchase the resources needed. The literature review also shows how that a SENCO’s role can be difficult with financing therefore, this is not an issue about the SENCO doing her job effectively, but for the school having the finance available for the SENCO. Therefore, this seemed to be an issue nationally as the literature suggest that budgets cuts that have been placed which encounter for the loss.
The specific questions that were asked were about, was with how much confidence did they have in teaching pupils with special education needs.
The teacher believed that self-efficacy plays an influence on individuals thus, agreeing with the literature review as she stated” yes my confidence has built over time with teaching pupils with SEN”.
The SENCO had suggested that although she did think self-efficacy played an influence on the results she firmly believes that in the teaching profession confidence is a great influence on the individuals.
The result had showed that the TA did not think that self-efficacy plays any influence into their attitude as she suggested that teacher training builds your views.
From the results section it can be suggested that self – efficacy plays a part as it can be suggested from the interview, if they are any challenges with working with children with SEN? The answers from the participants’ all agreed that they are challenges in working with people with SEN. The biggest challenge for the teacher and SENCO is adapting the curriculum to suit the need of the pupil. Therefore, with this challenge determination is needed and this is where self-efficacy plays a role in fulfilling its purpose in the teaching profession.
Thus, self-efficacy plays a role into teacher’s behaviour with children with SEN in their classroom and their approach with working with them. This can be clearly evident in that self-efficacy is an important factor as some theorist suggested that is also reason why some teachers remain in the profession because of the high-self efficacy that they encounter.
Therefore, for future research special qualification needs to be factor that needs to be investigated further and whether this has an influence on teacher attitudes.
One of the key areas that this focussed on is whether the participants thought experience affects their attitude towards children with SEN?
The teacher stated that the experience that I have had over the years has really benefitted me with my skills and abilities.
The SENCO had said that yes “experience is really important but this is nothing compared to the schools attitude as a whole profession”.
The teaching assistant did not think that experience played any role. She suggested that the most contributing factor towards attitudes is teacher training. This influences individuals to the extent of not being able form their own philosophy.
With teachers experience only the teacher and SENCO believed that experience play a vital role in triggering the positive view about children with SEN. However, the SENCO states that yes “experience is really important but this is nothing compared to the schools attitude as a whole profession”. Therefore, this is implying that the attitude of individuals does not only come from individuals but others around them. Therefore, it is important as a school to have a positive attitude towards children with SEN, as she is suggesting that this has an impact on others. This clearly challenges the literature review because this suggest nothing about the importance of the school environment and the influence it can have on individuals thus, this can be now become a clear suggestion to be complied with. Furthermore, when investigating this area further it was suggested again by the teacher “ yes I agree with experience as well but not only with that it’s the school policies that have been put in place and they need to be followed”. Therefore, policies play a very crucial role in ensuring that pupils with SEN are treated with fairness.
This dissertation has unquestionably presented some insights into the factors that can contribute into segregation for children with SEN. The literature review, was based on four very important factors. Which were teacher’s attitudes, teacher training, resources for children with SEN and lastly teachers self-efficacy and experience. The literature review presented areas of evaluation, contradiction and areas that needed to be improved. In light of the debate, that occurred in the literature review the results were examined against studies, authors and practices. The literature review had proven to give some significance against the reality in question of the four factors that had been identified. The results have shown that teachers’ attitude have developed over the last thirty years but there is still some debate over what is teachers “opinion” of inclusion? In terms of the second factor, identified that commenced a PGCE with SEN have been presented a chance to actively engage with children with SEN and also gives them an opportunity to prepare. The third factor has caused a lot of debate, but has significantly proven to cause friction to SEN pupils because they have not had effective resources in place to support their inclusion. The final factor was teachers’ self-efficacy and their experience this has proven to be an effective factor to improve a child’s experience in the classroom.
Although, the results have proven to be some significance the author’s sample of the study is not representative of the whole population as stated before the interviews because they were only carried out at one school. This further suggests an improvement for the study would be to interview more participants. This will improve three factors; validity, reliability and the accuracy of the results. This will provide a wider range of results that can be used to compare the literature with and can enable a more significant conclusion.
From the results that have been obtained in this dissertation there can be some generic recommendations to improve the current situation. Firstly, the main concern is the amount of time that teacher assistants are spending with children with SEN which needs to be addressed to ensure that the child spends a fair amount of time with the teacher. Another recommendation is to review the allocation of funds that the SENCO receives for each pupil as this in order to ensure funds are allocated in an efficient and effective way given the current budget constraints. Lastly, and most importantly is the training that is given to those who have no experience with working with children with SEN. All schools need to ensure that all teachers have some experience with working with children with SEN this will allow them to meet inclusion within the schools.
Overall, the dissertation has presented some key insights into the changes for pupils with SEN. From the four factors that have been discussed, the two most important ones that have created the most discourse for children with SEN are; teacher training and the resources for SEN pupils. The reason for teacher training is that it was evident that newly qualified teachers are not developing any experience with SEN pupils which raises feelings of being scared and a lack of confidence. The second factor, resources for SEN pupils is important because all three of the participants agreed that resources was an issue for pupils with SEN. Therefore, they are not able to achieve the best results simply because they do not have adequate resources which is affecting their inclusion. The objectives for this research project have been met because teacher attitudes and experiences were explored through a detailed review of fours underlying factors and how these impacts SEN pupils.
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A summary of the key findings from the interviews is below.
||Attitude is no different in teaching pupils with SEN or no SEN.||Attitude is no different in teaching pupils with SEN or no SEN||TA spends a lot of time with pupils with SEN.|
|No difference in attitude for teaching pupils with intellectual disabilities or physical disabilities with the teacher or the SENCO.|
||Teacher received no training for SEN in their PGCE.
She has spend most her time in mainstream school.
|Did a PGCE with SEN.
She has had some experience with SEN.
||Resources are not effective in helping pupils with SEN. More funding is required to make a difference.
The impact of the resources lead to pupils with SEN falling behind.
|Current resources are not effective in teaching pupils with SEN.
Children with SEN are struggling with the work that is given because of the resources.
|More funding is required for effective resources for pupils with SEN.
Funding is issue in all schools.
5. Teachers experience
|Teacher confidence is a key driving factor in effectively teaching pupils with SEN||Teacher confidence is a strong factor in teaching pupils with SEN||Teacher confidence does not play a part in teaching pupils with SEN|
|Self-efficacy does not play a part in effectively teaching pupils with SEN in regards to the SENCO and teacher assistant.|
4.7 The conculsion that can be based on the results that have been discussed throughout the results and discussion chapter. A clearer visual representation can be seen in appendix 6.1.
- The response from the teacher show that they don’t have any strong preference on what makes effective teaching practices for pupils with SEN, the only area that stands out is that they feel “scared” in teaching SEN pupils because they don’t have much experience in that field.
- The SENCO and TA tend to have more polarised views on certain areas, for example in the topic of SEN resources they felt that they are currently not effective and more funding would help improve the situation.
- As it is evident from the interview responses, the TA spears to spend most of the time working closely with supporting SEN pupils which in effect removes the close interaction the teacher should have with the SEN pupils. ( Can we have bullet points )
- Ultimately this may have a negative impact on the pupils as they are not receiving the close support from their teachers and therefore this may impact their educational performance and attainment results.
- It appears that the TA takes on the burden of providing the day to day support to the SEN pupils.
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