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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


If it Takes a Village, Then We'd Better Educate the Villagers: Preservice Teachers' Attitudes and Beliefs about the Inclusion of Students with Severe Disabilities

Lilly Tennant, Dr Lynne Snyder.

The skills required of teachers are complex, demanding, and ever changing.
Correspondingly, designing and implementing university teacher education programs to prepare teachers to meet the multiple challenges of the 21st century classrooms are continuous concerns faced by teacher education faculty. As the general education classroom increasingly becomes the preferred placement option for many students with disabilities, including students with severe disabilities, teacher educators are faced with the dilemma of how to best prepare general education preservice teachers for inclusive education. To a marked degree, the success of inclusion in meeting the needs of a diverse student population may be dependent upon the beliefs of the teachers providing inclusive services. Richardson (1996) stated that the beliefs of incoming preservice teachers strongly influence what and how they learn. Further, she maintained that these beliefs should be “surfaced and acknowledged during the teacher education program if the program is to make a difference in the deep structure of knowledge and beliefs held by the students” (p. 104).

Only through a deeper understanding of these beliefs can teacher educators provide preservice teachers with experiences that will cultivate positive attitudes and will, in turn, facilitate the implementation of educational best practices.

The purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes and beliefs of preservice teachers concerning inclusive education for students with severe disabilities. Individual interviews were conducted with 35 preservice teachers to determine their attitudes and beliefs concerning inclusion of students with severe disabilities and to examine the factors that influenced these attitudes and beliefs. Following qualitative data analysis procedures, findings indicated that the preservice teachers were relatively evenly divided on their opinions about where students with severe disabilities should receive educational services.

The intent of this study, therefore, was to surface and understand one critical aspect of inclusive education: the preconceived attitudes and beliefs of entering preservice teachers regarding inclusive education for students with severe disabilities as described by the preservice teachers themselves. The study used a qualitative approach to determine the attitudes and beliefs of preservice teachers toward the inclusion of students with severe disabilities as they entered their teacher preparation programs and to examine the factors that appear to influence their attitudes and beliefs. The most significant finding of this study was that the preservice teachers attributed the underlying basis of their beliefs about inclusive education to prior experiences in their schools, families, and communities. These findings suggested that teacher educators consider the far-reaching impact of the training they provide. The future of inclusion may depend upon preparing thoughtful practitioners whose positive attitudes and beliefs are modeled in their classrooms and in their communities. These teachers will have the power to influence the attitudes and beliefs of the members of the "villages" in which they teach The findings of this research should help teacher educators better prepare preservice teachers for inclusive education.

Richardson, V. (1996). The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach. In J. Sikula (Ed.), “Handbook of research on teacher education” (2nd ed., pp. 102-119). New York: MacMillan.


Lilly Tennant  (United Arab Emirates)
Assistant Professor

Zayed University, United Arab Emirates

Dr. Lilly Jacqueline Tennant is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education, Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. She earned her doctorate in Special Education at the University of Arizona, USA. Her research and expertise are in the areas of teacher preparation, inclusion, teaching students with severe disabilities, educational technology, and teaching students with diverse abilities in the classroom.

Dr Lynne Snyder
Associate Professor

Hope College

Lynne Snyder is an Associate Professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, USA. Her research interests center around inclusion of students with special needs and the attitudes of teachers toward inclusion of various disability groups.

  • Inclusion
  • Disability
  • Teacher Education
  • Preservice

(30 min Conference Paper, English)