|Full text PDF:||http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/24198/|
The current educational policy of educating students with special educational needs in regular schools has created a new classroom environment for teachers. Inclusive classrooms involve teachers dealing with a larger diversity of students in their classrooms and differentiating the curriculum to meet the wide range of student backgrounds, cognitive abilities, physical needs and interests. The purpose of this interpretive study was to investigate and understand pre-service teachers’ perceptions about their preparedness for teaching students with special educational needs in mainstream classrooms, and to identify aspects that may support their success and confidence. The participants were 20 pre-service and beginning teachers. Data were collected over a two-year period through individual interviews with pre-service teachers and small focus groups with beginning teachers using semi-structured and open-ended questions to allow for depth of discussion. The analysis of the data revealed that there are many connected aspects such as teachers’ perceptions, experience and background which appear to work together to influence their attitude towards students with special educational needs and their perceptions of these students. Teachers’ perceptions about their preparation for teaching students with special educational needs were found to relate to their attitude towards teaching inclusively. These findings suggest a link between pre-service and beginning teachers’ perceptions and their attitudes towards students with special educational needs. The practical implications for beginning teacher education and preparation programs as well as the inclusion of students with special educational needs are discussed. A suggestion highlighted for preparation programs was to provide opportunities for teachers to develop a repertoire of teaching and management strategies and how they can be effectively used to benefit students with special educational needs. The implications not only reflect the theoretical effects but the broader translation of these recommendations into the classroom practice and the academic context.