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CONCERNS OF REGULAR TEACHERS ABOUT INCLUSIVE EDUCATION OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES

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The legislation in the Republic of Macedonia, from the school year 2022/23, mandates full inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms. In our school system, regular teachers are implementing inclusive education, but they have limited knowledge and resources for this process. The aim of this study is to determine the levels of teachers' concerns regarding inclusive education by utilizing Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ). The SoCQ is comprised of 35 statements to which the participants responded on a 0-7 Likert scale according to how true the statement seemed to them at the time from 0 (irrelevant) to 7 (very true of me now). Descriptive statistics (mean & standard deviation) were used to evaluate teachers' concern regarding inclusive education. A total of 81 regular education teachers participate in the study. More than half of the participants were primary school teachers (N=42; 51,9%), while 80,2% (N=65) of the participants were female. Based on the SoCQ instrument, teachers reflected concern in Stage 0 (Awareness) and Stage 3 (Management), and a low level of concern in Stage 5 (Collaboration). The high score on Stage 3 indicates that teachers are more concerned about how inclusive education will actually happen. Results revealed that regular teachers have a low level of concern toward inclusion. But, we consider that policy-makers in Macedonia should focus further activities on continuous educator training and increase funding for education.
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371
CONCERNS OF REGULAR TEACHERS ABOUT
INCLUSIVE EDUCATION OF STUDENTS WITH
DISABILITIES
ZABRINUTOST REDOVNIH NASTAVNIKA ZA
INKLUZIVNO OBRAZOVANJE UČENIKA SA
TEŠKOC
́AMA U RAZVOJU
Daniela DIMITROVA-RADOJICHIKJ, Suzana SIMONOVSKA,
Zoran KITKANJ
University Ss Cyril and Methodius, Faculty of Philosophy, Skopje, N. Macedonia
Original scientific paper
ABSTRACT
The legislation in the Republic of Macedonia, from the school year 2022/23, mandates full
inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms. In our school system, regular
teachers are implementing inclusive education, but they have limited knowledge and resources
for this process. The aim of this study is to determine the levels of teachers’concerns regarding
inclusive education by utilizing Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ). The SoCQ is
comprised of 35 statements to which the participants responded on a 0-7 Likert scale according
to how true the statement seemed to them at the time from 0 (irrelevant) to 7 (very true of me
now). Descriptive statistics (mean & standard deviation) were used to evaluate teachers’
concern regarding inclusive education. A total of 81 regular education teachers participate in the
study. More than half of the participants were primary school teachers (N=42; 51,9%), while
80,2% (N=65) of the participants were female. Based on the SoCQ instrument, teachers
reflected concern in Stage 0 (Awareness) and Stage 3 (Management), and low level of concern
in Stage 5 (Collaboration). The high score on Stage 3 indicates that teachers are more concerned
about how inclusive education will actually happen. Results revealed that regular teachers have
low level of concern toward inclusion. But, we consider that policy-makers in Macedonia
should focus further activities on continuous educator training and increase funding for
education.
Key words: concern, inclusive education, teachers, students with disabilities
APSTRAKT
Zakonodavstvo u Republici Makedoniji, od školske 2022/23 godine, predviđa potpuno
uključivanje učenika sa teškoćama u razvoju u redovne učionice. U našem školskom sistemu
redovni nastavnici sprovode inkluzivno obrazovanje, ali imaju ograničeno znanje i resurse za
ovaj proces. Cilj ove studije je utvrditi nivo zabrinutosti nastavnika prema inkluzivnom
obrazovanju korišćenjem Upitnika za nivo zabrinutosti (SoCK). SoCK se sastoji od 35 izjava na
koje su učesnici odgovarali prema Likertovoj skali od 0 (nebitno) do 7 (vrlo tačno).
Deskriptivna statistika (srednje vrednosti i standardnog odstupanja) korišćena je za procenu
zabrinutosti nastavnika prema inkluzivnom obrazovanju. Ukupno 81 redovni nastavnik
učestvuje u studiji. Više od polovine ispitanika bili su razredni nastavnici (N=42; 51,9%), dok
su 80,2% (N= 65) učesnika bile žene. Na osnovu instrumenta SoCK, nastavnici su izrazili
visok nivo zabrinutosti u stepenu 0 (svest) i stepenu 3 (menadžment) i nisko nivo zabrinutosti u
stepenu 5 (saradnja). Visoka zabrinutost 3. stepena ukazuje na to da su nastavnici više zabrinuti
372
za to kako će se inkluzivno obrazovanje zaista dogoditi. Rezultati su pokazali da redovni
nastavnici imaju nizak nivo zabrinutosti prema inkluziji. Smatramo da bi kreatori politika u
Makedoniji trebali usmeriti dalje aktivnosti ka kontinuiranom usavršavanju nastavnika i
povećanju finansiranja obrazovanja.
Ključne reči: zabrinutost, inkluzivno obrazovanje, nastavnici, učenici sa teškoćama u razvoju
INTRODUCTION
Over the past few decades, countries around the world have progressively been more
concerned about ensuring the rights to education of all children in regular schools.
Despite the global adoption of inclusion, there are reservations regarding whether the
regular classroom can provide optimum quality education to children with disabilities
(Yadav, Das, Sharma, & Tiwari, 2015). These initiatives, in enshrining the right of
inclusive education of children with disabilities, make it obligatory on the part of
regular teachers to be aware of the implications of inclusion as a responsibility of their
normal teaching task (Shah, Das, Desai, & Tiwari, 2014). General, inclusive education
(IE) depends on several factors including necessary revisions and changes in policies,
regulatory systems, and administrative structures and the availability of materials and
resources (Yadav et al., 2015). Multiple studies have been conducted in education to
identify the problems and concerns faced by teachers. Concretely, studies about IE
indicate that teachers’ concerns are influenced by the lack of training in special
education, incompetence to teach children with different disabilities, inadequate
knowledge, and skills about inclusive practices and difficulty in keeping all the
children with and without disabilities focused during the class (Majoko, 2018).
The legislation in the Republic of Macedonia, from the school year 2022/23, mandates
full inclusion of students with disabilities in regular classrooms. In our school system,
regular teachers are implementing inclusive education, but they have limited
knowledge and resources for this process. The aim of this study is to determine the
levels of teacher's concerns regarding IE by utilizing Stages of Concern Questionnaire
(SoCQ) (Hall, George, & Rutherford, 1979). The questionnaire was administered
during the 2018-19 school year.
METHOD
Participants
A total of 81 regular education teachers participates in the study. More than half
(N=42,51,9%) of the participants were primary school teachers (teaching students aged
five to 10) and 48,1% were secondary school teachers (teaching students aged 10 to
14). 80,2% of the participants (N=65) were female. The mean age of the teachers was
45.97 years (SD=10.26 years). The demographic data show that 62.9% of teachers had
between 1 to 20 years of teaching experience. Twenty-two (27.2%) teachers had
between 21 to 30, and eight (9.9%) had 31 or more of teaching experience. Regarding
the experience of teaching children with disabilities, 65 teachers (80.2%) said that they
had experience and 16 (19.8%) had no experience teaching students with disabilities.
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Instrument
The Stages of Concern Questionnaire (SoCQ) is a thirty-five item questionnaire that
functions to categorize and assess concerns surrounding the potential change in
programs and practices. Participants mark each item on a 0-7 Likert scale according to
how true the statement seemed to them at the time from 0 (irrelevant) to 7 (very true of
me now). Respondents typically need around 15 minutes to finish the questionnaire,
which also has a small section to gather personal information from the teachers such as
age, gender, and job experience.
SoCQ is generalized to cover any innovation and administered with only the name of
the innovation changed on the cover page. For specificity, wherever in the original
questionnaire innovation had been used, inclusive education was used instead. The
individual taking the questionnaire will fall into one of the six categories (awareness,
informational, personal, management, consequence, collaboration, refocusing) by
being scored on their responses to the questions found in the SoCQ (Table 1). Also,
SoCQ describes the stages of concern for individuals in three broad categories: self,
task, and impact.
Table 1. Stages of concern
Stage of Concern
Common Thoughts
Recommended Action
0:
Awareness
Not concerned with change.
Is not interested in
implementation.
Bringing attention to the
material, emphasizing its
importance, and generating
interest.
1:
Informational
Begins to show interest.
Providing open access to
precise, quality information.
2:
Personal
Begins to think about how a
change would directly affect
themselves, as educators.
Continue to provide
information. Build rapport
with individuals. Provide
encouraging affirmations.
3:
Management
Begins to think about the time
needed to prepare.
Showing how it has already
been implemented.
4:
Consequence
Concerned with how change
will directly affect students.
Provide resources and
examples of how it does
work/has worked.
5:
Collaboration
Becomes interested in sharing
the implementation with
others.
Encourage discussion
amongst others about the
implementation.
6:
Refocusing
Exploring ideas of what could
be better.
Provide further resources on
strategies.
Resource: Bullard, Rutledge, & Kohler-Evans (2017)
According to Bullard et al. (2017), if an individual falls into a category such as
collaboration or refocusing, they are likely to have less concern about the
implementation of the new program or practice. On the other end of the spectrum,
scores that fit into the informational or personal categories would indicate more
concern from the individual regarding the change.
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RESULTS AND DISCUTION
Teachers' concerns are interpreted as very high, high, moderate, low or very low based
on the range of their percentile scores as follows: very high: 81100; high: 6180;
moderate: 4160; low: 2140; and very low: 020.
61,7
24,7 22,5
60,8
29,4
15,4
43,5
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
S-0 S-1 S-2 S-3 S-4 S-5 S-6
Figure 1. Percentile scores of SoCQ levels
Highest peaks indicate the stages where the concerns are most intense. As shown in
Figure 1, most of the teachers had their peak scores at Stage 0 (Awareness) and Stage 3
(Management). The highest score (61,7%) on the Awareness stage, e.g. I am
completely occupied with other things, indicates that the teachers not fully aware of the
innovation and were somewhat more concerned about other things (i.e., other
programs, innovations, and activities). Also, the teachers’ Management concerns of
60,8%, e.g. I am concerned about my inability to manage all the requirements of IE,
indicated that they had some concerned about the inclusive processes, resourcing, and
tasks of using the innovation. In essence, a high level of management concerns
indicates teachers’ uncertainty about how to apply the curriculum in inclusive class,
how to plan the course and how to use the instructional materials effectively. In sum,
because the frequency of concerns was low on Stage 1 (Informational), it revealed that
the teachers were not interested in learning more about the IE.
The teachers' percentile scores in Stage 6 (Refocusing), e.g. I am concerned about
revising my approach of using the IE, were moderate high (43,5%). This score
indicates that teachers did not give thought to exploring the potential for broader
benefits of the curriculum, including the possibility of major changes or replacement
with an alternative. That means that they were moderately interested in learning more
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about IE of students with disabilities. In other words, the teachers had ideas that they
believed had more merit than the proposed IE in their school.
The teachers' low score (24,7%) in Stage 1 (Informational), e.g. I have limited
knowledge about the IE, suggests that regular teachers have enough knowledge about
inclusive education and how it works. Meanwhile, a person with low intensity at the
same stage indicates that she or he has less concern or little or no desire to have
information about the IE. The low concerns (22,5%) in Stage 2 (Personal), e.g. I am
interested in knowing the effects of IE on my professional status, indicated that teachers
were not concerned about status, rewards, and what effects the implementation of
inclusive education in their schools might have on them. In addition, the teachers' low
score (29,4%) in Stage 4 (Consequence), e.g. I am concerned about how the IE affects
students, indicated that they had a low level of concern about the consequences of
implementing inclusive education for their students with and without disabilities. The
teachers' concerns were the lowest (15,4%) in Stage 5 (Collaboration) among the seven
stages of concerns. The low score in Stage 5, e.g. I am interested in helping other
teachers learn how to implement IE, indicated that they were not concerned about
working with others in connection with the implementation of IE in their schools. The
higher the score on the SoCQ chart, the lower the level of concern. If a participant
scored a 4, 5, or 6, she is experiencing a low level of concern. If a participant scores a
3, 2, 1, or 0, she is experiencing higher level of concern (Zamani et al., 2011).
Table 2. Teacher Concerns Group Profile
Stage of Concern
M
SD
0: Awareness
2.95
0.654
1: Informational
4.66
0.819
2: Personal
4.94
0.085
3: Management
3.43
0.555
4: Consequence
4.5
0.510
5: Collaboration
5.17
0.615
6: Refocusing
4.17
0,417
As indicated in Table 2, teachers were experiencing a high level of concern in Stage 0
(Awareness) and Stage 3 (Management), and the lowest level of concern in Stage 5
(Collaboration). The high score on Stage 3 (M=3.43) indicates that teachers are more
concerned about how inclusive education will actually happen. Teachers' concerns
were the highest in Stage 0 and the low in Stage 4, indicating that they had a very high
level of concern about a number of other initiatives, tasks, and activities besides IE and
a low level of concern about the consequences of implementing IE for their students,
respectively. Unfortunately, the low concerns on Stage 1 (Informational) and in
conjunction with low concerns on Stage 5 (Collaboration) indicate that teachers don’t
want more information about IE and have not a desire to learn.
CONCLUSION
General results from this study revealed that regular teachers had a low level of
concern toward inclusion (36,9%). The results demonstrate that, on average, teachers
in the sample mostly identified themselves with either awareness or management
376
stages, and least identified themselves with concerns relating to collaborative and
personal issues pertaining to IE. According to Van den Berg and Ros (1999),
curriculum implementation might take from three to five years for teachers to move
from self-concerns (like informational stage) to higher stages of concern such as
refocusing stage. In line with this proposition, the current finding is quite worrying and
problematic since IE has been implemented in regular schools in Macedonia for about
two decades and still the regular teachers have hazy understanding of the inclusive
process and not clear about what is required of them and the program’s impact on
students. Sharma, Moore, and Sonawane (2009) finding that the greatest teachers'
concerns to be a lack of resources. Also, Agbenyega (2007) found that teachers’ major
concerns related to their lack of skills to effectively teach students with disabilities and
lack of resources to accommodate individual differences, concluding that teachers’
acceptance and commitment to implementing inclusion are likely to be affected by
their attitudes and concerns. Furthermore, there are a number of challenges and
benefits for the implementation of IE in schools. But, we consider that policy-makers
in Macedonia should focus further activities on continuous educator training and
increase funding for education.
LITERATURE
1. Agbenyega, J. (2007). Examining teachers’ concerns and attitudes to inclusive
education in Ghana. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 3(1), 41-56.
2. Bullard, M., Rutledge, C., & Kohler-Evans, P. (2017). Using the stages of concern
questionnaire to ensure professional development with teachers and teacher candidates.
International Research in Higher Education, 2(4), 50-57.
3. Hall, G. E., George, A. A., & Rutherford, W. L. (1979). Measuring stages of concerns
about the innovation: A manual for use of soc questionnaire. Austin, TX: Research and
Development Center for Teacher Education, University of Texas.
4. Majoko, T. (2018). Teachers’ Concerns about Inclusion in Mainstream Early
Childhood Development in Zimbabwe. International Journal of Special Education,
33(2), 343-365.
5. Shah, R., Das, A. K., Desai, I. P., & Tiwari, A. (2014). Teachers’ concerns about
inclusive education in Ahmedabad, India. Journal of Research in Special Educational
Needs, 2(2), 1-12. DOI: 10.1111/1471-3802.12054
6. Sharma, U., Moore, D., & Sonawane, S. (2009). Attitudes andconcerns of pre-service
teachers regarding inclusion of studentswith disabilities into regular schools in Pune,
India. Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 37(3), 319-331.
7. Van den Berg, R., & Ros, A. (1999). The permanent importance of the subjective
reality of teachers during educational innovation: A concerns-based approach.
American Educational Research Journal, 36(4), 879-906.
8. Yadav, M., Das, A., Sharma, S., & Tiwari, A. (2015). Understanding teachers’
concerns about inclusive education, Asia Pacific Education Review. DOI:
10.1007/s12564-015-9405-6.
9. Zamani, A., Shahsanai, A., Kivan, S., et al. (2011). Iranian Ohysicians and Patients
Attitude toward truth Telling of Cancer. Journal of Isfahan Medical School, 29(143),
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