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To include or not to include: Teachers’ social representations of inclusion of students with Asperger syndrome
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Linköping University, The Swedish Institute for Disability Research.
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Evidence on inclusive classrooms shows that successful implementation of inclusion can lead to increased social involvement, personal well-being and higher levels of academic performance compared with segregated provision. Despite these potential benefits inclusion of students with Asperger syndrome (AS) in the mainstream classroom is problematic. Support from teachers is a key strategy for accommodating students with AS diagnosis in the mainstream classroom. Less well is understood how teachers create an inclusive environment for these learners. Teachers’ social representations (SR), have a bearing on how they interact and accommodate, therefore the first aim of this dissertation was to explore teachers’ SR of students with AS. The second aim was to highlight the role of contextual factors and prior experience in forming SR. The third aim was to study the link between teachers’ individual practice and broader institutional forces by comparing the SRs among principals, school health professionals and teachers. The forth aim was to study what teacher factors predict teachers’ positive attitudes towards inclusion of students with AS.

The findings show that a medical approach seems to dominate especially earlier trained teachers’ SRs; however, there is a tendency to view the environment increasingly important. Our results suggest that experience with students with AS is related to teachers' SR of these students. In addition, our data indicate that there is a need to bridge the gap between the organizational level, the classroom level and the individual student level in order to reduce barriers for students with AS to fit into an inclusive environment. Finally, positive attitudes towards inclusion of students with AS were found to relate to teachers’ knowledge of teaching students with AS and their attitudes towards students with AS. To conclude teachers’ SRs are deeply seated and the first step is to bring them to the forefront so that teachers are aware of them. In addition, there is a need for team building in the school arena to achieve a common vision for an inclusive school.

Abstract [sv]

Forskning visar att inkluderande klassrumsundervisning kan leda till ökad social delaktighet, personligt välbefinnande och högre studieresultat jämfört med segregerande utbildning i speciella undervisningsgrupper. Trots dessa potentiella fördelar är inkludering av elever med Aspergers syndrom (AS) problematiskt. Lärarna spelar en viktig roll för att förverkliga inkludering och deras föreställningar om elever med AS är sannolikt knutna till om, och hur, dessa elever är inkluderade i klassrummet. Lärarnas sociala representationer (SR), har betydelse för hur de interagerar och anpassar undervisningen.

Avhandlingens övergripande syfte var att bidra till ökad kunskap om lärares och övrig skolpersonals SR om en inkluderande skolundervisning för elever med AS. Det första syftet var att undersöka lärares SR om elever med AS. Det andra syftet var att utforska betydelsen av kontextuella faktorer och tidigare erfarenhet av AS. Det tredje syftet var att studera sambandet mellan lärares enskilda praktik och skolans organisation genom att jämföra rektorers, skolhälsopersonals och lärares SR om inkludering av elever med AS. Den fjärde studien syftade till att undersöka vilka faktorer som bidrar till en positiv attityd till inkludering av elever med AS hos lärare.

Resultaten visar att ett medicinskt synsätt dominerar i synnerhet tidigare utbildade lärares SR av elever med AS. Emellertid tillskivs miljön en allt större betydelse. Resultaten visar att lärare är positiva till inkludering och att erfarenhet av elever med AS har ett samband med lärares SR av dessa elever. Dessutom tyder resultaten på att det finns ett behov av att överbrygga klyftan mellan den organisatoriska nivån, klassrumsnivån och individnivån för att gynna en inkluderande undervisning. Positiv attityd till inkludering av elever med AS visade sig relatera till lärares kunskaper om undervisning av elever med AS och deras SR om elever med AS. Sammanfattaningsvis konstateras att lärares SR är djupt rotade och ett första steg är att uppmärksamma dem. Dessutom finns ett behov av en bredare diskussion och teambuilding i skolarenan för att åstadkomma en gemensam vision för en inkluderande skola.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2015. , 91 p.
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 656Studies from the Swedish Institute for Disability Research, ISSN 1650-1128 ; 75
Keyword [en]
Inclusion, Asperger diagnosis, mainstream teachers, social representations
Keyword [sv]
Inkludering, Asperger diagnos, lärare, sociala representationer
National Category
Psychology Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-121062DOI: 10.3384/diss.diva-121062ISBN: 978-91-7685-956-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-121062DiVA: diva2:851291
Public defence
2015-09-28, I:101, Hus I, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Available from: 2015-09-04 Created: 2015-09-04 Last updated: 2016-10-05Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Teachers’ social representation of students with Asperger diagnosis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Teachers’ social representation of students with Asperger diagnosis
2013 (English)In: European Journal of Special Needs Education, ISSN 0885-6257, E-ISSN 1469-591X, Vol. 28, no 4, 392-412 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

While progress has been made for including students with disability into mainstream schools, trends point to problems for students with Asperger syndrome (AS) diagnosis who have a propensity to dropping out of school. Teachers’ perceptions and understanding of AS will affect expectations and the attainment of educational targets. Thus, to avoid barriers to students’ learning and participation, there is a need to shed light on teachers’ perceptions and beliefs that bear on teachers educational provision for students with AS. The aim of the study was therefore to elucidate mainstream teachers’ representations of students with AS by using the theoretical framework of Social Representation Theory and particularly looking at the effects of the sex of the teacher, grade level being taught and when the teachers received training themselves. Teachers in mainstream schools in Sweden were invited to complete a web-based ques- tionnaire (N=170). Data were collected through an association task where the participants were asked to produce up to five words or phrases for the stimulus phrase ‘student with Asperger diagnosis’. The data were analysed through cate- gorisation. We found that two-thirds of the macro-categories of mentions relate to ‘disabling aspects’, ‘individual needs’ and ‘individual characteristics’, while a third of the elements were tied to the environment and educational provision. Our results suggest that a medical approach dominates especially earlier trained teachers; however, there is a tendency to view the school environment as increas- ingly important. Representations about the disabling aspects decreased with the increase in the grades being taught, whereas the educational aspects increase with the increase in grades. Male teachers are more prone to relate to environmental aspects and educational provision while female teachers more often relate to needs and disability. We conclude that teachers tend to view AS from a medical approach but that the school environment is seen as increasingly important.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2013
Keyword
Asperger diagnosis, mainstream teachers, drop-out, social representations, inclusion
National Category
Psychology Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-110563 (URN)10.1080/08856257.2013.812404 (DOI)000343599600002 ()
Available from: 2014-09-13 Created: 2014-09-13 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
2. The role of experience in teachers’ social representation of students with autism spectrum diagnosis (Asperger)
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The role of experience in teachers’ social representation of students with autism spectrum diagnosis (Asperger)
2015 (English)In: Cogent Education, ISSN 2331-186X, Vol. 2, no 2, 1-18 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Support from teachers is a key strategy for accommodating students with Asperger syndrome (AS) diagnosis in the mainstream classroom. Teachers’ understanding and expectations of students, i.e. their social representations (SR), have a bearing on how they interact and accommodate, but little is known about why. Therefore, the current study examined the idea that teachers’ SR of these students are influenced by their previous experience with AS. To this end, Swedish mainstream teachers were invited to anonymously answer a web-based questionnaire (N = 153). An association task was used to obtain data on teachers’ SR and the content and structure of the SR were explored. Our results suggest that work-related experience of AS and/or private experience shape teachers’ SR of these students relative to teachers with no experience. Moreover, teachers with previous experience had more SR elements related to environment and learning factors while teachers without previous experience had more elements related to the individual’s behavior. Teachers with private experience produced fewer positive elements compared to those with work-related experience only. These results highlight the role of contextual factors and prior experience in forming SR. We conclude that contact with students with AS, e.g. during teacher training, could facilitate accommodation in mainstream schools.

Keyword
Autism spectrum disorder; Asperger diagnosis; teacher experience; social representations; inclusion; social representation theory
National Category
Psychology Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-121058 (URN)10.1080/2331186X.2014.994584 (DOI)
Available from: 2015-09-04 Created: 2015-09-04 Last updated: 2015-09-22Bibliographically approved
3. School Staff’s Social Representation of Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger)
Open this publication in new window or tab >>School Staff’s Social Representation of Inclusion of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger)
2015 (English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Inclusion of students with autism spectrum disorder in the mainstream classroom is problematic. The link between teachers’ individual practice and broader institutional forces has shown to be crucial to an inclusive environment. For example, school staff’s social representations (SR), have a bearing on how they accommodate for them in mainstream classes. Therefore the current study examined and compared the SRs concerning the inclusion of students with Asperger diagnosis (AS) among principals, school health professionals and teachers. Swedish school staff were invited to anonymously answer a web-based questionnaire (N=229). An association task was conducted to obtain data on principals, school health professionals and teachers’ SR of inclusion of students with AS. The content and structure of the SRs were explored by using the theoretical framework of social representation theory. Our results suggest that principals are mainly concerned with the organization and structural level of inclusion. Moreover, school health professionals emphasized students’ needs and their individual (different) potentials. Teachers more often than principals or school health staff referred to students as assets. School health professionals in general produced more negative phrases as compared to teachers who produced more positive phrases. These results highlight the need to bridge the gap between the organizational level, the classroom level and the individual student level in order to reduce barriers for students with AS to fit into an inclusive environment.

Keyword
Inclusion, school staff, autism spectrum disorder, Asperger diagnosis, social representations, social representation theory
National Category
Psychology Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-121059 (URN)
Available from: 2015-09-04 Created: 2015-09-04 Last updated: 2015-09-04Bibliographically approved
4. Teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of students with Asperger diagnosis
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of students with Asperger diagnosis
2015 (English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Teachers have various attitudes towards including students with AS in the classroom, but we do not know why. However, knowledge about factors related to these attitudes is necessary in order to improve for the provision of an inclusive school. The aim of the study was to explore factors underlying/associated with teachers’ confidence towards including students with AS. To this end we surveyed teachers’ associations for inclusion of students with AS (N=631). We then analyzed the valence of these associations in relation to teachers’ self-rated, competence, prior experience with, special training, and overall knowledge of teaching students with AS. Data from an association method task was employed in obtaining valence for teachers’ associations of inclusion of students with AS. Our results suggest that teachers’ attitudes towards inclusion of students with AS are mostly positive and correlate with their attitudes towards students with AS, however, teachers of lower levels are less positive to inclusion of students with AS than teachers of higher levels. Positive attitudes towards inclusion of students with AS are related to teachers’ knowledge of teaching students with AS and their attitudes toward students with AS. We conclude that teachers’ beliefs are firmly rooted in their social representations (SR) and therefore there is a need to engage in a broader discussion on inclusive education. The present study contributes to the literature on teachers’ beliefs about inclusion of students with autism spectrum diagnosis (AS) and points to the apparent need for educating teachers better to provide for students with AS.

National Category
Psychology Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-121060 (URN)
Available from: 2015-09-04 Created: 2015-09-04 Last updated: 2015-09-04Bibliographically approved

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