Attitudes of future special education teachers toward gifted students and their education

AL Garni, Ayidh Abdullah (2012) Attitudes of future special education teachers toward gifted students and their education. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

Saudi Arabian education is undergoing substantial reform in the context of a nation transitioning from a resource-rich economy to a knowledge economy. Gifted students are important human resources for such developing countries. However, there are some concerns emanating from the international literature that gifted students have been neglected in many schools due to teachers’ attitudes toward them.

The literature shows that future teachers also hold similar negative attitudes, especially those in Special Education courses who, as practicing teachers, are often responsible for supporting the gifted education process. The purpose of this study was to explore whether these attitudes are held by future special education teachers in Saudi Arabia, and how the standard gifted education course, delivered as part of their program, impacts on their attitudes toward gifted students.

The study was strongly influenced by the Theory of Reasoned Action (Ajzen, 1980, 2012) and the Theory of Personal Knowledge (Polanyi, 1966), which both suggest that attitudes are related to people’s (i.e. teachers’) beliefs. A mixed methods design was used to collect quantitative and qualitative data from a cohort of students enrolled in a teacher education program at a Saudi Arabian university. The program was designed for students majoring in special education. The quantitative component of the study involved an investigation of a cohort of future special education teachers taking a semester-long course in gifted education. The data were primarily sourced from a standard questionnaire instrument modified in the Arabic language, and supplemented with questions that probed the future teachers’ attitudes toward gifted children. The participants, 90 special education future teachers, were enrolled in an introductory course about gifted education. The questionnaire contained 34 items from the "Opinions about the Gifted and Their Education" (Gagné, 1991) questionnaire, utilising a five-point Likert scale. The quantitative data were analysed through the use of descriptive statistics, Spearman correlation Coefficients, Paired Samples t-test, and Multiple Linear Regression. The qualitative component focussed on eight participants enrolled in the gifted education course. The primary source of the qualitative data was informed by individual semi-structured interviews with each of these participants.

The findings, based on both the quantitative and qualitative data, indicated that the majority of future special education teachers held, overall, slightly positive attitudes toward gifted students and their education. However, the participants were resistant to offering special services for the gifted within the regular classroom, even when a comparison was made on equity grounds with disabled students. While the participants held ambivalent attitudes toward ability grouping, their attitudes were positive toward grade acceleration. Further, the majority agreed that gifted students are likely to be rejected by their teachers. Despite such judgments, they considered the gifted to be a valuable resource for Saudi society.

Differences within the cohort were found when two variables emerged as potential predictors of attitude: age, experience, and participants’ hometown. The younger (under 25 years old) future special education teachers, with no internship or school practice experience, held more positive attitudes toward the gifted students, with respect to their general needs, than did the older participants with previous school experiences. Additionally, participants from a rural region were more resistant toward gifted education than future teachers from urban areas.

The findings also indicated that the attitudes of most of the participants were significantly improved, as a result of the course, toward ability grouping such as special classes and schools, but remained highly concerned about differentiation within regular classrooms with either elitism or time pressure.

From the findings, it can be confirmed that a lectured-based course can serve as a starting point from which to focus future teachers’ attention on the varied needs of the gifted, and as a conduit for learning about special services for the gifted.

However, by itself, the course appears to have minimal influence on attitudes toward differentiation. As a consequence, there is merit in its redevelopment, and the incorporation of more practical opportunities for future teachers to experience the teaching of the gifted.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 61859
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Watters, James & Diezmann, Carmel M.
Keywords: future teachers, special education, gifted education, attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, Saudi Arabia, theory of reasoned action, culture, theory of knowledge, teaching, gifted course, university
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 15 Aug 2013 06:36
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2015 03:40

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