Teacher Attitudes: The Effects of Teacher Beliefs on Teaching Practices and Achievement of Students with Disabilities

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University of Rhode Island Open Access Dissertations 2013 Teacher Attitudes: The Effects of Teacher Beliefs on Teaching Practices and Achievement of Students with Disabilities Mary Klehm
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University of Rhode Island Open Access Dissertations 2013 Teacher Attitudes: The Effects of Teacher Beliefs on Teaching Practices and Achievement of Students with Disabilities Mary Klehm University of Rhode Island, Follow this and additional works at: Terms of Use All rights reserved under copyright. Recommended Citation Klehm, Mary, Teacher Attitudes: The Effects of Teacher Beliefs on Teaching Practices and Achievement of Students with Disabilities (2013). Open Access Dissertations. Paper 2. This Dissertation is brought to you for free and open access by It has been accepted for inclusion in Open Access Dissertations by an authorized administrator of For more information, please contact TEACHER ATTITUDES: THE EFFECTS OF TEACHER BELIEFS ON TEACHING PRACTICES AND ACHIEVEMENT OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES BY MARY KLEHM A DISSERTATION SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN EDUCATION UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND AND RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE 2013 DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY DISSERTATION OF MARY KLEHM APPROVED: Dissertation Committee Major Professor Minsuk K. Shim, Ph.D. David Byrd, Ph.D. Paddy Cronin Favazza, Ed.D. Kalina Brabeck, Ph.D. RIC: Alexander Sidorkin, Ph.D. Dean, Feinstein School of Education RIC URI: Nasser H. Zawia, Ph.D. Dean, The Graduate School URI UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND AND RHODE ISLAND COLLEGE 2013 ABSTRACT Many students with disabilities are not meeting proficiency in the general education setting and achievement scores disaggregated by disability status show that students with disabilities are often not meeting adequate yearly progress targets established by states. A survey was developed to collect data from 218 general and special educators at the middle school level to describe and analyze trends in teacher attitudes and practices that may be affecting the educational experience and achievement of many students with disabilities. The results of these analyses provide information regarding the attitudes of teachers toward the ability of SWD and the fairness and validity of high-stakes testing. Significant differences were found between general and special education teachers expectations for students with disabilities to benefit from inclusive instruction. Teacher attitude toward the ability of students with disabilities to benefit from inclusive instruction, teacher classification, and the amount of teacher training were all found to be predictors of the use of evidence-based practice. The attitude of teachers toward the ability of students with disabilities to learn and achieve higher level thinking was found to predict proficient achievement scores for students with disabilities on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) achievement test. Finally, differences were found in teacher attitudes toward the ability of students with disabilities to learn and achieve higher level thinking and teacher use of evidence-based practice by content domain. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank my Major Professor, Dr. Minsuk K. Shim, for her knowledge, effort, and assistance through all phases of the program and research. I would also like to thank each of my committee members: Dr. Paddy Cronin Favazza, Dr. David Byrd, and Dr. Kalina Brabeck, for their expertise and commitment to the project. Without my committee members, the results of this dissertation would not have been possible. To all my committee members I extend my sincerest gratitude. I must also acknowledge my family, Blair, Amanda, Joseph, and Ruth, as well as my parents William and Virginia, and my brother Bill, for their encouragement and contribution to my ability to complete my research. I also thank the teachers who took time out of their busy schedules to participate in the study. Lastly, I would like to thank the many students who have allowed me to be a part of their lives. iii TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT... ii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS... iii TABLE OF CONTENTS... iv LIST OF TABLES... vi LIST OF FIGURES... viii CHAPTER INTRODUCTION... 1 CHAPTER LITERATURE REVIEW... 7 CHAPTER METHODOLOGY CHAPTER FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS CHAPTER CONCLUSION APPENDICES APPENDIX A: Survey Design: Teacher Attitudes toward High-Stakes Testing and Students with Disabilities APPENDIX B: High-Stakes Testing and Students with Disabilities: A Teacher Attitude Survey (HST-SWD) APPENDIX C: Informed Consent for Anonymous Research Form APPENDIX D: Letter of Authorization iv APPENDIX E: Frequency Histograms of Scales Used for Analyses BIBLIOGRAPHY v LIST OF TABLES TABLE PAGE Table 1. Demographic Information from Participating Schools Table 2. Factor Loadings of Teacher Use of Evidence-based Practice Table 3. Factor Loadings of Teachers Attitudes toward the Fairness and Validity of Assessing SWD using HST Table 4. Factor Loadings of Teachers Attitudes toward the Ability of SWD Table 5. Reliability of Scales Used in Analysis Table 6. Additional Factor Loadings of Teachers Attitudes toward the Ability of SWD using 2 Scales of Items Table 7. Frequency of Responses of Teacher Attitudes toward the Ability of SWD 74 Table 8. Frequency of Responses of Teacher Attitudes toward the Fairness and Validity of Using HST to Assess SWD Table 9. MANOVA for Teacher Attitude Scales Table 10. MANOVA for Teacher Attitude Items Table 11. Summary of Multiple Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting Frequency of Use of Evidence-based Practice Table 12. Summary of Multiple Regression Analysis for Teacher Attitude and Practice Variables Predicting Proficiency of SWD on the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) Table 13. Descriptives of Teacher Attitude toward the Ability of SWD to Learn and Achieve Higher Level Thinking by Content Domain.. 88 vi Table 14. ANOVA for Teacher Attitude toward the Ability of SWD to Learn and Achieve Higher Level Thinking by Content Domain.. 89 Table 15. Descriptives of Teacher Use of Evidence-based Practices by Content Domain. 90 Table 16. ANOVA for Teacher Use of Evidence-based Practices by Content Domain. 90 vii LIST OF FIGURES FIGURE PAGE Figure 1. Frequency Histogram of Teacher Use of Evidence-based Practices Scale Figure 2. Frequency Histogram of Teacher Attitude toward the Fairness and Validity of Assessing SWD using HST Figure 3. Frequency Histogram of Teachers Attitudes toward the Ability of SWD to Meet Proficiency in HST Figure 4. Frequency Histogram of Teachers Attitudes toward the Ability of SWD to Learn and Achieve Higher Level Thinking Figure 5. Teachers Attitudes toward the Ability of SWD to Benefit from Inclusive Instruction viii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Historical and recent legislation regarding high-stakes testing (HST) have had a large impact on the teaching and learning environments for students with disabilities (SWD). The reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was introduced on January 3, 2001 as an Act to close the gap, so that no child is left behind. The purpose of this policy is described as ensuring that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments (NCLB, 2001). No Child Left Behind legislation mandates that all but the most severely disabled students take common standardized assessments, such as the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) at each grade level. All students must pass with proficiency, but no modifications to the test are allowed. If the student is provided with modifications, no credit is given. This reality may be leading educators to believe that all students must be taught in the same way if they are to be assessed with the same instrument. If modifications are not permissible for assessments, some may question allowing modifications or differentiation during instruction. This appears to be in direct contrast to the requirements for individualization laid out in previously passed and recent legislation. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), formerly known as the Education of All Handicapped Children of 1975 (EHCA), mandates the requirement of educating all students in the least restrictive environment with same age peers to the greatest degree possible. The law further requires that 1 individualized education plans based on individual student s present levels of performance and the student s strengths and needs be implemented. It is possible that some students may be capable of learning standardized curriculum, but access to instruction may be blocked or demonstration of knowledge may be impossible due to lack of differentiation based on specific needs. Statement of the Problem Many studies have shown that students perform in the manner that their teachers expect them to perform. The phenomenon of behaving and achieving in ways that confirm other s expectations is known as the Pygmalion effect (Brehm & Kassin, 1996). Longitudinal studies support the self-fulfilling prophecy hypothesis that teacher expectations can predict changes in student achievement and behavior beyond effects accounted for by previous achievement and motivation (Jussim & Eccles, 1992). Teacher expectations may also be a factor in the education and achievement of SWD as it has shown to be a factor in so many studies of students without disabilities (Rist, 1970; Brophy and Good, 1970; Brophy & Good, 1974; Crano & Mellon, 1978; Humphreys & Stubbs, 1977; Williams, 1976; Brophy, 1983; LaVoie & Adams, 1973; Rosenthal, 1997). However, there are few studies that examine teacher attitudes regarding the ability of SWD to meet proficiency and to understand how teacher expectations affect their instructional behaviors and the achievement of SWD. Rosenthal s (1997) affect-effort theory suggests that if a change in a teacher s level of expectations of the intellectual performance of a student occurs, (a) a change in the affect shown by the teacher toward that student will occur, and (b) a change in the level of effort given by the teacher in teaching the students will occur. For 2 example, if the change in the teacher s level of expectation is positive, the favorable affect shown toward the student will increase and the effort expended on the student s learning will increase as well. Rosenthal theorizes that the increase in teaching effort reflects the teacher s belief and expectation that the student is capable of achievement, so the effort expended is worth it because it will likely lead to more learning. It has been widely reported for several years that there are large achievement gaps between the achievement of students with disabilities (SWD) and students without disabilities (SWOD) (Chudowsky, Chudowsky, & Keber, 2009; Harr-Robins, Song, Hurlburt, Pruce, Danielson, Garet, and Taylor, 2012). It appears that after many years of inclusive programming for SWD, many students are not making the progress that is necessary to meet proficiency. The answer to the question of why SWD are unable to meet proficiency seems to be baffling to so many and the solution, so far, is elusive. Are SWD not making sufficient progress within the general education setting? Are inclusive programs not meeting the needs of SWD (Mclesky & Waldron, 2002)? Is it that they are making progress, but they are unable to show their knowledge due to unfair or invalid tests due to construct-irrelevant variance resulting from an individual s disability? The American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Counsel on Measurement in Education (1999) make recommendations for assessing SWD using HST, but are these recommendations followed? Are teachers using evidence-based practices to educate SWD or is the pressure to teach to the test causing teachers to teach in ways that have not been proven effective? To maximize learning, instruction must be student-centered and designed with each student s present levels of performance, strengths and needs, 3 learning styles, and interests in mind (Lawrence-Brown, 2004; Levy, 2008; Rock, Gregg, Ellis, & Gable, 2008; & McTighe & Brown, 2005). Do teachers have the resources and training to effectively educate the diverse population of students that are included in general education classes? Mclesky & Waldron (2002) suggest that teachers may not be against inclusion, but against poorly implemented inclusive programs. These are all important questions worthy of investigation, especially when the stakes are so high for SWD. This study describes of the attitudes of 218 middle school general and special education teachers in a public school setting toward the ability of SWD to meet proficiency and the fairness and validity of HST. Educational decisions are made based on proficiency assessments that have long term impact on students lives. For example program placement, promotion, and high school graduation are now dependent on proficiency scores. This study examines the present condition of teacher attitudes and practices more descriptively first to better understand teachers expectations regarding the ability of SWD to meet proficiency on HST. In addition, teachers attitudes related to fairness and validity of using HST to assess the achievement of SWD are explored. Finally, this study investigates how teacher attitudes affect the use of evidence-based practices and also affect student achievement. Research Questions Recent state and national legislation has focused attention and interventions on ensuring that all students have equal access to quality education and highly qualified educators. In an effort to determine whether SWD are receiving equitable treatment 4 and equal access to a quality education, this study will examine the following research questions: 1) To what extent do teachers believe that SWD have the ability to meet proficiency on HST? Based on the literature review, it is hypothesized that most teachers do believe that SWD can learn and acquire skills and knowledge, but they may not hold high expectations for SWD to be able to meet proficiency on high-stakes tests. 2) To what extent do teachers believe that HST are a fair opportunity for SWD to show achievement? 3) To what extent do teachers believe that HST yield valid achievement ratings of SWD? It is hypothesized that teachers do not think that assessing SWD with HST is a valid measure of their progress. Further, it is hypothesized that most teachers do not think decisions based on HST are fair to SWD. 4) Are there any differences in expectations between general and special education teachers regarding SWD and HST? It is hypothesized that there are significant differences in the expectations of the academic success of SWD between general and special education teachers. 5) What is the relationship between teacher attitudes and teacher practices? 6) What is the relationship between teacher attitudes, teacher practices, and the achievement of SWD? Does it vary by content domain? It is also hypothesized that teacher attitudes toward the ability of SWD to show proficiency on HST do affect teacher practice and student achievement. 5 The ultimate goal is to improve the achievement of SWD by adding to the knowledge of how teacher expectations and attitudes affect teacher practices when preparing SWD for HST. The survey method was chosen to collect data to describe and analyze trends in teacher attitudes affecting the educational experience of many students with disabilities. Teachers spend the most time educating and assessing students with and without disabilities. They have a wealth of knowledge regarding current educational and assessment practices. The results of this study may help to improve the education and achievement of SWD, thus improving the lives of many. The study generates knowledge that will help to inform decisions regarding the education and assessment of SWD. The following chapter includes, a review of the literature related to teacher attitudes toward the ability of SWD, evidence based practices to instruct and assess SWD, issues related to fairness and validity of using HST to assess SWD, and reports of the current state of assessing SWD with HST. The methods used will be described in chapter 3. The results will be reported in chapter 4, and conclusions will be discussed in chapter 5. 6 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW A review of the literature in the most relevant areas to the study was conducted. First, teacher expectations as related to student outcomes will be discussed. Next, teacher attitudes toward students with disabilities (SWD) and toward the ability of SWD to meet proficiency on high-stakes testing (HST) will be explored. The validity of using HST to measure the achievement of SWD and the fairness of using the results of HST to make decisions regarding program placement, and promotion will be discussed. Then, an investigation of best teaching practice will be used to identify evidence-based instructional methods that have proven successful in educating SWD. Finally, the current state of assessing SWD using HST will be explored to determine the present conditions of assessment practices. The Self-fulfilling Prophecy and Expectancy Effects The term self-fulfilling prophecy was first used by Robert K. Merton (1948) to describe expectancy effects, where a false evaluation of a situation or person causes a new behavior which makes the originally false perception come true. There have been many studies and much debate in the area of whether this phenomenon exists. The following review of the literature reveals that expectancy effects do exist and follow specific patterns in the area of teacher expectancy of students achievement. However, little research exists regarding the effects of teacher expectancy on the teaching practices used with SWD or on the achievement of SWD. 7 Darley and Fazio (1980) offer a complex model of teacher expectancy effects. First, the teacher develops expectations based on student characteristics, documented past behavior, and observations. These expectations affect the teacher s interactions with the student. If the student views the actions as related to factors specific to themselves, the student will expect similar treatment in the future. Next, the student will respond to the teacher s behavior in ways that confirm the teacher s expectations. This is especially likely if the teacher s behaviors are aligned with the student s selfimage or are accepted by the student. Student behaviors that confirm the expectations are likely to be attributed to the student characteristics and qualities of the student, allowing the teacher to maintain the expectation that has been formed. If student responses do not confirm the expectation, situational factors are likely to be seen as the cause and are not seen as evidence that the initial expectations are incorrect. The more the student has responded with behavior that has confirmed the teacher s expectations, the more likely the student s self image will change toward the teacher s expectation of them. Rosenthal (1997) defines interpersonal expectancy effects as the unintentional expectations that experimenters, teachers, and authority figures bring to experiments, classrooms, and other situations (p. 1). Many studies have been conducted to measure this phenomenon, also known as the Pygmalion effect. Results consistently show that mediation of expectation is often through unintended nonverbal behavior and can have significant impact on the individual to whom the expectation is communicated (Rosenthal, 1997). 8 Affect-effort Theory Rosenthal s (1997) affect-effort theory suggests that if a change in a teacher s level of expectations of the intellectual performance of a student occurs, (a) a change in the affect shown by the teacher toward that student will occur, and (b) a change in the level of effort given by the teacher in teaching the students will occur. For example, if the change in the teacher s l
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