REGULAR TEACHERS’ ATTITUDE AND ITS EFFECTS TOWARDS LEARNERS WITH DYSGRAPHIA IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS IN THE BUEA MUNICIPALITY
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The main aim of this study was to investigate regular teachers’ attitude and its effects towards learners with dysgraphia in primary schools in the Buea. Specifically, this study sought to find out the difference between male and female teachers’ attitudes towards learners with dysgraphia, investigate the effect of regular teachers’ qualification on learners with dysgraphia and to examine the effect of regular teachers’ experience on learners with dysgraphia.
A survey research design was used for this study, where a questionnaire was used to collect data sample of 20 teachers was selected from three governments secondary school using both purposive and simple random sampling. Data was analyzed using simple descriptive statistics by making use of percentages. Findings gotten revealed that, the gender of regular teachers affect the academic performance of pupils with dysgraphia with female regular teachers proving to show more tolerance and assistance to this set of pupils. It was also discovered that the academic qualification and teaching experience of regular teachers affect the academic performance of pupils with dysgraphia.
From the findings, it was concluded that regular male teachers can pick up those aspects of their female counterparts that make them more sensitive to the needs of pupils with dysgraphia. Based on this conclusion, it was recommended that: Special education training should be created to train special educators, who will be able to meet the needs of students with dysgraphia in their class. Secondly, the Government through the Ministry of Education and Social Affairs should provide mainstreamed schools room containing special materials that will help facilitate the education of students with disabilities for example Braille machines, large print, hearing aids among others.
Also, Head teachers of various schools should collaborate with their teacher and other specialists in the area of special education like psychologists, speech and language therapists so that jointly, they could meet the unique needs to students with disabilities in their known institutions. Finally, the government and the P.T.A should provide schools with special need devices that can facilitate the teaching of pupils with dysgraphia and improve regular teachers’ attitude towards them.
This chapter examined; the background of the study, statement of the study, purpose of the study, research questions, scope of the study, significance if the study, justification of the study and the operational definition of terms.
The concept of attitude is probably the most distinctive and indispensable concept in contemporary social psychology (Oskamp, 1991). In the Dictionary of Psychology, Corsini (1999) defined attitude as a learned and stable predisposition to react to a given situation, person or other set of cues in a consistent way. Allport (1967), one of the founders of the field of attitude studies, said that when a group is established, stereotypical beliefs are attached to the group since stereotyping effects are inevitable products of human cognitive processing. In the context of inclusive education, an attitude is defined as a learned and stable disposition to respond favourably or unfavourably to an object, person, institution, or event in a consistent way (Corsini & Auerbach 1998). Attitude toward disabilities reflect beliefs about people with disabilities and as such guide behaviour towards individuals with disabilities (Roberts & Smith, 1999).
Education of children with disabilities has seen a shift from segregated special schools to inclusion in general education schools and classrooms. Educating children with disabilities in mainstream schools is an important goal for many countries today. Educational programs for pupils with disabilities have traditionally been built upon the assumption that a variety of service delivery options needs to be available (Hallahan & Kauffman, 1998).
Dysgraphia or Agraphia, is a learning disability referred to as a specific deficiency that affects the ability to write not due to intellectual impairment. It is the delayed development or acquired loss of the skill of writing which may affect one in every twenty children. This is a serious problem in the classroom because studies have proven that many teachers do not have the patience of struggling through a child’s poor hand writing and wrong spellings to make meaning (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002). As a result, teachers’ attitudes towards the education of pupils with dysgraphia most be given appropriate concern.
1.1 Background to the Study
1.1.1 Historical Background
The history of teachers’ attitude towards persons with disabilities is as old as formal education. Since the 18th century, when formal education got its popular support, regular teachers have often exhibit a negative attitude towards untidy work and poor hand writing (Harmon, 2002). Harry (1999) added that in the United States teachers were used to judging learners’ answers as wrong just because they found difficulties reading through the work because of poor hand writing or too much cancellation on the part of the learners. This negative attitude grew even worse over time with a renowned incident in New Zealand in 1954 where a public-school teacher threw a student’s exercise book on the ground because he considered it excessively untidy. The matter was finally settled in court in the favour of the student (Portter, 1989).
Back in Africa, the situation is not different, for almost two decades, government policy in the Cameroon, has been aimed at inclusion of children with general learning disabilities (GLDs) and specific learning disabilities (SLDs) in regular education classrooms. The focus of the present study is on children with a label of dysgraphia (i.e., one type of specific learning disability) in regular education classrooms. Given that pupils with dysgraphia already show low achievement in reading and/or spelling, it is of obvious importance that other risk factors that may further slow their achievement be identified. One such risk factor could be low teacher expectations for pupils with dysgraphia (Clark, 1997). These could be caused by stigmatization of these pupils by their teachers. That is, a label of “dysgraphia” may evoke a negative attitude in some teachers that may cause them to have lower expectations for such pupils and therefore treat them differently than other pupils (i.e., those without learning disabilities). The present study is thus aimed at an examination of the attitude of regular teachers and its effect on the achievement of pupils with dysgraphia.
1.1.2 Conceptual Background
Dysgraphia is the delayed development or acquired loss of the skill of writing which may affect one child in twenty (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002). Dysgraphic behaviour is a true disorder and may continue into adult life. It is common to find evidence of dysgraphia in other members of the family, particularly among males. Studies show that about one in five may struggle with writing some have dysgraphia, which affects their spelling (Virginia, 2013). Dysgraphia is characterized as an LD in the category of written expression when one’s writing skills are below those expected given a person’s age measured through intelligence and age appropriate education. Dysgraphia comes from two Greek words meaning ‘poor’ and ‘writing’. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor hand writing and trouble putting thoughts on paper (Marentette, 2011). People with dysgraphia usually can write on some level and often lack other fine motor skills finding tasks such as tying shoelaces difficult. It often does not affect all fine motor skills. They can also lack basic spelling skills (for example having difficulty with ‘b’ and ‘d’, ‘p’ and ‘q’) and often will write the wrong word when trying to formulate thoughts on paper. Children with this disorder may have other learning disabilities but they usually have no social or other academic problems.
Dysgraphia often overlaps with the other learning disabilities such as speech impairment, attention deficit disorder or developmental co-ordination disorder. Wright and Wright (2008), suggest that diagnosing dysgraphia and related LD is important since without diagnosis, children may not receive early intervention or specialized instructions in all the relevant skills that are interfering with their learning of written expression, considering that many schools do not have systematic, instructional programmes in handwriting and spelling. It is also important to determine if a child with dysgraphia may also have dyslexia and require special help with reading or oral and written language (OWL). Children with disabilities have a right to quality education and achieve their goal like their peers without disabilities. The Salamanca statement and framework for Action on Special Needs Education (UNESCO, 1994), the right of every child to an education was proclaimed in the universal declaration of Human Rights and was reaffirmed by the World Declaration on Education For All (EFA).
The name dysgraphia really got its start from “agraphia,” a term coined in the 1940s by Austrian doctor Josef Gerstmann. H. Joseph Horacek, in his book “Brainstorms,” describes that the condition Gerstmann named refers to a complete inability to write. He linked this inability to brain trauma, resulting from an accident or injury.
Bishaw & Jayaprada (2012) suggested that attitudes towards inclusion are strongly influenced by the nature of the disabilities and educational problems being presented and, to a lesser extent, by the professional background. Various studies on attitudes reveal that there are many factors which influence teachers’ attitude towards disabilities in general and dysgraphia in particular. According to these studies there are no unanimous results which could justify positive or negative attitudes. In general, there is a notion that teachers’ attitudes towards disabilities vary from teacher to teacher, from school to school, depending on various demographic factors (Endeley, 2016). The importance of studying attitude of regular teachers towards learners with dysgraphia is of great importance, if every pupil is to be accorded the same opportunity to succeed academically.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Despite the efforts by the government, various non-governmental organizations and all parties that are concerned to provide Special Needs Education to learners, some categories of disabilities including dysgraphia have not been adequately addressed in Cameroon. Studies on disabilities reveals that learning disabilities including dysgraphia are major challenges in most primary schools especially in developing countries. Where pupils exhibit very poor hand writing, spelling problems and untidy work. This problem is greatly affecting teachers negatively as they need to spend more time on the “hard to read” write ups of pupils with dysgraphia. These pupils too suffer greatly from this problem as most at times, their work is marked wrongly because the teacher could not read their poor hand writing. Rasugu (2010) indicates that children with learning disabilities are labelled as hard to teach, lazy, slow learners and careless. This is regrettable because such children have been observed to have incredible talents that are generally undervalued or not well represented in the school curricula (Lerner, 2000). The Ministry of Basic Education has been organizing seminars and workshops on dysgraphia with focus on how teachers can help improve the hand writing of pupils, while school authorities on their own part are making sure that teachers do not substitute the slot of hand writing for another subject on the time table. Several studies have been conducted in Cameroon on learning disabilities. However, very little attention has been accorded to dysgraphia, which motivated this researcher to investigate the attitude of regular teachers towards learners with dysgraphia in Primary Schools in the Buea Municipality.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The purpose of this study is to investigate the attitude of regular teachers towards learners with dysgraphia in Primary Schools in the Buea Municipality.
Specific Objectives of the study
Specifically, this study shall investigate the following issues:
Find out the difference between male and female teachers’ attitudes towards learners with dysgraphia in Primary Schools in the Buea Municipality.
To investigate the effect of regular teachers’ qualification on learners with dysgraphia in Primary Schools in the Buea Municipality.
To examine the effect of regular teachers’ experience on learners with dysgraphia in Primary Schools in the Buea Municipality.