Research Key

REGULAR TEACHERS’ ATTITUDE AND ITS EFFECTS TOWARDS LEARNERS WITH DYSGRAPHIA IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS IN THE BUEA MUNICIPALITY

Project Details

Department
EDUCATION
Project ID
EDU259
Price
5000XAF
International: $20
No of pages
60
Instruments/method
QUANTITATIVE
Reference
DESCRIPTIVE
Analytical tool
YES
Format
 MS Word & PDF
Chapters
1-5

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OR

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Introduction

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.

 

Background to the Study

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.

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 effect 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.

Missouri Developmental Disabilities Resource Centre (MDRC 2010), defines Dysgraphia as a learning disability (LD) that affects a person’s ability to write. The term learning disability is the name for a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to listen, read, write, speak or do mathematics. People from all races and income levels can be born with a learning disability. This does not mean they lack intelligence. Some people with LD are even smatter than some of those who do not have (MDDRC, 2010). Marentette (2011), views dysgraphia as a deficiency in the ability to write, primarily in terms of handwriting but also in terms of coherence. It occurs regardless of the ability to read and is not due to intellectual impairment. Further, he explains that dysgraphia is a transcription disability, meaning that it is a writing disorder associated with impaired handwriting, orthography in the storing process of written words and processing the letters in those words and finger sequencing (the movement of muscles required to write). 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.

Studies on regular teachers’ attitude towards learners with dysgraphia have yielded diverse results. While some researchers reported uncertain and even negative attitudes towards learners with dysgraphia on the part of general education teachers (Hammond, & Ingalls, 2003), most studies (Tani and Nformi, 2016), indicated positive attitudes, accompanied by a belief in the fundamental value of inclusion by teachers in Cameroon Schools. On the other hand, a growing body of research, like (Endeley, 2016) refutes claiming that perceptions and attitudes of teachers are gradually improving in a positive direction towards dysgraphia in particular and inclusiveness in general.

Whatever the case may be, attitudes of regular teachers toward dysgraphia must be given the due attention it deserves for every child to benefit from the educational system (Bishaw & Jayaprada, 2012). Teachers’ sense of efficacy has been identified as a variable accounting for individual differences in teaching effectiveness, particularly in terms of pupils’ achievement. As stated in Ashton (1984), teachers’ sense of efficacy refers to teachers beliefs concerning their capabilities to help pupils learn. Similarly, teachers’ belief in their capability towards teaching pupils with dysgraphia in inclusive classroom can positively affect the performance of visually impaired pupils.

According to Bishaw & Jayaprada (2012), attitudes particularly teachers’ attitudes are said to be influenced by their characteristics such as their educational status, teaching experience, class size, exposure of teaching disabled pupils, lack of funding, workload norms and lack of training staff in inclusive practices to handle dysgraphia. In this respect, attitudinal barriers are perceived to be the basis of all other environmental barriers, and are the most difficult to change. They are reflected in misconceptions, stereotypes, labelling, fear from the unknown, resistance, misunderstanding people’s rights and opportunities, and further isolation of children with dysgraphia (Machi, 2007).

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.

 

 

Theoretical Background

The Self-Efficacy Theory by Albert Bandura (1997)

The term “perceived self-efficacy” refers to people’s beliefs about their capability to influence events that affect their lives and to accomplish personal goals (Bandura, 1997). Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. Such beliefs produce diverse effects through four major processes: cognitive, motivational, affective, an  d selection processes (Bandura, 1997).  Bandura (1997) further stated that repeated experiences with success in challenging tasks are prerequisites to a strong sense of self-efficacy. His theoretical framework reflects that in order to be successful one requires some sense of self-efficacy, a perception of oneself as being able to perform effectively. For example, self-efficacy beliefs affect the selection of goals, the investment of efforts, and the persistence with these efforts (Bandura, 1997). Thus, low self-efficacy beliefs may lead to low aspirations and lack of persistence, as well as low levels of academic achievement and goal attainment in general.

The Sociocultural theory by Vygotsky (1978)

Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory of human learning describes learning as a social process. The major theme of Vygotsky’s theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of cognition. That is the learners interact actively within their socio-cultural environment to construct meaningful knowledge. Vygotsky (1978) socio-cultural theory focuses on how cultural beliefs and attitudes impact how instruction and learning takes place. According to Vygotsky, children are born with basic biological constraints on their minds. Each culture, however, provides what he referred to as tools of intellectual adaptation. These tools allow children to use their basic mental abilities in a way that is adaptive to the culture in which they live. For example, while one culture might emphasize memory strategies such as note-taking, other cultures might utilize tools like reminders or rote memorization.

An important concept in the sociocultural theory is known as the zone of proximal development. According to Vygotsky (1978), the zone of proximal development is the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more knowledgeable learners.  Essentially, it includes all of the knowledge and skills that a person cannot yet understand or perform on their own yet but is capable of learning with guidance. Vygotsky (1978) pointed out that children acquire skills and knowledge by observing more knowledgeable learners who provide guided support (scaffolding) for them to extend this zone of proximal development. This is an important concept that relates to the difference between what a child can achieve independently and what a child can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled partner.

Moreover, the sociocultural theory further explains how learning arises not through interaction.  This therefore means that dysgraphia learners can be guided to learn through meaningful classroom interaction where the teacher selects and plan learning activities that would facilitate knowledge construction by all learners in class. In this way, social interaction is advocated to mediate learning. Furthermore, the theory explains how teachers model the desired learning strategy or task and gradually shifts responsibility to the learners through plan interactions in the learning environment.

Affect-effort Theory by Rosenthal’s (1997)

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 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 (1997) pointed out 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.

This theory is relevant for this study in that it explains how teachers’ attitude and expectations about learners with dysgraphia will enable them to teach the learners such that they can either improve on their academic achievement or they can perform poorly. This means that teachers’ expectations about learners with dysgraphia will cause them to teach more or less depending on the beliefs and expectations they have on the learners. Equally the theory explains how teachers’ attitude towards learners will also influence how other learners perceive learners with dysgraphia. That is if the teachers perceive the learners with dysgraphia as hardworking, knowledgeable and focus they would also teach them to achieve as such improving on their academic achievement.

Contextual Background

In the South West Region of Cameroon in general and the Buea Municipality in particular, primary school teachers are trained from teacher training colleges, but the teacher training programme does not have special education causes in it (Njorku, 2016). Teachers have been shown to vary in their attitude towards inclusive education (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002) and in their beliefs regarding pupils with disabilities (e.g., Jordan, Schwartz, & McGhie-Richmond, 2009; Jordan & Stanovich, 2001). Although some teachers believed learning disabilities to be a permanent characteristic of a pupil, others considered themselves to be responsible for all of their pupils’ achievement, regardless of any disability. As a result, interactions between those two types of teachers with their pupils in primary schools in Buea differs. Teachers who consider learning disabilities to be permanent characteristics of pupils interact with their at-risk pupils less frequently and at a lower cognitive level whereas, those with more “flexible” beliefs regarding learning disabilities interact more with this group of learners. Attitudes of teachers regarding pupils’ disabilities may thus be affecting their instructional practices. Regular teachers in Cameroon and the South West Region in general, hardly exercise the patience and pain of going through the untidy work of pupils suffering from dysgraphia, in order to make sense out of the untidy and poorly calligraphed work of these individuals. Some teachers complain that the work of these set of pupils is too unappetising and stressful to evaluate, because every now and then, they the teachers get stock trying to figure out a word due to untidy nature of the work of poor shaping of letters. This has led some of these regular teachers into assuming and assigning marks to the work of pupils with dysgraphia or simply crossing the entire which sends a negative feedback to the pupils that their work is worthless.  This may also affect expectations teachers hold for their pupils with learning disabilities. Judging from this, one will really wonder the effects that these attitudes put up by regular teachers have on learners with dysgraphia.

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.

 

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.

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