Teacher characteristics and special class placement of mildly retarded children.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The possibility that teacher, classroom and school factors were involved in the differential educational placement of low IQ children in regular or special classes for mildly retarded children was examined. The subjects were 48 seven and eight year old children with IQs in the 50-80 range. Sixteen of the children (7 girls and 9 boys) attended regular classes and had never been referred to the School Psychological Service (N-R); 16 children (9 boys and 7 girls) had remained in regular classes after referral to the School Psychological Service (R-SC); and 16 children (9 boys and 7 girls) had been transferred to special classes in the six months prior to the investigation (S-C). Two studies were under-taken. Study 1 involved a comparison of N-R and S-C groups, and Study 2 involved a comparison of N-R and R-SC groups, and of R-SC and S-C groups. Questionnaires were administered to the class teachers, principals and supervisors of junior classes (STJCs) of the N-R children, and to the class teachers, principals and STJCs of R-SC and S-C children at the time of their referral to the Psychological Service. Teachers of N-R children, in comparison with S-C teachers, showed higher ratings of their personal/situational competence to accommodate low ability children, reported a higher proportion of low achievers in their classes, rated the subjects in their classes more highly in terms of personal adequacy, and more N-R teachers than S-C teachers were married (Study 1). In Study 2, N-R teachers also showed higher ratings on these measures than R-SC teachers, and R-SC teachers tended to show higher ratings than S-C teachers. Neither the N-R vs., R-SC nor the R-SC vs., S-C differences were significant, however. The STJCs of N-R children believed more strongly than the STJCs of S-C children that low IQ children in regular classes impede the progress of other children, and that STJC/principal support enables teachers to cope adequately with low IQ children in regular classes (Study 1). Similar differences were apparent in Study 2 with N-R STJCs showing stronger beliefs than R-SC STJCs, and R-SC STJCs stronger beliefs than S-C STJCs. Neither of these comparisons yielded significant differences, however. At the same time, the STJCs of R-SC boys believed more strongly than the STJCs of S-C boys that the support provided by the Psychological Service enables teachers to cope adequately with low IQ children in regular classes, that low IQ children do not place undue demands on the teachers' time and that the presence of low IQ children in a regular class does not impede the progress of other children. The principals' beliefs regarding special class/mainstreaming did not differentiate the groups in either study. It was concluded that teacher, class and school characteristics are involved in the differential educational decisions involving low IQ children, and in particular in the decision of whether or not a child is transferred to a special class. The results were discussed in relation to the mainstreaming versus special class issue and the methodological problems encountered.