Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Lynne Cohen

Abstract

Educating students with learning difficulties in mainstream classrooms has been a major concern for educators (Elkins, 2007). This paper reviews the research relating to the issues teachers' experience when teaching students with learning difficulties (LD) in secondary schools. The review initially provides an overview of the definition of LD and the academic, social, and behavioural characteristics experienced by students with LD. The review explores student, teacher, and school environment factors that impact on the teachers' role when students with LD are educated in mainstream classrooms. The analysis of the research in this area showed that teacher's attitudes, views, and concerns regarding the education of students with LD in mainstream classrooms can influence the outcomes students' experience. In addition, the review highlights the support teachers required to meet the needs of students with LD. The current review has identified methodology issues (Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; Klassen & Lynch, 2007) within the research literature. Limitations of the review and future research are noted. Students with learning difficulties (LDs) in secondary schools are taught predominately in mainstream classrooms which can have repercussions for their social and academic outcomes (Prior, 1996; Watson & Boman, 2005). Teaching students with LDs in mainstream classrooms can have ramifications for the teacher (Ashman & Elkins, 2002). This research explored the experiences of secondary school mainstream teachers who taught students with LDs within their regular classrooms to understand the issues they encountered in trying to support these students. The qualitative study within a phenomenological framework used semi-structured interviews to understand the experiences of teachers. Nine participants were recruited from three government, one independent, and two Catholic secondary schools. Audio-taped interviews were transcribed and analysed using thematic content analysis to produce five themes; professional development and experience, support, attitudes and beliefs, emotions and coping, and managing individual differences. The results of the study provided an understanding of how teaching secondary students with LDs impacted on the teachers, for example, their attitudes, feelings, and teaching practices. The results of this research have implications for pre-service teachers and the professional development of current teachers. Limitations and proposed future research are discussed.

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