Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Social Sciences Honours


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Chris Forlin


This research examines the attitudes of middle school students towards their peers with disabilities. The opportunity for students with disabilities to participate in inclusive education in Western Australia has increased steadily in recent years. The impact of inclusion on stakeholders within the education arena is, therefore, an important area of research. As part of this increased demand for inclusive education a trial inclusion program was set-up at a middle school in regional Western Australian. The target group for this study was all Year 8 (N = 199) students at that school. The attitude of the Year 8 students towards students with disabilities was measured using the Peer Attitudes Toward the Handicapped Scale (PATHS), (Bagley & Greene, 1981). The PATHS questionnaire was administered at the beginning and end of Semester 1 in 2003. Teacher perspectives of student attitude were also assessed via a focus group discussion after the second PATHS administration. Analysis of variance of the pre-test data showed the frequency of participant's prior classroom contact with students with a disability to have a significant impact on acceptance. Gender differences at the pre-test stage also proved to be significantly different in several measures. Although a repeated measures analysis showed no statistically significant change after one semester of the trial inclusion program, data trends and the focus group discussion indicated an increased acceptance of students with disabilities by their mainstream peers. The implications of these results and recommendations for future research are discussed.