Effects of written information and weekly special educator contact on general educators in Seoul, Korea was examined. Special educators prepared a weekly newsletter to educate teachers on how to include children with disabilities in their classrooms for part of the day. Participants were 30 general educators and 300 nondisabled peers of the students with disabilities. A pretest–posttest control group was used to assess teacher efficacy, attitudes of general educators toward inclusion, and peer acceptance of children with disabilities. We conducted ANCOVAS on posttest scores of three measures, considering pretest scores of each survey as the covariate. General educators in the information group showed significantly higher scores in teacher-efficacy and attitudes toward inclusion. Their nondisabled students showed significantly higher acceptance scores than did controls.
Three frequently mentioned critical variables in the current literature on inclusion are teacher attitudes toward inclusion, team collaboration, and the provision of support to general education classroom teachers. When classroom teachers are given sufficient support from other team members, students with disabilities can make meaningful gains that may outweigh those made in special education (Harrower, 1999; Logan & Malone, 1998; McDonnell, Thorson, McQuivey, & Kiefer-O'Donnell, 1997). Furthermore, these classroom teachers appear to have positive changes in teacher efficacy and attitudes toward inclusion, factors that influence the success of including students with disabilities (Hunt & Goetz, 1997).
There is consistent evidence that general educators need several types of support if students with extensive disabilities are to achieve social and academic benefits from inclusion (e.g., Choi, 2000; Ryu, 2001; Werts, Wolery, Snyder, & Caldwell, 1996a; Werts, Wolery, Snyder, Caldwell, & Salisbury, 1996). Instructional support can mean team planning, guidance on teaching methods and student communication, approaches for adapting instruction, and information on student skills and educational goals (Hunt, Soto, Maier, Muler, & Goetz, 2002; Logan, Brakeman, & Keefe, 1997; C. I. Salisbury, Evans, & Palombaro, 1996; Snell & Janney, 2000). Support for social skill instruction (Cushing & Kennedy, 1997) and management of problem behavior also have been reported as necessary for inclusive classroom teachers (Werts, Wolery, Snyder, & Caldwell, 1996). The presence of various forms of peer support has been shown to yield positive academic and social outcomes for peers and their classmates with disabilities (Cushing & Kennedy, 1997; Gilberts, Agran, Hughes, & Wehmeyer, 2001; Kennedy, Shukla, & Fryxell, 1997; McDonnell, Mathot-Buckner, Thorson, & Fister, 2001). Administrative support for inclusive school policy, integrated therapy, collaboration, and building accessibility is frequently cited as being critical to the success of inclusion (Praisner, 2003; C. L. Salisbury & McGregor, 2002).
Several direct and indirect approaches have been recommended for giving support to general educators. For example, students with severe disabilities fared better or equally well in terms of instruction and achievement when direct special education supports were provided in general education classrooms rather than through pullout to the special education classroom (Logan & Malone, 1998; McDonnell et al., 1997). Collaborative teaming, another example of direct support, allows classroom teachers to problem solve and plan instruction with special educators and related services staff and has been cited repeatedly by researchers as making a difference to the success of inclusion (e.g., Giangreco, Dennis, Cloninger, Edelman, & Schattman, 1993; Snell & Janney, 2000). Indirect support methods to share information and maintain contact between teachers, such as bulletin boards, memos, newsletters, guidelines, and internet communication, have been suggested as ways to support inclusive classroom teachers (Dorsheimer, 1994; Hollingsworth, 2001; Melaville, Blank, & Asayesh, 1993; O'Shea, Williams, & Sattler, 1999; Turnbull & Turnbull, 1997). Regardless of the method, most agree that support must be provided efficiently in order to minimize the time and energy of participating teachers.
Teacher attitude toward inclusion appears to be greatly influenced both by experience and the delivery of support (Jansen, Wilgosh, & McDonald, 1995; York, Vandercook, MacDonald, Heise-Neff, & Caugey, 1992). Both Korean and American researchers have shown that classroom teachers understand and even favor inclusion but report negative attitudes because of their lack of training, nonsupportive school structures, and shortage of resources (Cho, 1994; Hwang, 2001; Tomlinson, Callahan, Romchin, Eiss, Imbeau, & Landrum, 1997). Positive attitudes of principals, general education teachers, and students without disabilities regarding students with disabilities and inclusive education have been considered important to the success of inclusion (Bender, 1986; Praisner, 2003; Voeltz, 1980). General educators' positive attitudes have been shown to increase their encouraging interactions with students with disabilities as well as classmates' acceptance (Giangreco et al., 1993; Schwartz, 1984). Positive attitudes of nondisabled peers regarding included students with disabilities appear to contribute to students' adaptation in general education (Fortini, 1987).
What teachers believe about their effectiveness as teachers has an impact on their beliefs about teaching students with disabilities. Brownell and Pajares (1996) surveyed 128 general educators and found that their confidence about their teaching effectiveness had a stronger impact on their reported success for teaching students with disabilities than did such variables as their preservice and inservice preparation, administrative support, class size, socioeconomic status, and collegiality. Jordan, Kircaali-Iftar, and Diamond (1993) reported that elementary teachers with lower self-efficacy thought that students with disabilities should be placed in the special education classroom, whereas teachers with higher self-efficacy were likely to agree that general education placement for students with disabilities was appropriate. Soodak, Podell, and Lehman (1998) found that general educators' receptivity toward inclusion was associated not only with higher teacher efficacy, but also with differentiated teaching practices, teacher collaboration, and students having physical, but not cognitive, disabilities.
Minke, Baer, Deemer, and Griffin (1996) found a connection between teacher experience, attitude, and self-efficacy. They found that in addition to the positive effects that inclusion experience had on the attitudes of general and special educators, teachers experienced with inclusion also had higher perceptions of their self-efficacy, satisfaction, and competency in comparison to traditional classroom teachers whose views in these areas were less positive.
Generalizing educational practices such as inclusion from one country to another poses challenges that are related to differences in law, policy, and custom. In Korea, special education typically is delivered in special schools or special education classrooms in regular schools. Students with learning disabilities are identified less often than those with developmental disabilities. Most general education elementary classrooms do not have any students with disabilities, and the student to teacher ratio is often 40:1. Full inclusion is unusual; when it occurs, it rarely involves adequate support. Collaboration between general and special educators is discussed in the Korean literature, but is infrequent because of teacher attitude and school logistics. Although all elementary schools with special education classrooms schedule beginning-of-the-year disability awareness programs for typical students, most Korean general educators have reported limited knowledge of disability, minimal teaching experience with students who have disabilities, and negative attitudes toward inclusion (Cho, 1994; J. E. Kim, 1996).
The present study took place in several Korean schools where general education teachers had a child with disabilities integrated into their classroom for part of every day, but had inadequate time for collaboration and little knowledge about students with disabilities. Given these emerging Korean practices with inclusion, we refer to the general education classrooms as “integrated classrooms,” because the children with disabilities, though in their neighborhood school, spend between 40% to 60% of their day in general education, with the remainder of the day in self-contained special education classrooms. We tested the effectiveness of written information in the form of a weekly newsletter and weekly contact from special educators as an efficient means to inform and assist general education teachers who had students with developmental disabilities included in their classrooms for part of the day. The following questions were addressed in this research: (a) Would written information and weekly contact have an effect on general educators' attitudes toward inclusion and their perceived efficacy for teaching students with disabilities in comparison to general educators in integrated classrooms who did not have that support? (b) Would nondisabled students of general education teachers who had written information and weekly contact show improvements in their attitudes toward students with disabilities compared to nondisabled students in classrooms where their teachers lacked that support?
Participants were (a) 30 general education teachers who had students with disabilities in their classrooms, (b) 8 special education classroom teachers, and (c) 300 nondisabled peers who were members of integrated classes. Participants were recruited from eight elementary schools located within the city limits of Seoul. All participating elementary schools were the neighborhood school for the students with disabilities.
First, special educators were recruited who had both students with moderate to severe disabilities in their classrooms and either a master's degree in special education or had attended graduate school. Their teaching experience ranged from 2 to 5 years. Special education classrooms were in the same elementary school building as general education classrooms, and their students with disabilities participated in the age-appropriate general education class between 40% to 60% of the day, with an average of 50%.
Thirty students (all of whom were integrated into general education classrooms for part of the day) were selected from these classroom. They were placed in one of two similar groups (see Table 1). Efforts were made to control the variables related to school characteristics (e.g., the number of experimental and control groups in each school was the same) and child characteristics (e.g., type and degree of disability, grade level, gender) to reduce their possible influence on the dependent variables. Diagnoses of participating students with disabilities included mental retardation, emotional disturbance, and autism; most students had high support needs. Experimental and control group designation was assigned randomly.
Each special educator next asked the general educators who taught one of their students with disabilities to participate. Participating general education teachers were divided into experimental and control groups based on the group designation of the student with disabilities in their class. The 30 participating classes ranged from third to sixth grade, and each class had 1 child with an identified disability. As shown in Table 2, there was no significant difference between the characteristics of experimental and control group general educators. Although about half the teachers reported that they had had students with disabilities previously, only 20% of them reported having preservice courses or inservice training on inclusion.
Nondisabled peers were randomly selected from the participating teachers' classes. Ten students were chosen from each classroom, making a total of 300 participants. They were placed into experimental and control groups based on their teachers' group placement.
Each special educator assisted the same number of general educators in the experimental and control groups. The number of general educators per special educator ranged from 2 to 10 (average = 4) and was divided evenly between experimental and control groups. Teachers in the experimental group received weekly written information; those in the control group did not receive any support services other than the usual initial orientation and occasional phone call from the special educator that all inclusion teachers received.
Prior to the implementation of this research, we conducted a pilot study with three general education teachers of integrated classes who did not participate in this study. Through this process, information was elicited on the schedule and quantity of written information as well as the method of teacher feedback to enable us to optimally provide support for the teachers. Based on teachers' preferences for written information in the pilot study, several guidelines were established: (a) written information would be between three and five pages in length, (b) provided once a week, and (c) delivered on a weekday specified by the teacher.
Content and configuration of written information
The written information used in this study had a newsletter format and contained information necessary to the education of the child who was included in a particular classroom. Each general education teacher in the experimental group received an individualized newsletter. Although the specific content differed each week, the format was similar, and the focus was always on the particular child with disabilities. Categories of newsletter content were drawn from existing studies about the support needs of general educators of integrated classes (Bang & Baek, 2000; Choi, 2000; Ryu, 2001; York et al., 1992); the specific content was extracted from the special classes' weekly education plans, general classroom instructional plans, and inclusive education literature that targeted regular teachers. All general information placed in the newsletter (e.g., characteristics of students with disabilities, information about special education and inclusive education) was supplied weekly by the researchers to each special educator in the experimental group. Special education teachers used the standard format but wrote the content to suit the specific child, classroom, and school. One day before the delivery was made to the experimental teachers, special educators were asked to confirm the final contents of written information with the first author via e-mail. Although it took about one hour for each special educator to write one newsletter for one student at the beginning of the study, the time was reduced quickly due to the consistent format and improvements in efficiency.
The written information (newsletter) was divided into four parts: information about the student with disabilities, news from the special class, information on special education and inclusion, and space for feedback from the integrated class teacher (Table 3). Included in the first section of the newsletter was current information about the student; the second section contained current news from the special education class. This information was meant to assist teachers in actively involving students with disabilities in general classroom activities. In the third section of the newsletter, general information on inclusive education and on teaching students with disabilities was provided. Finally, the fourth section was blank to allow general education teachers to write feedback to the special education teacher.
Implementation of written information
As shown to be preferred by the pilot teachers, special educators delivered written information to experimental group teachers at agreed upon times and dates, when teachers indicated they had time to read it. The written information intervention was implemented once a week for 8 weeks across the 15 integrated classrooms of the experimental group. The special education information changed over the 8 weeks as follows: (a) the student's level of performance, (b) educational implications of disability, (c) IEPs in general, (d) the student's IEP, (d) special education law, (e) disability awareness materials, (f) curriculum adaptation, and (g) successful cases of inclusion.
Special educators in the experimental group used the following procedure. After finalizing the written information content for a particular week, special educators meet with their general educators at the agreed upon time. Special educators gave the newsletter to the general educators and briefly explained its content. Next, general educators in the experimental classes provided feedback to the special education teachers. This feedback consisted of either comments or questions about implementing the suggestions from the previous newsletter or the content of the new newsletter. Then the special educator asked general educators to read and apply the content of the written information to their class routines during the next week, with a particular focus on the weekly goals for the integrated class (see Appendix A). General educators were asked to encourage the children with disabilities to participate in activities, using the newsletter content as a reference during the school and class events.
Participating experimental special educators were trained by the first author in a group orientation and during one individual meeting. During the group orientation, the researcher explained the structure of written information, how to write its specific parts, and the delivery procedure. The researcher then met with each special educator individually to ensure that he or she both understood and was able to create and deliver the written information according to procedures. Furthermore, each newsletter was reviewed by the researcher to check its required content. Frequent contact with participating special educators via phone and e-mail was maintained throughout the period of intervention.
Supports for the control group teachers were provided according to the each school's existing guidelines and based on Korean research on inclusive education (Kang, Kwon, Kim, & Kim, 2000). Table 4 is a summary of the experimental and control group conditions. As was typical practice for Korean integrated classrooms, all participating general education teachers (from both control and experimental classrooms) were provided with one personal contact from a special educator at the beginning of the school year; they received a basic orientation on disability and were provided with the present level of performance of the included student with a disability. All special educators provided brief disability awareness training for the peers of each integration class at the beginning of the school semester. Occasional telephone contacts were made by the special educators to schedule their students' inclusion and school events. Most of these supports were provided at the beginning of the school year, as is typical for integrated classrooms in Korea.
Design and Data Analysis
A pretest–posttest control group design was used to assess teacher efficacy and the acceptance by general educators and nondisabled peers of children with disabilities. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was conducted with posttest scores of the three measures, considering pretest scores of each measure as the covariate. We read teachers' informal comments about the written information that were recorded at the bottom of the newsletter. These comments were informally analyzed for their content and the presence of any predominant themes.
Two questionnaires (J. E. Kim, 1996; J. H. Kim, 2002) were administered twice on an individual basis to participating general educators as (a) a pretest during the first week of the semester and (b) a posttest during the week after the intervention was completed. During the same pre- and posttest time periods, nondisabled peers completed the Acceptability Scale (Kwon, 1998). In general, the participating peers all were 3rd graders or older and had sufficient reading and writing ability to complete the survey. They were not given specific information about the study, but told to answer honestly without any concern about the survey affecting their school grade.
Teacher Efficacy Scale for General Educators of Inclusive Classrooms
To measure the general educators' efficacy regarding the instruction of integrated children with disabilities, the first author (J. H. Kim, 2002) developed a Korean teacher efficacy scale based on the 25-item Teacher Efficacy Scale by Deemer and Minke (1999). Because the original scale was designed for general educators' instruction of nondisabled students, items were translated into Korean and modified in vocabulary and instructional content to make them appropriate for teachers serving children with disabilities in their classroom. Feedback on the revised scale was solicited from one special education professor, three graduate students of special education, and one researcher in education psychology at the same Korean university. Based on their critiques, the scale was revised. Next, to evaluate item comprehension and complexity, we asked 10 general educators with 2 to 10 years of teaching experience to answer the items during an interview. After adapting the scale based on teachers' comments, we executed a preliminary study to validate the scales by factor analysis. Preliminary research was conducted before the intervention began, targeting 200 teachers of integrated classes at 10 elementary schools with special classes, all located within the city limits of Seoul.
A principal component factor analysis with a varimax rotation yielded these two factors: 12 items on personal teaching efficacy, Cronbach ά = .88, and 6 items from general teaching efficacy, Cronbach ά = .67. Seven items were excluded due to their low factor loadings. Accordingly, 18 items in two factors from the original 25 items were used in the statistical analysis of the pre- and posttest results. Scoring was based on a 5-point Likert scale, with 5 indicating very much and 1 meaning none. Negative items were calculated in reverse. A higher score meant high efficacy. Cronbach's alpha value for the total scale was rounded to two places
Teachers' Attitude Scale on Inclusion
To measure the integrated classroom teachers' attitude towards inclusion, we used the Teachers' Attitude Scale on Inclusion, a test developed by Green and Stoneman (1989) and later modified by J. E. Kim (1996). This test, comprised of 32 items with 5-point Likert scales, includes both positive and negative items. This scale's reliability was evidenced by the high internal consistency of the questionnaire, Cronbach's ά = .88.
Nondisabled Peers' Acceptance Scale
Although direct intervention was not provided to the nondisabled peers in this research, their perception of included children with disabilities was examined as a correlated variable with Kwon's (1998) Nondisabled Peers' Acceptance Scale. Kwon (1998) translated Voeltz's (1982) questionnaire on acceptance of peers with disabilities and then modified it in several ways: (a) eliminated or re-worded items that were inappropriate for Korean nondisabled students and (b) added several items from the questionnaire on the perception of friendship developed by Brendt and Perry (1986). This scale has a 4-point Likert scale, with 4 meaning very much and 1 meaning none. The score can range from a low of 20 to a high of 80. This scale's reliability was evidenced by the high internal consistency of the questionnaire, Cronbach's ά = .90.
In this research our aim was to identify the influence of written information and weekly contact from special education teachers on general educators' teacher efficacy and attitudes towards inclusion. In addition, nondisabled peers' perceptions of their classmates with disabilities were examined to determine whether peer perceptions were influenced by the availability of written information to their general education teachers.
Difference in the general educators' teacher efficacy regarding instruction of children with disabilities
Means and standard deviations (SDs) of the teacher efficacy measures are shown in Table 5. Using pretest scores as a covariate, we conducted an ANCOVA and found a statistically significant difference between the two groups, F(1, 27) = 14.02, p < .01. General educators who received the written information and weekly contact showed higher teacher-efficacy scores than did those in the control group.
Difference in the general educators' attitude towards inclusion
Means and SDs of the teacher attitude measures are shown in Table 5. The ANCOVA results showed a statistically significant difference between two groups on posttest scores, F(1, 27) = 13.37, p < .001. This finding indicates that experimental group teachers had more positive attitudes by the end of the study about the inclusive education of students with disabilities than did control group teachers who did not receive weekly written information or contact from special educators.
Difference in the level of acceptance of the nondisabled peers regarding the classmates with disabilities
Means and SDs of pre- and posttests are shown in Table 5. The mean score of the experimental group increased from 54.90 to 58.72, the control group's mean score decreased from 54.77 to 51.99. Results of ANCOVA indicated that this difference was statistically significant, F(1, 297) = 98.99, p < .001, meaning that at the end of intervention the nondisabled peers of the experimental group tended to have more positive attitudes towards their classmates with disabilities than did peers in control classrooms.
Informal comments from general educators
General educators wrote comments in the last section of the newsletter. An analysis of these comments revealed two primary themes. The first concerned their positive interest in both the special education class activities and the weekly inclusion point suggesting specific tasks for the students with disabilities. The second theme addressed their concerns about which classroom tasks were relevant for students with disabilities and whether these students could perform in the general class.
This investigation demonstrated that weekly written information and interaction with a special education teacher was associated with positive effects on general educators' teacher efficacy and their attitudes toward inclusive education as well as the acceptance level of nondisabled peers for children with disabilities. In this section we discuss the implications of these findings, the shortcomings of this study, and areas for future research.
Teacher Efficacy and Attitudes Toward Inclusion
The statistically significant teacher-efficacy scores of the experimental group indicate the positive influence of special educators' written information and weekly contact on general educators who had a child with disabilities in their classroom but received no direct support from a special educator. Because this support system was developed to be more easily used than team collaboration, the results lend credibility to this approach as an efficient and effective way to assist teachers in school systems and in countries where inclusion awareness and administrative support are still scarce. This study extends the findings that simple but individualized methods of teacher support can improve the conditions for successful inclusion of students with disabilities (Ashton, Webb, & Doda, 1983; Minke et al., 1996). Compared to collaboration with special education teachers, which requires cooperation between teachers and administrative endorsement, written information appears to be an efficient way to shore up teachers in integrated classrooms as well as to improve their attitudes toward students with disabilities and their teacher efficacy. As Brownell and Pajiares (1996) reported, the high level of teacher efficacy among inclusion classroom teachers is thought to exert strong influence on the success of inclusion.
As in the recent work on teacher efficacy in teachers' responses to inclusion (Soodak et al., 1998), we did not evaluate teacher efficacy scores by students' type of disability or teachers' years of teaching experience, nor did we assess attitudes toward inclusion by means of differential response pairs, such as hostile/receptive and pleased/displeased. However, like Soodak et al.'s sample, the teachers in this study taught a wide range of students with disabilities, and experimental teachers received regular written information, whereas control teachers received none. Thus, when taken as a whole, these efficacy and attitude findings are in some agreement with Soodak et al. that receptivity toward inclusion and students with disabilities was associated with higher teacher efficacy. A further point of agreement was that “collaboration among teachers may compensate for teachers' personal insecurities” (Soodak et al., 1998, p. 493), with collaboration including opportunities to interact with other teachers regarding the instruction of their included students. In this study, teachers who received weekly written information and contact from the special education teacher of students enrolled part-time in their classroom demonstrated significant improvements in attitude and teacher efficacy scores over similar teachers who did not receive such support.
The comprehensive and practical nature of the written information seems to be an important factor in this study. Based on the existing literature about general educators' support needs in inclusion classrooms (e.g., Cho, 1994; Choi, 2000; Werts et al., 1996), the content of written information was designed to give general educators the information needed to involve children with disabilities in their classroom, such as teaching strategies, ways to address problem behaviors, information on special education, and students' ongoing performance. We speculate that these teachers' self-confidence for teaching such students increased as they learned more about them.
The attitudes of the experimental group teachers towards inclusion manifested statistically significant increases over the control group. This result reinforces the claim that special educators' support of teachers in inclusion classes is closely related to the positive attitudes teachers have regarding inclusive education (Jansen et al., 1995; York et al., 1992). Cho (1994) found that teachers' attitudes towards inclusion became more positive when the frequency of support increased and the perception existed that the support was useful. This study confirms these findings that support can positively influence teacher attitude.
Efficacy theory implies that there is a relationship between a teacher's attitudes about capability in situations such as inclusive classrooms and a teacher's confidence. Teachers with high teacher efficacy have positive expectations for their own teaching capability and for their students' achievement. These teachers actively pursue teaching, which in turn both brings about student achievement and fulfills teachers' expectation towards themselves as teachers (Ashton & Webb, 1986). This sense of success about inclusive education seems to exert a positive influence on the attitudes teachers have towards inclusion (Baker & Gottlieb, 1980; Green & Harvey, 1983; Soodak et al., 1998; Stephen & Braun, 1980). The finding that teachers who received weekly written information and contact with special educators demonstrated increased scores in teacher efficacy and attitudes toward inclusion lends some support to this reasoning.
Peer Acceptance of Children With Disabilities
An indirect effect of the written information and contact provided to experimental classroom teachers can be found in the significant difference of nondisabled peers' acceptance level between the two groups. There seem to be several reasons for this phenomenon. First, this significant posttest difference between peers in the experimental and control groups resulted from a decline in control peers' perception of their classmates along with an improvement in the experimental group's perception. Previous research has shown that the mere physical integration of children with disabilities leads nondisabled children to develop a negative perception (Gwak, 1993; Hilton & Liberty, 1992; E. Lee, 2002; S. Lee, 1999). The condition of our control group was closest to physical integration without meaningful support, despite the conventional beginning-of-the-semester inclusion orientation. This finding shows that even indirect written information and weekly contact for teachers seems to be better for enhancing nondisabled peers' acceptance of children with disabilities than a one-shot orientation and irregular contact with special educators. To ensure successful inclusion, it seems necessary that typical peers have or develop a positive perception of their classmates with disabilities. Based on these findings, thoughtful consideration should be given to defining the necessary level of teacher support that will produce positive attitude changes in nondisabled children.
A second reason for this significant peer attitude difference between the experimental and control group can be traced to the teachers of the integrated classrooms. According to these results, the attitudes of nondisabled students in the experimental and the control group changed in the same direction as their teachers'. This result suggests that the attitudes of general education teachers may have influenced their nondisabled students. Previous research supports this notion that the positive reaction of teachers in inclusion classes enhances interaction among children with and without disabilities and increases nondisabled children's level of acceptance of classmates with disabilities (Foley, 1979; Schwartz, 1984; Simpson, 1980). Control teacher and peer control groups' posttest scores were lower than their pretest scores on all dependent measures: teacher efficacy, teacher attitude, and peer acceptance. This outcome may have resulted from the challenges faced by these control group teachers during the school year that were not resolved with support from special educators. Another possible reason for the control groups' lower posttest scores may be related to the timing of the pretest and support they received. Most of the support given to control group teachers (Table 4) was provided at the beginning of the school year during the 2-week general classroom adaptation period, as is usually practiced in Korea. During this period, special education teachers conducted short disability awareness programs for the nondisabled children in all the integrated classes. Also, although irregular and intermittent, special educators made an effort to inform all integrated classroom teachers about school activities and special events and to give a basic orientation on disability and the included students' performance level. Pretesting was conducted during the second week of the semester, one week after the general classroom adaptation period. Thus, it is possible that the relatively high pretest scores of the control group were due to support given by special educators at the beginning of the school year (which was before and during the pretest), while intermittent phone calls about school activity participation (which took place after pretesting) did not provide enough meaningful support to enable general educators to overcome the day-to-day challenges of inclusive education.
There are several limitations to this research. First, we did not gather or analyze direct observation data or conduct interviews to demonstrate the effectiveness of the intervention but, rather, compared the differences between groups using survey techniques. Second, written information was accompanied by weekly interactions between the general and special education teachers, making it difficult to assess the separate contribution of each. Third, due to several differences between the United States and Korea, these results may not be easily generalized to the United States. Korean students with disabilities in this study spent limited amounts of daily time (40% to 60%) in general education classrooms and the remainder of the day in self-contained classrooms. However, it is true that many children with disabilities in the United States who are considered to be “included” do not spend the entire day in general education. In addition, in the Korean culture, equal communication between teachers with differing career experience, age, and gender is often difficult. Thus, written information that required little direct interaction may have had a cultural advantage for Korean teachers but might not apply to teachers in the United States. Finally, the written information did not thoroughly address adaptations to the curriculum to enable students with disabilities to actively participate. Although adaptations are regarded as important in inclusive classrooms, written information may not be an effective means for sharing these strategies.
Recommendations for Future Study
Future researchers should assess the effects of written information with a wider range of measures, including direct observation. For example, the quality of instruction in the inclusive classrooms could be evaluated or the actual social interaction between the students with and without disabilities could be measured. In addition, further investigation is needed concerning the scope and role of the written information. It would be valuable to learn whether written information can be used as a primary form of teacher assistance if the school setting does not allow more collaborative support from special education teachers, or whether written information should be used only as an initial or a back-up support system. Because teacher efficacy appears to be related to the success of integrated general education teachers and constitutes a measure of success, more research attention also seems to be needed on this aspect of efficacy. Written information was accompanied by weekly brief exchanges between general and special education teachers. It would be valuable to assess the impact of the brief exchanges separately from the written information and determine whether newsletters alone were as helpful as the combination. The role of the researcher's support of special educators in the experimental group was not assessed and may have been a third factor responsible for these results. In addition, as in the research of Soodak et al. (1998), additional analyses of changes in attitude and efficacy scores of control and experimental group teachers by teachers' years of experience and the disability of the student who was included would be beneficial for teacher trainers and administrators.
Several cultural issues should also be explored. Korean special educators, who are mostly young and female, experience difficulties explaining the various aspects of inclusion to general educators, who are often older and more experienced. Thus, is written information with brief contact more effective in Korea than ongoing collaboration for cultural reasons? Does written information have the same value in American schools?
A final suggestion for future research relates to the necessity of continuing efforts to develop more efficient and productive support systems. This study was designed to solve the problem of providing support in schools where collaboration between general and special educators is very difficult in terms of time, readiness, and knowledge. This line of research is especially needed and helpful for school systems both in the United States and in other countries where the basic school structure and atmosphere does not yet sustain inclusive education.
Authors: JooHye Kim, MA, Doctoral Student, and Ehye Park, PhD (email@example.com), Associate Professor, Department of Special Education, Ewha Womans University at Seoul, South Korea, 120-750. Martha E. Snell, PhD, Professor, University of Virginia, Curry School of Education, 234 Ruffner Hall, 405 Emmet St. S., PO Box 400273, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4273