The Relationship between Teacher Efficacy, Cultural Receptivity, and the Decision to Refer

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The Relationship between Teacher Efficacy, Cultural Receptivity, and the Decision to Refer
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Student diversity ( jstor )
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Copyright 2004 by John C. Baker


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank Dr. Nancy Waldron for her guidance and support throughout the completion of this project as well as my graduate studies. I also thank Dr. Carolyn Tucker for her assistance and granting me the opportunity to work on the Culturally Sensitive Teacher Training Project. I am very much appreciative of the time and effort of the teachers in the Alachua County Public School District that participated in this study. Lastly, I thank both my family and friends for their support and encouragement throughout the completion of this project. iii


TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.................................................................................................iii LIST OF ABSTRACT......................................................................................................................vii CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................1 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE.......................................................................................4 Teacher Efficacy and Teaching....................................................................................9 Teacher Efficacy and Classroom Behavior................................................................11 Teacher Efficacy and Student Learning.....................................................................13 Teacher Efficacy and Teacher Expectation................................................................14 Teaching Efficacy with Diverse Student Populations................................................17 Teacher Efficacy and Referral Decisions...................................................................22 Problem Statement......................................................................................................28 3 METHOD...................................................................................................................30 Participants and Setting..............................................................................................30 Instruments.................................................................................................................30 Teacher Efficacy Scale (TES).............................................................................31 Quick Discrimination Index (QDI).....................................................................31 Special Education Referral Questionnaire (SERQ).............................................32 Student Referral History Form (SRHF)..............................................................32 Procedure....................................................................................................................33 4 RESULTS...................................................................................................................35 5 DISCUSSION.............................................................................................................38 Limitations of the Study.............................................................................................42 Directions for Future Research...................................................................................43 iv


APPENDIX A SPECIAL EDUCATION REFERRAL QUESTIONNAIRE (SERQ).......................45 B STUDENT REFERRAL HISTORY FORM (SHRF)................................................47 LIST OF REFERENCES...................................................................................................48 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.............................................................................................54 v


LIST OF TABLES Table page 5-1 Correlations Among Measured Variables................................................................43 5-2 Descriptive Statistics................................................................................................43 5-3 ANOVA Summary for Number of Referred Students and Teacher Efficacy..........44 5-4 ANOVA Summary for Number of Referred Students and Perceived Competency with Special Education Referral Decisions..............................................................44 5-5 ANOVA Summary for Number of Referred Students and Cultural Receptivity.....44 vi


Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Education THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TEACHER EFFICACY, CULTURAL RECEPTIVITY, AND THE DECISION TO REFER By John C. Baker August 2004 Chair: Nancy Waldron Major Department: Educational Psychology The construct of teacher efficacy and its effect on student outcomes, teacher expectations, and classroom management are just a few of the relationships researchers have identified over the years. This study investigated the relationship between teacher efficacy and several variables: 1) receptivity to cultural differences, 2) knowledge regarding decisions about special education referral, and 3) rate of student referral for special education and other support services. Twenty-four teachers at six elementary schools in Alachua County, Florida, participated in this study. All six elementary schools received a failing grade of “D” on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Exam (FCAT) the prior school year, and served both a large minority and low SES student population. The variables of interest were assessed through questionnaires and teacher self-report. Highly efficacious teachers indicated greater knowledge with respect to decisions surrounding special education referral than their colleagues with low self-efficacy. vii


CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Over the past decade, there has been a steady increase in the number of children identified with disabilities in virtually all of the special education categories (e.g., specific learning disabled, serious emotional disturbance, mental retardation) included in federal law (NCES, 2002). While the nature of special education services continues to be debated, there is no question about the overwhelming demands placed upon the current system. Extensive resources and a plethora of education personnel are involved with the process of assessment, identification, and placement of students with disabilities into special education. Given that the overwhelming majority of referrals to special education result in identification and placement, it is important to consider how decisions are made in the referral process. The majority of referrals for special education evaluation and placement are precipitated by teacher recommendation. According to Soodak and Podell (1993) teachers are most often responsible for initiating special education referrals. Students that violate teacher’s assumptions and expectations concerning the way a “typical” student looks and behaves are at an increased risk for referral. While early identification and/or prevention of problems via referral for special education evaluation is not a bad thing in and of itself, the consequences associated with referrals that are ambiguous or simply unwarranted can be quite damaging (e.g., delayed or lowered achievement, restrictive learning environments, school drop-out). 1


2 When teachers use special education referral and placement to address poorly defined problems or problems that do not exist at all, referrals may in fact be unwarranted. Teacher beliefs about the students they teach and confidence regarding their own abilities to instruct them effectively are central to the types of students and problems that give rise to referrals in the first place. The degree to which teachers initiate special education referrals has been shown to be related to their level of efficacy (Soodak & Podell, 1993). Beliefs that teachers hold about both their personal abilities to bring about change (i.e., personal efficacy) and the influence of their teaching strategies and practices (i.e., teacher efficacy) have considerable effect on their decision to refer students for special education. Research and national statistics indicate that African-American males are disproportionately identified and served under special education (NCES, 2002; National Research Council, 2002). Moreover, the risk of referral is greatly heightened for students exhibiting both academic and behavior problems (Podell & Soodak, 1993). While, the shortage of teachers is great, the shortage of minority teachers is even greater. Therefore, minority students are most likely to be referred for special education by teachers that are racially and ethnically different from them. The ethnicity and culture of the students a teacher instructs, in addition to his/her level of teaching efficacy, also becomes an influential factor in the referral process. The influence of race and culture on referral decisions is often unconscious on the part of the teacher (e.g., racial biases, cultural insensitivity). However, this does little in softening the blow to student’s academic and psychosocial development that can result from inappropriate and unjustified referrals.


3 The need for study in the area of teacher referral, efficacy, and culture is considerable. We cannot fully understand the decision to refer students for special education without considering the primary referral source, the teacher. We also cannot ignore influential characteristics such as culture and ethnicity on the individuals most affected by referral decisions, the student. The interrelatedness among these factors necessitates the examination provided by the current study. The present study investigates the relationship between teacher efficacy, their level of openness to cultural diversity (cultural receptivity), and the decision to refer students for special education services. The review of literature in the following section will explore in depth the relative influences and importance of teacher efficacy, teacher receptivity to cultural differences, and referral decisions in education.


CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE The extent to which individuals possess the ability to affect their own behavior and achieve outcomes they desire has been a source of debate for many years. Does simply believing one can accomplish a task enough to do so successfully? Or are the appropriate skills and knowledge in addition to confidence in one’s abilities necessary? These questions as well as others have fueled the contention concerning self-efficacy and it’s impact on human behavior. Albert Bandura (1986) is responsible for propagating self-efficacy; the notion that all individuals possess beliefs that enable them to exercise control over their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Self-efficacy has been defined as “people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (Bandura, 1986, 391). There are two types of expectations suggested to govern human behavior: “(a) an expectation that a certain behavior will lead to a certain outcome, and (b) an expectation that one can perform the required behavior in order to bring about the desired outcome” (Ghaith & Shaaban, 1999). Bandura (1986) asserts, “what people think, believe, and feel affects how they behave” (p.25). The beliefs that individuals hold regarding themselves are what drive both their motivation/interest toward a particular task or action and subsequent behavior (Bandura, 1986). The perception that one’s past performances have been successful raises efficacy beliefs, according to Bandura (1977, 1997), while the perception that one’s past performances have been a failure lowers efficacy beliefs. Clearly, the beliefs’ an 4


5 individual holds about their abilities is just as (if not more) important than their knowledge or skill for a particular task. There is a marked difference between the skills and knowledge an individual possesses and their successful application of those skills (Bandura, 1986). Therefore, although an individual may possess the required knowledge and skill for a particular task, without confidence (efficacy) in their application of that knowledge base and skills the probability of success is greatly reduced (Bandura, 1986). Bandura (1986) sums up the theoretical framework of self-efficacy best in the following comment: To claim that people visualize outcomes, and then infer their capabilities is to invoke backward causation . . . people do not judge that they will drown if they jump in deep water, and then infer that they must be poor swimmers. Rather, people who judge themselves poor swimmers will visualize themselves drowning if they jump in deep water. (p.21) The beliefs we hold about who we are and what we are capable of doing are highly influential in our decisions to engage (or not) in a particular action (Bandura, 1986). The nature of these self beliefs (whether their overwhelmingly negative or positive) can either assist or impede our actions (Bandura, 1986). Self beliefs, according to Bandura (1986), affect the courses of actions selected, amount of effort expended, and level of accomplishment actualized. Self-efficacy has to do with one’s own perception of their competence, more so, than their actual level of competence. Individuals who doubt their abilities (low self efficacy) tend to avoid difficult tasks, have low aspirations, give up quickly, and perceive failure as inevitable (Bandura, 1986). In contrast, individuals who are confident (high self efficacy) in their abilities put forth maximum effort, commit to challenging goals, and approach difficult tasks with enthusiasm. Bandura clearly establishes that our self beliefs (which we have control over) are significant contributors our success (or failure) in life. According to him, beliefs regarding our efficacy affect


6 virtually everything that we do: how we think, motivate ourselves, feel, and behave (Bandura, 1997). Bandura identified four critical sources to the development of self-efficacy as mastery experience, vicarious experience, social persuasion, and affective states (Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000; Bandura, 1997, 1986). Mastery experience, our direct successes or failures at desired tasks, is how we learn whether we are likely to succeed in attaining the goals we set for ourselves (Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000; Bandura, 1997, 1986). We also learn about the probability of success vicariously; through watching the attempts of others and hearing success stories we are able to make judgments about the likelihood of our own success (Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000; Bandura, 1997, 1986). The more closely the observer identifies with the model (e.g., background or classroom experiences among fellow teachers), the greater the impact on efficacy (Woolfolk Hoy, 2000). Social persuasion (“pep talk”), the encouragement and support we receive from others, also influences how confident we become in our own capabilities (Woolfolk Hoy, 2000; Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000; Bandura, 1997, 1986). The social influence that teachers (novice teachers, particularly) receive from their colleagues and administrators can be quite powerful. Finally, our emotions (e.g., anxiety, excitement), which highly impact the manner in which we function and approach problems can reinforce or weaken the beliefs we have concerning our abilities (Goddard, Hoy, & Hoy, 2000; Bandura, 1997, 1986). For example, a great degree of anxiety can impair one’s functioning, thereby, reinforcing an individuals’ less efficacious beliefs about themselves. For Bandura, the distinction between individuals with high and low self-efficacy was a matter of the type of attributions formed. Highly efficacious individuals think


7 strategically and attribute any failure they experience internally (e.g., insufficient effort towards a task) (Bandura, 1986). According to Bandura (1986), it is this internal attribution that encourages the individual to continue in their efforts rather than give up. Individuals with low self-efficacy, however, often undermine their efforts at success by doubting their capabilities (Bandura, 1986). Bandura’s work (1986, 1991) has been expanded greatly over the years and has had significant applications in a variety of areas (interventions for substance addictions) and disciplines (business, education). Educators remind many children that “If you can believe it, you can achieve it.” Bandura’s notion of self-belief patterns and their influence on human behavior and desired outcomes have permeated modern society. Millions of self-help books on becoming more confident and learning to believe in one's self are sold each year. We all now understand how critical and essential self-efficacy is to our daily lives. The field of education, wherein, the actions of individuals (teachers) are responsible for shaping the thoughts and actions of children, has explored the impact of self-efficacy on the most fundamental activities in the field, teaching (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Gibson & Dembo, 1984; McLaughlin & Marsh, 1978; Woolfork & Hoy, 1990). Just as an individuals’ self-beliefs influence their behavior, effort, and motivation toward a task so do the beliefs a teacher holds about their abilities to effectively teach and encourage students. The investigation of efficacy and its relationship to teaching began in a “Change Agent Study” conducted by the Rand Corporation in 1977 (McLaughlin & Marsh, 1978). This study examined the impact of “teacher efficacy” on student performances. The


8 researchers in this particular study defined teacher efficacy as the “extent to which the teacher believes he/she has the capacity to affect student performance” (McLaughlin & Marsh, 1978, 84). Some years later, Ashton (1985) revised the latter definition of “teacher efficacy” and defined it as the “teacher’s belief in their ability to have a positive effect on student learning” (142). The construct of teacher efficacy is said to be two-dimensional; centering on personal teaching efficacy and general teaching efficacy (Pang & Sablan, 1998; Ashton & Webb, 1985). According to Bandura’s (1977, 1978) cognitive social learning theory, an individual’s motivation is affected by both outcome expectations (judgments made regarding the consequences of a particular action) and efficacy expectations (individual’s belief about his/her own ability to achieve a specific level of performance). Ashton and Webb (1982, 1986) extended the latter reasoning to teachers. A teacher’s outcome expectations (consequences of teaching) was labeled “general teaching efficacy”, while a teacher’s ability to produce desired results was labeled “personal teaching efficacy” (Ashton & Webb, 1982). “Personal teaching efficacy” represents those expectations held by the teacher regarding their ability to perform the actions necessary for student learning (Ghaith & Shaaban, 1999). “General teaching efficacy” is not restricted to the personal beliefs of one teacher, rather, it is more global and represents the belief that teachers as a whole have the ability to perform those actions necessary for student learning. Therefore, a comment such as “I can teach students with emotional and behavioral difficulties” is markedly different from “Teachers can instruct students with emotional and behavioral difficulties”. The former is individual while the latter is more collective.


9 Since the identification (McLauglin & Marsh, 1978) and early investigation (Ashton & Webb, 1982) of the “teacher efficacy” construct, a wealth of studies in the area have been conducted. Research has examined the relationship of teacher efficacy with gender (Haydel, 1997; Wittmann, 1992), experience (Ghaith & Yaghi, 1997; Woolfolk & Hoy, 1993), teacher certification or degree (Woolfolk & Hoy, 1993, Huguenard, 1992; Serna, 1990), grade taught (Larsen, 1996; Soodak & Podell, 1996; Petrie, Hartranft, & Lutz, 1995; Taylor, 1992), classroom characteristics and student behavior (Melby, 1995; Emmer & Hickman, 1991), education of special needs students (Stanovich & Jordan, 1998; Meijer & Foster, 1988; Ross, Cousins, & Gadalla, 1996), and job satisfaction (Fritz, Miller-Heyl, Kreutzer, MacPhee, 1995; Hyson, 1991). Teacher efficacy has been shown to influence student achievement and attitude as well as teacher behavior (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Dembo & Gibson, 1985), the referral of students for special education services (Soodak & Podell, 1993; Meijer & Foster, 1988) and teacher recommendations for appropriate academic placements of students with disabilities (Soodak, Podell, & Lehman, 1998). To the contrary, the association between teacher receptiveness to cultural differences, their teaching efficacy, and/or referral decisions have not been as widely studied. The present study examines the relationship between teacher efficacy, cultural receptivity, and the decision to refer. Teacher Efficacy and Teaching The professional practice of teaching has been an area of research for considerable time. Whether it be investigations concerning teacher/class size ratio’s for optimal learning, effective classroom management strategies, or effective instructional techniques, teaching and teachers have commanded a great deal of time and attention from researchers. The notion that teachers’ beliefs are important determinants and


10 predictors of how they instruct students has been prominent over the years (Pajares, 1992; Ashton & Webb, 1986, 1985; Lortie, 1975). Teacher efficacy has been studied extensively (Hoy & Woolfork, 1990; Ashton & Webb, 1986; Dembo & Gibson, 1984). These studies have identified distinguishing characteristics for teachers high in teacher efficacy (TE) and low in teacher efficacy (Brownwell & Pajares, 1999; Ghaith & Shaaban, 1999; Herbert, Lee, & Williamson, 1998; Tschannen-Moran, Hoy, & Hoy, 1998; Woolfork, Rosoff, & Hoy, 1990; Ashton, 1984). High and low-efficacy teachers have been differentiated by their interactions with students (Ashton & Webb, 1986; Gibson & Dembo, 1984), acceptance of students with disabilities (Soodak, Podell, & Lehman, 1998; Soodak & Podell, 1993), classroom management strategies (Ashton & Webb, 1986), academic expectations for students (Cooper & Good, 1983), and influence on student achievement (Ashton & Webb, 1986). Various combinations of teacher efficacy beliefs are said to be possible when investigating the attitudes of teachers: (1) Most teachers cannot motivate students to learn, and neither can I; (2) most teachers can motivate students to learn, but I can’t; (3) most teachers can motivate students to learn, and so can I; and (4) most teachers cannot motivate students to learn, but I can (Weber & Omotani, 1994). It is this spectrum of beliefs and their corresponding effects on the performance and learning outcomes of students that makes the construct of teacher efficacy fairly complex. Ashton’s (1984) study of teacher efficacy revealed a multidimensional construct. Several dimensions incorporating the teacher-student relationship were identified. The first dimension, personal accomplishment, entails the degree to which teachers feel (perceive) that what they do in the classroom is meaningful to students and has some type of impact on their


11 learning. The second dimension identified by Ashton (1984), concerns expectations held by the teacher regarding the behavior and achievement of the students they instruct. The extent to which teachers feel personally responsible for the academic success or failure of their students comprises the third dimension. Following personal responsibility for student learning is strategies for achieving objectives. This dimension involves the setting of clear and specific goals for the teacher themselves, as well as for the students they teach. A plan of action to achieve these goals is central to this dimension. Teacher affect, how they feel about themselves, teaching, and their students, is the next dimension identified as integral to the teacher efficacy construct. The amount of control teachers feel they have in influencing the learning of their students is also of importance. The degree of congruence between the goals of the teacher and the personal goals of the student is an influential dimension. The last and final dimension identified by Ashton (1984) addresses the incorporation of one’s students in the decision making process (democratic decision making) regarding goals and learning strategies. Teacher Efficacy and Classroom Behavior Dembo and Gibson (1984) noted significant behavioral differences (e.g., classroom organization, classroom instruction, and feedback to students experiencing difficulties) between high and low efficacy teachers. High efficacy teachers were observed to engage in whole group instruction as well as progress monitoring of students work at higher rates compared to their low efficacy counterparts (Dembo & Gibson, 1984). In addition to engaging in small group instruction more often than that of high efficacious teachers, teachers with low efficacy were observed to conduct small group instruction ineffectively. According to Dembo and Gibson (1984) they lacked a sense of “withitness”, which resulted in high rates of off task behavior by students not receiving


12 small group instruction. Conversely, small group instruction conducted by high efficacy teachers was observed to be more effective, achieving higher rates of on task behavior in the entire class while instructing a small group of students. Ashton et al (1983) reported similar results in their study of high and low efficacy teachers. Their study of middle and junior high teachers revealed high efficacy teachers to hold higher academic expectations for their students, have clearer expectations, and maintain higher rates of student on task behavior compared to low efficacy teachers. In this study, teaching efficacy was found to have a positive relation to “a secure, accepting climate that supported student initiative and was concerned with meeting the needs of individual students (176).” High efficacy teachers had a stronger academic orientation and fostered a more supportive classroom environment for their students (Ashton et al., 1983). High efficacy beliefs were found to be related to the following: a notion that all students can learn and have the desire to do so; the principle that, provided fair treatment, all students will behave in the appropriate manner; and efforts to keep students engaged and interested in learning. The converse was true of low efficacy beliefs. These beliefs were found to be related to use of embarrassment as a discipline strategy; mistrust and discomfort with students of low ability; and incapability to stimulate student interest in academics. Similar results have been found in studies concerning the efficacy beliefs of preservice teachers (Woolfolk Hoy, 2000; Hoy & Woolfolk, 1990). Hoy and Woolfolk (1990) found undergraduate student teachers with low teacher efficacy to have a control orientation, pessimistic view of student motivation, rely on strict classroom rules, extrinsic rewards, and punishments.


13 Teacher Efficacy and Student Learning Research (Gibson & Dembo, 1984) has demonstrated a relationship between teachers’ efficacy, instructional practices, and approach toward the educational process. The type of teacher-feedback provided to students has been found to differ according to their level of teaching efficacy (Gibson & Dembo, 1984). Low efficacy teachers, after posing a question, tend to supply a student an answer or solicit the answer from another student. High efficacy teachers, on the other hand, are more likely to give a student multiple chances to correctly answer a question/problem they posed. According to Gibson and Dembo (1984) high efficacy teachers “assist” students who are experiencing difficulty with answering a question/problem through questioning; allowing the student to arrive at the correct answer on their own through helpful guiding rather than simply supplying it to them. Teachers with high efficacy who are confident about their ability to teach students not only engage in more effective instructional practices than low efficacy teachers, but are more apt to try an array of strategies and interventions prior to giving up and seeking outside assistance. High efficacy teachers are much more positive and confident about their ability to meet the individual learning needs of their students (Ghaith & Shaaban, 1998). Woolfolk, Hoy, and Hoy (1993) investigated teachers’ efficacy and beliefs regarding classroom management and found that those with high efficacy were more likely to allow students with problems to remain in their classrooms than teachers with low efficacy. Teachers with high efficacy are also more likely to view regular education placement as an appropriate educational setting for “difficult” students than those with lower efficacy (Woolfolk et al., 1993). The reason for this distinction can be explained


14 by the fact that highly efficacious teachers assume greater “personal” responsibility for meeting the learning needs of their students (Soodak & Podell, 1994). In comparison, low efficacy teachers are more inclined to deflect responsibility for learning problems exhibited by their students to external factors (e.g., home environment, possible learning disability, lack of motivation demonstrated by student) (Soodak & Podell, 1994). As previously stated, high efficacy teachers have been found to utilize more effective instructional practices than their low efficacy peers (Gibson & Dembo, 1984), which increases their rate of success with students exhibiting learning problems. This possibly could explain why teachers with high efficacy are more willing to include “challenging” students than teachers with low efficacy. High efficacy teachers possess characteristics that allow them to be more successful with difficult students, therefore, they are obviously more receptive towards the inclusion of those students in their classrooms than low efficacy teachers who have had relatively unsuccessful experiences. Teacher Efficacy and Teacher Expectation Research has proposed three general types of “teacher expectation” (Bamburg, 1994). The first type of teacher expectation refers to a teachers’ perception regarding where student’s abilities and performance are at the present moment. Bamburg (1994) notes research (Chaikin, Sigler, & Derlega, 1974) finding that teachers who believe they are interacting with bright students engage more positively (smile and nod more often) with them than with students they believe have limited intellectual abilities. The second type of expectation involves the prediction of a student’s future performance. It is this prediction of how much progress a student will make over time that determines the subsequent “expectation.” The third expectation type concerns the extent to which a teacher has overor underestimated a student’s current abilities.


15 Clearly, there are multiple means by which teachers come to develop a set of expectations for a student. However, do teachers expecting more from their students necessarily mean they will get more? Apparently so, according to Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968). They concluded that teacher expectancies for their students were self-fulfilling prophecies, wherein positive teacher expectations translated into positive expectations held by the students themselves. This type of effect was labeled the “Pygmalion Effect”. The inverse of the latter (low teacher expectations lowering students’ own expectations for themselves) was termed the “Golem Effect”. According to research (McLeod, 1995), the “Golem Effect” is not only more frequent than the “Pygmalion Effect” but also more powerful. That is, the negative effects from low teacher expectations surpass that of the benefits derived from high teacher expectations. The attributions teachers’ construct regarding the academic success and failure of their students is the ground from which their expectations are formed (McLeod, 1995). Three factors are believed to be integral in the attribution formation process of teachers: the student’s past performance, characteristics of the student (ethnicity, gender, social class), and the type of teacher-student interaction (passive vs. active) (McLeod, 1995). According to McLeod (1995), those teachers with passive or non-invested interactions with their students tend to make “ego-enhancing” attributions. They assume responsibility for the successes of their students, while any failures are blamed on the students themselves. However, teachers that have active or invested interactions with their students behave differently. This set of teachers accepts responsibility for their students’ failures and give credit to them for their achievements. McLeod (1995) points out that teachers who form “ego-enhancing” attributions learn to live quite well with a


16 low efficacy. For when student failure is deemed inevitable for particular students (e.g., low SES, minority students, limited-english proficient students, students with emotional/behavioral difficulties) teachers do not have to question whether they have the necessary abilities to effect positive change in the lives of all their students. An investigation of teacher attributions and efficacy by Hall, Hines, Bacon, and Koulianos (1992) indicate that attributions held concerning student academic performance vary depending on the efficacy level and the corresponding efficacy beliefs of the teacher. Teachers with high personal teaching efficacy (PTE) were found to emphasize their own influence as well as that of the instructional programs they used on performance exhibited by their students. Unlike, teachers with low PTE, teachers with high PTE were less likely to emphasize the impact of external factors (e.g., home environment) in explaining student failures or difficulties. High PTE teachers were more likely to assume responsibilities for their students’ failures in school. The findings of Hall et al., (1992) are fairly consistent with subsequent literature (McLeod, 1995; Bamburg, 1994). It is clear that teachers who are highly confident about their abilities to teach and affect the learning of students view themselves as most responsible for the learning outcomes of their students (Hall et al., 1992). Whether the majority of those learning outcomes are deemed successes or failures holds no bearing as to the responsibility high PTE teachers assume. The low expectations that invariably accompany low teaching efficacy have significant impact on students. The level of efficacy a teacher has concerning their abilities as a teacher (personal teaching efficacy) and the impact of teaching practice overall (general teaching efficacy) appears to be interrelated with a variety of factors such


17 as their expectations and goals for the students they instruct, student achievement, and classroom management techniques (McLeod, 1995; Bamburg, 1994). One of several distinguishing characteristics between high and low efficacy teachers is the type of expectations they have for their students, with low efficacy teachers generally having lower expectations and goals in their classrooms. Bamburg (1994) comments that compared with high efficacy teachers, teachers with low efficacy more readily limit their inter-actions (thus, time and resources) with students they perceive to be of low ability. Moreover, many low efficacy teachers (in their need to retain control) sacrifice student achievement. According to Bamburg (1994) these teachers are more likely to emphasize what he calls “survival and convenience” goals. Utilizing the school day in ways that are easy and painless for them and their students. The result being a compromised curriculum that neither challenges the student or teacher. Teaching Efficacy with Diverse Student Populations Most recent U.S. demographic data (2000 U.S. Census) indicates that the United States is steadily becoming more ethnically and culturally diverse. Regardless of the cause (high rates of immigration, declining birth rates of White Americans, increasing birth rates among Hispanic Americans) the United States looks and sounds (e.g., diverse dialects, accents, languages) very different than it did two decades ago. While the population of White Americans declined from 79.5% to 69.13% between 1980 and 2000, there has been substantial growth in the African and Hispanic American populations, an increase of .5% and 6%, respectively (Censusscope, 2000). The American education system has not been immune to these demographic changes. In fact, probably more than any other system of its size, it has had to make relatively quick adaptations in order to meet the needs of the diverse population of students it now serves. As Shade (1995)


18 contends, “today’s classrooms require teachers who can work comfortably and effectively with the socially, racially, and culturally diverse students of the current student population (375).” Unfortunately, many teachers aren’t prepared or comfortable instructing students who differ from them in terms of race/ethnicity and social class (Freeman, Brookhart, & Loadman, 1999; Dilworth, 1998). The lack of diversity training and preparation to teach students from diverse ethnic and cultural groups is further compounded by the critical shortage of minority educators within the current system. According to the National Research Council (2002), in 1998 black students comprised 17% of the public school population while only 7.3% of teaching force was African American. Freeman, Brookhart, and Loadman’s (1999) study of entry-level teachers in low and moderate-high ethnically diverse schools indicated that teachers in moderate-high diversity schools were more likely to (a) encounter complex and challenging teaching environments, (b) struggle with forming meaningful relationships with students, and (c) report lower levels of job satisfaction. Teachers in moderate-high diversity settings were also more likely to make negative external attributions regarding the academic performance and behavior of their students. According to Freeman et al. (1999) entry-level teachers in moderate-high diversity schools tended to characterize the motivation of their students as low or very low and attribute discipline problems to factors beyond their control. The latter is further evidenced by Baron et al., (1985) who discovered teacher expectancy effects to be high for white, middle class students and low for lower class black students.


19 The Freeman et al. (1999) study also pointed out the differing realities between that of entry-level teachers in low and moderate-high diversity schools. Entry level teachers in moderate-high diversity schools were 31% more likely to teach subjects and/or grade levels for which they had no certification. Entry-level teachers who found jobs in culturally diverse schools were also more likely to be assigned students from lower socioeconomic populations and more ethnically diverse backgrounds than they were accustomed to or experienced personal interaction. The latter is not surprising, considering the findings of Pang and Sablan (1998). They surveyed the “cultural familiarity” of preservice and in-service teachers with African Americans and the African American culture. Nearly half (45%) of the surveyed teachers reported that they did not have any African American friends (Pang & Sablan, 1998). An even larger majority (70%) reported that they had not attended schools where there were African American students. Sixty-nine percent of teachers indicated they had not received any multicultural education training in their teacher education programs. Meanwhile, according to national reports, 42% of all public school teachers in 2001-02 had at least one limited-english proficient student in their classroom (National Center for Education Statistics, 2001). Additionally, nearly 40% of public school students in 2000 constituted some minority group (NCES, 2002). The lack of efficacy many teachers have towards the instruction of minority or low SES students (Pang & Sablan, 1998) coupled with their lack of experience and knowledge of ethnically and socially diverse groups (Freeman et al., 1999; Pang & Sablan, 1998) different from themselves has contributed to the downfall of educating these population of students. Forty-one percent of teachers either agreed, strongly


20 agreed, or were uncertain about the following statement: “The hours in my class have little influence on African American students compared to the influence of their home environment” (Pang & Sablan, 1998). Likewise, 65% of teachers agreed, strongly agreed, or were uncertain about following statement: “Even a teacher with good teaching abilities may not reach many African American students” (Pang & Sablan, 1998). Such beliefs reflect the “Deficit Model”, which is the presumption by teachers and other education professionals that a lack of ability, inadequate parenting, or both is responsible for the underachievement of African American students (Pang & Sablan, 1998). The “deficit model” is marked by the belief that African American students have little potential, therefore, very little should be expected from them (Pang & Sablan, 1998). The notion that African American students need to be “changed” in order to better fit into mainstream schools is also related to this model (Pang & Sablan, 1998). Another model associated with the “deficit model” that is used to explain low achievement among African American students is the “cultural difference model” (Pang & Sablan, 1998). Under this model, low academic achievement in African American students represents the result of a clash between the cultural values of the home environment and school. In the “deficit model” the solution to raising the achievement of African American student is believed to lie in re-socializing the student so that they ascribe to the cultural values of mainstream society (Pang & Sablan, 1998). Researchers attribute the beliefs inherent in “deficit” and “cultural difference” models to the achievement gap between minority students and majority students (Uhlenberg & Brown, 2002; Freeman et al., 1999; Pang & Sablan, 1998).


21 On the 2000 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading assessment, 40% of white fourth graders scored at or above proficient level, compared to only 12% and 16% of their African American and Hispanic peers (No Child Left Behind, n.d.). A reported 1 in 50 Latinos and 1 in 100 African American 17 year olds are able to read and obtain knowledge from specialized text (e.g., science section in a newspaper) compared to approximately in 1 in 12 Whites (Haycock & Craig, 2002). Relatively similar patterns are observed with mathematics, with 1 in 30 Latinos and 1 in 100 African American 17 year olds being able to comfortably conduct multi-step math problems and beginning algebra compared to 1 in 10 Whites (Haycock & Craig, 2002). Once again, national assessment data indicates that African American and Hispanic children lag behind their white counterparts in math with 35% of white fourth graders scoring at or above proficient level compared to 5% of African Americans and 10% of Hispanics (No Child Left Behind, n.d.). According to Oakes, Wells, Yonezawa, and Ray (1997): Schools far more often judge African American and Latino students as having learning deficits and limited potential and place these students disproportionately in low-track, remedial programs. Once placed, these students do not learn as much as comparably skilled students in heterogeneous classes; and they have less access than other students to knowledge, powerful learning environments, and resources. (p. 44) The achievement gap between minority and majority students expands into the “attainment gap” following graduation from high school. Higher rates of high school completion are seen amongst Whites (90%) and Asians (94%) than African Americans (81%) and Latinos (63%)(Haycock & Craig, 2002). African Americans and Latinos are also less likely to have earned a bachelors degree by age 29 in comparison to Whites (Haycock & Craig, 2002).


22 The preconceived notions we hold about other ethnic groups greatly influences our actions. According to Payne (1994) the notions we hold towards particular ethnic groups can be so influential that many of us unconsciously anticipate and adjust our behavior such that our interactions match the stereotypical images we have in our mind. Moreover, the stereotypes we hold become of even greater influence when our direct experience with members of a particular group is limited (Payne, 1994). When the latter is taken into account and balanced with the reality that many white teachers have the responsibility of instructing children from vastly different ethnic and social backgrounds from themselves, it is not surprising that minority children have different educational experiences and outcomes from that of their white counterparts. If we are to ever effectively combat and reduce the social inequities that minority groups face in this country, teachers must value, respect, integrate, and attend to the cultures present in their classrooms. Teacher Efficacy and Referral Decisions Teachers are responsible for initiating the majority of referrals to special education (Soodak & Podell, 1993). The strong relationship between referral and subsequent placement makes the decision to refer students for special education one of particular significance; a decision that has life altering potential, either positive or negative). Teachers in general refer students that violate the normative expectations associated with being a “normal” student (National Research Council, 2002). Teacher referrals are also based upon a teachers’ determination regarding the acceptability of a student’s academic progress and/or behavior (National Research Council, 2002). According to Zigmond (1993) a referral signifies that a teacher has reached the limits of their ability to effectively deal with and instruct a student.


23 The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2002) reports that slowly increasing numbers of children are being served in programs for the disabled. Regardless of the category, Specific Learning Disability (SLD), Mental Retardation (MR), Serious Emotional Disturbance (SED), or Autism and Traumatic Brain Injury, the number of identified students has steadily risen between 1991 and 2001 (NCES, 2002). Statistics from the U.S. Office of Education for 1998-1999 show that African Americans represented 18.3% of students placed in the special education category of specific learning disability, 26.4% in the category of serious emotional disturbance, and 34.3% in the category of mild retardation even though African Americans represented only 14.8% of the overall population (Office for Civil Rights, 1999). African American males continue to constitute the group at greatest risk for emotional disturbance identification and classification (National Research Council, 2002). The majority of students identified with an emotional and/or behavioral disturbance are excluded from the general education classroom. Thirty-three percent of students with an emotional/behavioral disturbance spent 60% or more of the school day outside the general education classroom. One of the highest increases in students served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) between 1990-2000 was observed in Florida (NCES, 2001). The state of Florida observed a 50% increase in students served under IDEA for this same 10 year period (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, 2001). Similar dramatic increases were also seen in Georgia, Hawaii, and Nevada with changes of 61.2, 74.4, and 93.6, respectively (NCES, 2001). Considering what is known about teacher attitudes, efficacy, and instruction of minority


24 students and that the state of Florida has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the U.S., the latter findings are understandable. Special education referrals are yet another factor influenced by a teachers’ efficacy level. Research has demonstrated a relatively strong relationship between teacher referral for special education services and sense of efficacy, with low efficacy teachers tending to refer difficult-to-teach students (particularly, those from low SES backgrounds) more frequently than that of high efficacy teachers (Soodak & Podell, 1996; 1993). Soodak and Podell (1996) found personal teaching efficacy and outcome efficacy (similar to general teaching efficacy) to affect teachers’ decision-making and behavior. They assert that teachers high in personal teaching efficacy and low in outcome efficacy (general teaching efficacy) are more likely to seek the assistance of others when working with challenging students. Despite feeling competent about their ability to teach, these teachers question their effectiveness with students they deem “difficult-to-teach” (Soodak & Podell, 1996). There is evidence indicating that teachers’ efficacy and their causal attributions are related to the type of interventions they seek and/or suggest in addressing student’s problems. Soodak & Podell (1994) investigated the decision making of teachers regarding challenging students and found that more than half (51.5%) of the teachers generated non-teacher based suggestions. These suggestions involved obtaining assistance and solutions outside the classroom, such as counseling (34.5%), remedial reading (18.2%), resource room (12.7%), and some form of formal assessment via a multidisciplinary or special education team (51.8%). Teachers also tended to attribute the causes of the student’s difficulties provided in a vignette to factors external from themselves and the


25 school. While, 9% of teachers felt that the school (e.g., poor teaching, large class sizes) was responsible for the student’s difficulties, an overwhelming majority of teachers applied causality to the student (50.9%) and his/her home environment (62.7%). Another study by Soodak and Podell (1993) found referral decisions of low and high efficacy teachers to be differentiated by student social class. Low efficacy teachers believed general education placement to be inappropriate for underachieving low SES students and therefore, referred them at higher rates compared to high efficacy teachers (Soodak & Podell, 1993). These findings suggest that the referral decisions of teachers are highly biased and in many cases are influenced more by variables (e.g., social class, ethnicity) unrelated to their actual academic and/or behavioral difficulties in school. The latter is particularly so for low efficacy teachers (Soodak & Podell, 1993). Regardless of a teachers’ level of efficacy the referral process is highly subjective. However, having a strong level of confidence in one’s ability to instruct and effect change in the learning of one’s students clearly attenuates the influence of factors unrelated to student’s achievement (Soodak & Podell, 1996; 1993; 1993; Meijer & Foster, 1988). Teachers who do not perceive themselves as influential in positively impacting student outcomes believe that “special” students require “special” services that general education is incapable of providing (Soodak & Podell, 1993; Stainback & Stainback, 1984). To the contrary, Stainback and Stainback (1994), assert that it’s “reluctance” and not inability on the part of teachers that determines why students with mild and moderate problems are referred for special education. The nature of problems (academic or behavioral) exhibited by students in the classroom and teacher efficacy has also been proven influential in special education


26 referral decisions (Soodak & Podell, 1993). Soodak and Podell’s (1993) investigat-ion of the influence of teacher efficacy and student problem type on referral decisions indicated that students with both learning and behavior problems are the most susceptible to referral. These findings are consistent with that Meijer and Foster (1988) who found higher rates of referral among students with both learning and behavior problems compared to students exhibiting only one problem. While some researchers (Gartner & Lipsky, 1987; Stainback & Stainback, 1984) contend that there is no need for special education because no “special” or “regular” children exist, many teachers fail to share that belief and perceive their classrooms as an inappropriate setting for certain students. This belief appears to substantially impact special education referrals and identification, as well as attitudes towards inclusion and its’ practice. Multiple studies have found that minority students are disproportionately identified and placed in special education classes (Civil Rights Project, 2002; NCES, 2002; 2001). In 1998, approximately 1.5 million minority children were identified as having an emotional disturbance, mental retardation, or a specific learning disability (The Civil Rights Project, 2002). Of all minority groups, African American children experience the greatest degree of overrepresentation. African American children are three times more likely to be identified with mental retardation (MR) than their white peers (NCES, 2002). Once identified, African American and Latino students are at higher risk of being segregated from their non-disabled peers; often receiving substandard instruction in separate settings (Civil Rights Project, 2002; NCES, 2002; 2001). Research indicates that as a group, African American students with disabilities are less likely to be mainstreamed (Civil Rights Project, 2002; NCES, 2002; 2001). Teacher’s attitudes and


27 efficacy, classroom instruction and management, and external pressures such as high stakes assessment have been attributed to the overrepresentation problem. The disparities between the educational experiences of minority students and white students continue to enlarge. Overrepresentation of minority students in special education has also translated into disproportionate minority representation in discipline referrals, expulsions, suspension, and corporal punishment (Cartledge, Tillman, & Johnson, 2001; Townsend, 2000; Skiba, Peterson, & Williams, 1997). While African American students constituted 14.9% of public school enrollment in 1998, as a group they were expelled, suspended, and subjects of corporal punishment at rates of 23%, 21%, and 27% respectively (OCR, 1998; NCES n.d). Moreover, African American males are at highest risk for these exclusionary disciplinary practices (Cartledge, Tillman, & Johnson, 2001; Townsend, 2000). According to Townsend (2000) the higher rates of discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions do nothing to ameliorate the classroom behavior of African American students. Instead, a “domino effect” occurs, wherein, the currently existing achievement gap between minority and white students widens (Townsend, 2000) as well as other debilitating consequences such as grade retentions, school drop out, and academic failure (Cartledge, Tillman, & Johnson, 2001). Cartledge et al. (2001) attribute the disproportionate rates of discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions to the “cultural clash” that occurs between minority students and white teachers. They characterize clashes in proxemics (personal distance), paralanguage (voice tone, pitch, speech rate), and verbal behavior (facial expressions, eye gazes) between the minority student and their teacher as a “cultural misunderstanding”. These “cultural misunderstandings”


28 contribute to negative teacher-student interactions, which often result in inappropriate behavioral referrals and/or ineffective interventions (Cartledge et al., 2001). It has become quite clear that when instructed by teacher’s with relatively low efficacy students with the following characteristics are at greatest risk for referral, identification, and placement in special education: low SES, minority background, limited-english proficient, academic and learning difficulty (Civil Rights Project, 2002; Soodak & Podell, 1996; 1994; 1993; 1993; Meijer & Foster, 1988). These students fail to derive much (if any) benefit from the “specialized” instruction that special education is said to provide (Gartner & Lipsky, 1987; Stainback & Stainback, 1984). On the contrary, there is evidence that the academic performance and behavior of many students (particularly, those of low SES and minority status) who are identified and placed in special education are further aggravated (Civil Rights Project, 2002; Haycock & Craig, 2002; NCES, 2002). Indeed, widening the already substantial achievement gap that currently exists. Investigation of the factors specific to the teacher, their beliefs, and practices is essential to understanding this great problem and making successful attempts at a resolution. Problem Statement Teacher efficacy and its association to years of teaching experience (Gaith & Yaghi, 1997), classroom management and discipline (Woolfolk & Hoy, 1993; Emmer & Hickman, 1991), receptivity towards inclusion (Soodak, Podell, & Lehman, 1998) and classroom instruction (Dembo & Gibson, 1984) are just a few of the relationships that have been studied over the years. The disproportionate placement rates of minority students in special education categories (NCES, 2002), dramatic increases in the population of minorities in the United States (Censusscope, 2000), and a critical shortage


29 of minority teachers (National Research Council, 2002) has prompted this current inquiry into the relationship between teacher efficacy, culture, and referral decisions. The specific research hypotheses for this study include the following. Hypothesis 1: Teaching efficacy is significantly related to referral rate for special education and/or other support services such that teacher with high teaching efficacy will refer students at lower rates as compared to low efficacy teachers. Hypothesis 2: Teaching efficacy is significantly related to cultural receptivity such that teachers with high teaching efficacy are more receptive to cultural differences. Hypothesis 3: Knowledge of the special education referral process is significantly related to rate of referral such that teachers with a limited knowledge (perceived) about the referral process refer students at a higher rate compared to teachers who are more knowledgeable. Hypothesis 4: Cultural receptivity is significantly related to referral rate such that teachers who are more receptive to cultural differences refer students at a lower rate compared to less culturally receptive teachers.


CHAPTER 3 METHOD Participants and Setting Twenty-Four elementary school teachers from Alachua County, Florida participated in the study. The majority of participating teachers were White and female (n=20). Participants included one white male teacher and three African-American female teachers. For the sample, the average number of years teaching experience was 12. This sample of teachers was obtained from a larger sample of teachers that participated in the Culturally Sensitive Teacher Training Research Project (CSTTP) through the University of Florida’s Department of Psychology. The CSTPP provided training to teachers in culturally sensitive methods of teaching and data regarding factors such as student achievement level, teacher efficacy, and cultural receptivity were obtained preand post intervention. The teachers who participated in this project came from six different schools in the Alachua County district. All of the selected schools which received a grade of “D” on the 2000-2001 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), had high minority student enrollment (> 60%), and a high enrollment of students from low socioeconomic levels (free or reduced lunch rates > 75%) (School Board of Alachua County, n.d.). Instruments Participants of the study were given a number of measures to assess: level of teaching efficacy (TES), receptiveness to cultural differences and diversity (QDI), 30


31 knowledge regarding special education referral (SERQ), and student referral history (SHRF). Teacher Efficacy Scale (TES) The Teacher Efficacy scale (Gibson & Dembo, 1984) was used to assess teacher’s level of teaching efficacy. Teachers were asked to rate the items on a 6-point likert type scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 6 (Strongly Agree). The scale includes two dimensions or factors. Factor 1 (9 items) detects a teacher’s sense of personal teaching efficacy, or the belief that one possesses the skills and abilities to bring about student learning. A sample item reflecting this dimension is “When I try really hard, I can get through to the most difficult of students.” Items in Factor 1 indicate a teacher’s sense of personal responsibility in the learning and/or behavior of their students. The Cronbach alpha for the Personal Teaching Efficacy factor is .78. The second dimension, Factor 2 (7 items), represents a teacher’s sense of teaching efficacy, or the belief that any teacher’s ability to bring about change is significantly limited by factors external to the teacher (e.g., home environment, family background, parental influences). A sample item of Factor 2 is “The hours in my class have little influence on students compared to the influence of their home environment.” A teacher’s sense of the general relationship between the act of teaching and learning is reflected in this dimension of the scale. The Cronbach alpha for the Teaching Efficacy factor is .75. The entire scale, all 16 items, has a Cronbach alpha of .79. Quick Discrimination Index (QDI) The Quick Discrimination Index (Ponterotto et al., 1995) was used to assess teacher’s receptivity to racial/cultural diversity. Teachers were asked to rate the items on a 5-point likert type scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). The first


32 subscale, General Attitudes Towards Racial Diversity/Multiculturalism (Cognitive QDI), consists of ten items with a total score range of 9 (low general receptivity) to 45 (high general receptivity). The Cronbach alpha for this subscale is .80. A sample item from this subscale is, “I think white people’s racism toward minority groups still constitutes a major problem in America.” The second subscale, Personal (Affective) Attitudes Towards Racial Diversity/Multiculturalism, consists of six items with a total score range of 7 (low personal receptivity) to 35 (high personal receptivity). A sample item from this subscale is, “I feel I could develop an intimate relationship with someone from a different race.” The Cronbach alpha for this subscale is .83. Higher scores on both subscales indicate increased receptivity to racial diversity. Special Education Referral Questionnaire (SERQ) The Special Education Referral Questionnaire was used to attain teacher’s personal beliefs regarding their competencies (knowledge and training) in the referral process. Teachers were asked to rate eight items on a 5-point likert type scale from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). A sample item from this scale is “I have the knowledge necessary to appropriately refer a student for special education services.” The Cronbach alpha for this scale is .86. High scores on this scale indicate increased confidence in one’s competencies regarding special education referrals. Student Referral History Form (SRHF) The Student Referral History Form was used to ascertain the number, type (academic, behavioral), and outcome (e.g., placement, intervention services, etc.) of referrals teachers made during the 2000-2001 academic school year. The number of teacher referrals of students for special education assessment/identification and other


33 support services ranged from 0 to 15. The gender and ethnicity of referred students was also obtained using the SHRF. Procedure Approximately 50 teachers from the CSTPP subject sample were given, in addition to the TES and QDI that already comprised the measures used in the research project, the SHRF and SERQ scales. Codes comprising the teacher’s first name initial, last name initial, and last four digits of social security number were to ensure the confidentiality of the participants. All measures, with the exception of the SERQ and SHRF, were counterbalanced for order. Teachers were informed that the questionnaires included in the assessment packets would be used to measure the overall effectiveness of the culturally sensitive teacher training workshop they had attended. The measures took approximately one hour to complete. Teachers received both monetary compensation ($60) and professional development credit hours (2 CEU’s) for their participation in their study. All disseminated packages were returned (100% return rate) and approximately, 48%, provided complete data that could be used for analysis. Many teachers failed to provide required information and/or completed the self-report measures correctly. The additional measures (SHRF and SERQ) were disseminated to teachers during the post-intervention collection period of the CSTPP, after participation in the culturally sensitive teacher training workshop. The TES and QDI values for the participating teachers used in this study were obtained from the pre-intervention period. The pre-intervention measures (TES and QDI) were disseminated to and collected from a contact person at each of the participating schools. The pre-intervention data collection occurred over a three-week period. A representative on the data dissemination/collection team from the CSTPP retrieved the pre-intervention data from the identified contact person at


34 each of the six participating schools. Post-intervention measures (SERQ and SHRF) were disseminated and collected in the same manner.


CHAPTER 4 RESULTS To test the hypotheses of this study, Pearson Correlation coefficients were computed among the following variables: teacher rate of referral of students for special education and/or other school support services, teacher efficacy, cultural receptivity, perceived knowledge in making decisions regarding special education referral, and number of years teaching (Table 1). A total of four measures were included in the statistical analyses conducted in this study: teacher efficacy scale (TES), student referral history form (SHRF), quick discrimination index (QDI), and the special education referral questionnaire (SERQ). Descriptive statistics for each instrument used in the study can be found in Table 2. On average, the population of teachers in the present study were fairly high in their receptivity to cultural differences (Table 2). The four hypothesized relationships of the study were not found to be statistically significant. A p -value of less than .05 was required for significance. Hypothesis 1: Teaching efficacy is significantly related to referral rate for special education and/or other support services such that teachers with high teaching efficacy will refer students at lower rates as compared to low efficacy teachers. A non-significant positive correlation between teacher efficacy and student referral rate, r= .35; p > .05, was obtained through analysis. These results do not support the contention of hypothesis 1, in which high efficacy teachers refer students for special education and related services at a lower rate than low efficacy teachers. Further analysis of this hypothesis included a one-way ANOVA to determine whether a relationship exists between level of teaching efficacy and the rate at which 35


36 teachers refer students for special education and related services. As indicated in Table 3, a significant relationship was not demonstrated between level of teacher efficacy and teacher referral rate of students ( F (18, 23)= 1.33, p > .40). Hypothesis 2: Teaching efficacy is significantly related to cultural receptivity such that teachers with high teaching efficacy are more receptive to cultural differences. A non-significant, positive correlation, r= .29; p > .05, was demonstrated between teacher efficacy and cultural receptivity. These results do not support hypothesis 2, which posits that high efficacy teachers exhibit greater cultural receptivity than low efficacy teachers. Hypothesis 3: Knowledge of the special education referral process is significantly related to rate of referral such that teachers with a limited knowledge (perceived) about the referral process refer students at a higher rate compared to teachers who are more knowledgeable. A non-significant, positive correlation, r= .13; p > .05, between knowledge of the special education process and student referral rate was obtained. These results do not support hypothesis 3, which posits that teachers who report having limited knowledge concerning the special education referral process refer more students than teachers reporting greater knowledge in that area. Further analysis of this hypothesis included a one-way ANOVA to determine whether a relationship exists between special education referral competency and the rate at which teachers refer students for special education and related services. As indicated in Table 4, a significant relationship was not demonstrated between level of competency involving special education referral and teacher referral rate of students ( F (11, 23)= 1.86, p > .15).


37 Hypothesis 4: Cultural receptivity is significantly related to referral rate such that teachers who are more receptive to cultural differences refer students at a lower rate compared to less culturally receptive teachers. A non-significant, positive correlation, r= .16; p > .05, was observed between cultural receptivity and student referral rate. These results are not in congruence with hypothesis 4, which posits that teachers high in cultural receptivity refer less students for special education and related services than teachers low in cultural receptivity. Further analysis of this hypothesis included a one-way ANOVA to determine whether a relationship exists between level of cultural receptivity and the rate at which teachers refer students for special education and related services. As indicated in Table 5, a significant relationship was not demonstrated between level of cultural receptivity and teacher referral rate of students ( F (13, 23)= 1.64, p > .22). As previously stated, no evidence supporting the hypothesized relationships of the study was obtained through analysis. However, a review of the Pearson Correlation Matrix demonstrated a statistically significant relationship that was not hypothesized. A significant, positive correlation, r= .54; p < .05, was observed between teacher efficacy and special education referral competency. These results demonstrate that teachers high in teaching efficacy reported that they were more competent in the special education referral process than their colleagues low in teacher efficacy.


CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION This study examined the relationship between teacher efficacy, cultural receptivity, and special education referral decisions. Several relationships regarding these variables were hypothesized. With reference to the first hypothesis, proposing a relationship between teacher efficacy and rate of student referral such that high efficacy teachers refer less than low efficacy teachers, the data analyzed demonstrate a non-significant relationship between referral rates and teacher efficacy. Therefore, it cannot be presumed that a teacher’s level of teaching efficacy (high or low) has any impact on the rate at which they refer students for special education and other related support services. The latter findings are contrary to that of Soodak and Podell (1996, 1993) who reported that teachers with greater confidence in their teaching abilities (high teacher efficacy) are more apt to utilize alternative forms of instruction and behavior management strategies before seeking assistance outside of the classroom. Thus, teachers reporting higher levels of teaching efficacy made fewer student referrals for special education evaluation than their colleagues with a low teaching efficacy. Unlike, Soodak and Podell’s (1996, 1993) studies, the present study utilized a different definition of referrals. This study included referrals for other educational support services in addition to referrals for special education evaluation. The definition of referrals in the present study is much broader in scope compared to that of literature in the area of special education referral. In the latter, the definition of referral is specifically limited to that pertaining to evaluation for special education eligibility. Therefore, teachers in the 38


39 present study, in addition to referring students for special education evaluation, also reported referrals to such support services available within the school as counseling, after school tutoring, and mentoring. This broader definition of referral may in part explain why only a moderately positive (non-significant) relationship was found in this study. The second hypothesized relationship in this study concerned that of student referral rate and teacher cultural receptivity. The non-significant findings obtained indicate that a teacher’s degree of awareness and responsiveness to cultural diversity did not impact their attitudes towards academically and behaviorally challenging students, resulting in differential rates of special education referrals. Therefore, while a teacher may respect, acknowledge, and accept individuals of diverse cultural backgrounds it does not necessarily mean that they will be as equally accepting or tolerant of the students they instruct that pose academic and behavioral challenges. Data concerning the third hypothesis, which focused on the relationship between knowledge (perceived competency) of the special education referral process and rate of referral, indicate that perceived knowledge and skills towards referral decisions does not influence the rate of referral a teacher may make to a Child Study Team, school psychologist, or other educational professionals involved in the evaluation process. There is no evidence to support the contention that highly culturally receptive teachers, because of their increased openness and acceptance of cultural differences, are any more tolerant or accepting of ability differences and thus make less referrals than their low culturally receptive colleagues. There are two plausible explanations for this particular finding. First, the teachers themselves rated how knowledgeable they were with the referral process for special education. It is possible that they could have overestimated


40 the degree to which they were knowledgeable with the referral process to appear more competent and informed than they actually were. Finally, it may very well be that knowledge (perceived competency) of the special education referral process is not enough to alter a teacher’s actual behavior (e.g., deciding to refer a student for special education services) which is why a significant relationship was not demonstrated. Findings related to the final hypothesis investigated in this study, evaluating the relationship between cultural receptivity and teacher efficacy, indicate no significant relationship between the level of confidence a teacher holds in their abilities to effectively teach students and the degree to which they are receptive and responsive to cultural diversity. Assuming that teachers who are highly confident in their abilities to effectively instruct students are also highly receptive and responsive to cultural diversity may indeed be too much of a leap. Therefore, teachers who doubt their abilities to effectively instruct students can be highly receptive and responsive to the needs of the culturally diverse students they teach and vice-versa. An additional finding in this study demonstrates a moderate, significant relationship between a teacher’s level of efficacy and their knowledge regarding special education referral decisions. Based on the Pearson Correlation coefficients, it appears that teacher’s who are more confident in their ability to teach and effect positive change in their students also report having much more knowledge pertaining to decisions involving special education referral. There are two plausible explanations for this finding. First, teachers with higher teacher efficacy may have received more comprehensive training in their teacher education programs than teachers with lower teaching efficacy. Secondly, it has been reported in previous studies that teachers with


41 higher teaching efficacy generally explore more options (academic/behavior strategies and methods) prior to their decision to refer a child for a special education evaluation (Soodak & Podell, 1996, 1993). Therefore, they have exhausted all possibilities in their minds to assist a student, which makes the final decision of seeking “outside” assistance less difficult and ambiguous. Implications of the present findings suggest teacher efficacy is not as salient a characteristic of teacher’s when exploring receptiveness to cultural diversity or rate of student referrals for special education. However, other findings noted in this study seem to illustrate that teacher efficacy is an influential factor when considering factors such as selfperceived knowledge of teachers in the area of special education referral decisions. In order for teachers to feel empowered and confident in their referral decisions they must first feel empowered and confident about their own abilities as a teacher. The level of confidence possessed by a teacher regarding their own personal competencies as a teacher as well as the general practice of teaching has been demonstrated by previous research to be instrumental in enhancing the educational experiences of students (Shahid & Thompson, 2001; Pang & Sablan, 1998; Hall et al., 1992; Emmer & Hickman, 1991; Ashton & Webb, 1986; Dembo & Gibson, 1985). Conceptually, there is a “trickle-down” effect that occurs with respect to teacher efficacy. Depending upon the level of teacher efficacy (high vs. low) the student outcomes may be very different. While the present study did not find a relationship between teacher efficacy, knowledge of special education referral decisions, and rate of referral, our system of education would benefit considerably from additional research in this area. The present findings of this study concerning teacher efficacy and knowledge/comfort


42 with special education referral decisions simply represent one piece of a large puzzle. Continued research in this area addressing those factors most influential in the teacher attitudes and actions in referral, could prove beneficial to systems of both general and special education. Limitations of the Study Limitations of the present study are worth noting. First, the small number of participants in this study made it relatively difficult to obtain statistically significant results. Therefore, statistical power was affected as a result of the small sample size (n= 24). Secondly, the population of teachers sampled for this study was not evenly distributed in terms of race/ethnicity and gender. Of the twenty-four teachers included in the study only four were of a different ethnicity and gender than of remaining participants, largely white females. While serving as a relatively representative sample reflecting the current population of teachers in the United States, it would have been beneficial to have a more diverse sample for comparative purposes (e.g., ethnic and/or gender differences). The method and timeline of data collection within the present study also reduced opportunities to have those questionnaire packets that were left incomplete by teachers completed. A more extended time period for data collection would have made allowance for incomplete questionnaire packages being returned and efforts to track down incomplete and/or missing data more feasible. Despite a high return rate of the research questionnaires by teachers (100%), the usability of the returned materials was relatively low (48%), which may have biased the data obtained and later analyzed in this study. Therefore, caution should be taken in trying to generalize these findings.


43 Directions for Future Research In sum, the present findings indicate that when teachers feel confident about their own abilities as a teacher as well as the impact of teaching in general on student outcomes they are more likely to have greater knowledge and comfort with making special education referrals. The importance of teachers’ referral decisions and the role of teacher efficacy in these decisions necessitate further exploration. Future research employing different methodologies (e.g., confirming teacher self-reports of referrals for special support services through documentation in school records, controlling for social desirability in responses, etc.) and more comprehensive samples of teachers may help us to understand how to assist teacher’s confidence with respect to referral decisions. Table 5-1. Correlations Among Measured Variables Variable 1 2 3 4 1. SRHF 2. TES .36 3. SERQ .13 .54** 4. QDI .16 .29 .25 Note: SRHF = Student Referral History Form; TES = Teacher Efficacy Scale; SERQ = Special Education Referral Questionnaire; QDI = Quick Discrimination Index. ** Significant at p < .05. Table 5-2. Descriptive Statistics Variable N Range Mean SD SRHF 24 0-15 3.5 3.74 TES 24 50-85 66.04 10.36 SERQ 24 13-37 30.95 5.24 QDI 24 45-79 65.20 8.11 Note: SRHF = Student Referral History Form indicating number of students referred for the school year; TES = Teacher Efficacy Scale; SERQ = Special Education Referral Questionnaire; QDI = Quick Discrimination Index indicating teacher cultural receptivity.


44 Table 5-3. ANOVA Summary for Number of Referred Students and Teacher Efficacy Source SS df MS F p Between Groups 266.33 18 14.79 1.32 .405 Within Groups 55.66 5 11.13 Total 322.00 23 Note: p < .05 required for significance. Table 5-4. ANOVA Summary for Number of Referred Students and Perceived Competency with Special Education Referral Decisions Source SS df MS F p Between Groups 203.08 11 18.46 1.86 .150 Within Groups 118.91 12 9.91 Total 322.00 23 Note: p < .05 required for significance. Table 5-5. ANOVA Summary for Number of Referred Students and Cultural Receptivity Source SS df MS F p Between Groups 219.00 13 16.84 1.63 .220 Within Groups 103.00 10 10.30 Total 322.00 23 Note: p < .05 required for significance.


APPENDIX A SPECIAL EDUCATION REFERRAL QUESTIONNAIRE (SERQ) Teacher Code: ___________________ Directions : Please indicate your level of agreement with each statement below circling the number underneath your response. 1. I am confident in my ability to identify a special need student in my class. Strongly Disagree Nuetral Strongly Agree 1 2 3 4 5 2. I have the knowledge necessary to appropriately refer a student for special education services. Strongly Disagree Nuetral Strongly Agree 1 2 3 4 5 3. I feel that I have been adequately trained to identify students in need of additional support services (i.e., tutoring, mentoring, counseling, etc.). Strongly Disagree Nuetral Strongly Agree 1 2 3 4 5 4. In general, referring a student for special education services is my last resort in working with a student. Strongly Disagree Nuetral Strongly Agree 1 2 3 4 5 5. The referral of a student for special education services is a fairly easy and uncomplicated decision for me to make. Strongly Disagree Nuetral Strongly Agree 1 2 3 4 5 6. I believe in referring student with academic and/or behavior problems for special education services so that they receive the additional assistance they need. Strongly Disagree Nuetral Strongly Agree 1 2 3 4 5 7. How much training have you have in the identification and referral of students with special needs? None at all Some Extensive 1 2 3 4 5 45


46 8. Please rate the quality of the training you received regarding the identification and referral of students with special needs. Poor Satisfactory Excellent 1 2 3 4 5


APPENDIX B STUDENT REFERRAL HISTORY FORM (SHRF) Teacher Code: __________________ Directions : Please list below the students that you referred for any special assistance outside of your class (e.g., special education services, tutoring, counseling, mentoring, etc.) during the previous school year (2000-2001). DO NOT USE NAMES. Instead, use a code consisting of that students first and last name initials, ethnicity, and gender (e.g., code for white male named John Smith would be indicated by JSWM). Next to each student’s name, state the reason he/she was referred (e.g., academic, behavioral, etc.) as well as the outcome (e.g., special education placement, paired with a tutor or mentor, etc.). STUDENT CODE REASON REFERRED REFERRAL OUTCOME 47


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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH I was born in Miami, Florida. I completed my secondary education at Miami Northwestern Senior High School. Following graduation from high school I moved to Gainesville, Florida, where I attended the University of Florida. In May 2000, I received my Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, with honors from the University of Florida. In August of that same year I began pursuing my Doctor of Philosophy in school psychology. Following graduation I plan to serve as a school psychologist in a public school district. 54