Elementary Special Education Teachers' Cultural Awareness and Beliefs In One Urban School District Regarding African American Learners
Today's urban schools are composed of students from diverse cultural backgrounds and varying levels of academic readiness. At the same time, approximately 88% of teachers are White and middle-class. The dispositions of teachers have important educational ramifications. Teachers' beliefs structure the classroom atmosphere, influence perceptions regarding the abilities of students, and impact how they teach and expect students to learn and behave. In order to foster an accepting and productive learning environment, teachers must have cultural awareness. To ensure that all learners receive a solid academic foundation, teachers must be able to instruct dissimilar students.
Special educators have been trained to work with students with unique, special needs, but the reality of today's demographics - and special education classrooms in particular - mandate that they also have the cultural knowledge to effectively serve diverse students. Perceptions and attitudes of elementary special education teachers regarding their cultural awareness and beliefs need to be explored. This study examined the cultural awareness beliefs of elementary special educators working in urban school districts located in southeast Texas. The research also needs to ascertain whether ethnicity or length of service effected such teachers' cultural awareness beliefs.
Using the Cultural Awareness Beliefs Inventory (CABI) instrument, the investigator gathered self-reported data from 54 participants. The reliability and validity of the instrument were determined to be sound by previous investigators. The CABI contains eight major components: Teacher Beliefs, School Climate, Culturally Responsive Classroom Management, Home and Community Support, Curriculum and Instruction, Cultural Sensitivity, Cultural Awareness, and Teacher Efficacy. Data were analyzed using percentage analysis and one-way analysis of variance. The findings include: 1) Participants had favorable perceptions towards the School Climate, Culturally Responsive Classroom Management, and Cultural Awareness variables; 2) Participants had unfavorable perceptions regarding Teacher Beliefs; 3) In contrast to some previous research, it did not appear that teaching experience impacted cultural beliefs; and 4) Importantly, it was discerned that teachers' ethnicities yielded statistically significant effects on their cultural awareness and beliefs regarding African American special education students.