Exploring Teachers’ Attitudes about Universal Design for Learning for Students with Learning Disabilities in Saudi Primary Schools

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University of Exeter
Despite the growing prominence of inclusion, teachers still have varying attitudes about its implementation in general classes. Therefore, this study aims to explore primary teachers’ attitudes about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for students identified with learning disability (LD) to inform decision- making in UDL implementation and foster inclusive education in Saudi Arabia. UDL was identified as a framework that consist of three principles and standards for curriculum improvement to give all students opportunities to learn. This means that all learners in a general education setting, including those with disabilities, can receive flexible instructional methods, materials, and assessments to meet their needs. However, in order to implement UDL, it is important to explore teachers’ attitudes towards UDL and their perceptions of its practical implementation. Due to the limited research on UDL in the Saudi context, this study focuses on gaining an in-depth understanding of the attitudes of general education teachers (GETs) including their beliefs, concerns and potential factors associated with using UDL when teaching students with LD in Saudi primary schools. This study used an explanatory sequential mixed-methods research design across two phases: Phase One collected survey responses from 153 teachers, of which only 40 reported that they had knowledge of UDL, to explore their beliefs and concerns about UDL. Followed by Phase Two obtained qualitative data via semi-structured interviews with 11 of these participants, selected purposively, to gain an in-depth understanding of their attitudes and experiences of UDL. In terms of beliefs, the study found that the majority of teachers held positive beliefs about UDL and believed it could be useful for learning, teaching and assessment. However, interview results found that although most teachers were positive towards UDL as an idea or concept, they were sceptical about its practical implementation in their classrooms. In terms of concerns, the quantitative results showed high level of concerns about UDL: teachers were generally interested in learning more about UDL; but were concerned about their ability to implement it and managing tasks associated with it; understanding the impact it had on their students’ learning outcomes; and how to collaborate and co-operate with others to implement it. The qualitative findings reinforced most of these findings as the majority of teachers expressed similar concerns related to UDL such as having limited information, professional concerns e.g., lack of appreciation, concerns about cooperation, implementation and training. In addition, there were several supportive factors (e.g., social media use and the influence of particular trainers) and hindering factors (e.g., curriculum and time pressures) that were reported to influence teachers’ experiences of UDL. The integration of both phases highlighted the difference between thinking that something (UDL in this case) is a good/ positive idea, and actually implementing it in practice. The findings can offer insights into the complex ways in which teachers understand and practice inclusion in their classrooms. The ecological model of human development by Bronfenbrenner (1979) was used to discuss the findings of this study and identify factors that can influence teachers’ attitudes towards the implementation of UDL. This study contributes to the existing theoretical and practical knowledge about UDL and inclusion. Even though some teachers supported the inclusion of students with LD in a general class, they could be negative towards implementing UDL or vice-versa (positive towards UDL, but not willing to have students with LD in a general class). It reveals a dynamic interplay in teachers' attitudes towards the inclusion of students with LD, and it was prone to change according to the circumstances. Implications for policymakers, schools, and teachers are discussed.
Inclusion, Learning Disability, Universal Design for Learning, Teachers, General Education Teachers, Attitudes, Concerns, Beliefs, Primary Schools