Unpublished Papers

Primary school teachers' knowledge, attitudes and behaviours toward children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder

Julie Kos, RMIT University


Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common childhood disorder affecting approximately five percent of primary school-aged children. The disorder is characterised by severe difficulties in one or more of three areas; inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. There are a variety of assessments used to help diagnose ADHD; interviews, behaviour checklists, medical assessments, and ancillary tests. Furthermore, there are numerous treatment options available, including psychological, biological, and alternative treatments. Whilst the aetiology of ADHD is unclear, there have been a number of possible causes put forth, including psychological, biological, and environmental suggestions. Considering that primary school teachers are often the first to notice behavioural difficulties in children, it is surprising that relatively little research has assessed teachers' knowledge, attitudes and behaviour toward this disorder. There is also a lack of literature on pre-service (student) teachers. The research that has been conducted on teachers' knowledge has shown that knowledge scores range from about 48 to 70 percent. Unfortunately, past research that has attempted to measure teachers' attitudes toward ADHD has not really done so. Instead this research has tended to further assess the ADHD knowledge of teachers. There is also a dearth of research assessing teachers' classroom management of children with ADHD, and very little emphasis has been placed on understanding the links between teachers' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour, particularly within a theoretical context. In an attempt to further understand the links between teachers' knowledge, attitudes, and behaviour, two social psychological theories (Theory of Reasoned Action [TRA] and Theory of Planned Behaviour [TPB]) were used. Based on a consideration of past research, four studies were conducted. The first study involved an investigation of primary school teachers' knowledge and attitudes toward ADHD. The sample consisted of 120 Catholic and private primary school teachers. Questionnaires were distributed to teachers, who were then given two weeks to complete the questionnaire. Completed questionnaires were collected from each of the 16 participating schools. On average, teachers' actual knowledge was better than their perceived knowledge, yet was not as high as was anticipated from past research. There were also a number of variables that correlated with perceived and actual knowledge, including having ever taught a student with ADHD and additional ADHD training. A factor analysis on study l's attitude items showed that teachers' attitudes about ADHD can be grouped into seven main clusters; lack of control, negative classroom effects, diagnostic legitimacy, perceived competence, influences to management, expectations, and external control. The TRA and the TPB were shown to have differential predictive utility across the five behaviour management strategies assessed and across teacher sub-samples (all teachers compared to those who were currently teaching an ADHD student). The second study assessed the behaviour management strategies primary school teachers use in the classroom to manage students with ADHD. The frequency that teachers used five psychological strategies (positive reinforcement, punishment, planned ignoring, organising the classroom and curriculum, and emotional support) was assessed. There were two phases to the study. The first phase asked teachers to indicate when they used one of the five strategies to manage the behaviour of a student with ADHD (i.e., tick the box). The second phase asked teachers to record examples of the strategies they used (i.e., what did you do?), as well as the antecedents and consequences for using that strategy. Participants were a sub-sample of the. Catholic and private primary school teachers used in study 1 (Phase 1: n =25; Phase 2: n=12). The results showed that the most commonly used strategy by teachers in the classroom management of students with ADHD was positive reinforcement. The least commonly used strategy was planned ignoring. Teachers were also shown to accurately label the strategies they used. The third study involved an assessment of pre-service primary school teachers' knowledge and attitudes towards children with ADHD, which were then compared to the in-service sample. Similar to study 1, this study showed that perceptions of knowledge were significantly lower than actual knowledge scores. Furthermore, when compared to in-service teachers, pre-service teachers' perceived and actual knowledge scores were significantly lower. While most attitudes were similar across pre-service and in-service teachers, there were some differences. Study 4 involved the implementation of an ADHD Workshop, which was developed based on the findings of studies 1 and 2. Nine primary school teachers (8 female) attended the workshop, and their ages ranged from 23 to 49 years, with an average age of 36.22 years (SD = 9.68 years). Teacher's demographic details, perceived and actual ADHD knowledge, and their attitudes regarding ADHD were assessed pre-test, post-test and at three-month follow-up. Measures were also taken at post-test and follow-up to evaluate teachers' satisfaction with the workshop. A within-subjects ANOVA showed that both teachers' perceived and actual knowledge was significantly lower at pre-test than it was at either post-test or three-month follow-up, and there was no significant change in knowledge between post-test and follow-up. Attitudes regarding ADHD were shown to remain somewhat constant across the three testing periods. A within-subjects ANOVA showed that teachers' attitude toward only one of the 14 attitude items significantly changed across time. Further, it was shown that teachers overwhelmingly perceived the workshop in a positive light both at post-test and follow-up. They reported being satisfied with the content, time and location of the workshop, and were highly satisfied with the presentation of the material. Teachers also expressed an increased knowledge of ADHD and self-confidence in teaching students with the disorder. Finally, teachers reported using a number of the strategies covered in the workshop three months after their attendance, and stated that they intended to continue using them in the future. Overall, this dissertation has provided a much-needed insight into teachers' knowledge, attitude, and behaviour toward children with ADHD. While some of the findings from this project are comparable to those from past research, much of what was reported on represents novel findings. Further, there were some limitations inherent in this project, and as well, various suggestions have been offered to enhance teacher training and classroom management practices. Theoretical suggestions were also offered that may enhance research in this area, enabling a better understanding of ADHD within the education system. [Author abstract]

Suggested Citation

Julie Kos. 2004. "Primary school teachers' knowledge, attitudes and behaviours toward children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder" PhD
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/julie_kos/9