Changing traditional attitudes, beliefs and assumptions 5. 4. 1

Author: Yoana Filipic

Keywords: assumptions, attitudes, beliefs

Attitudes, assumptions and beliefs are important concepts in understanding facilitators’ thought processes, classroom practices, change, and learning to teach. In such adapted programs, beliefs and attitudes of facilitators and service users affect what they perform and how they practice sports activities (Sikula, 1996).

Allport (1967) describes attitudes as “a mental and neural state of readiness, organized through experience, exerting directive or dynamic influence upon the individual’s response to all objects and situations with which it is related”. Therefore attitudes could be predispositions that consistently affect actions and consequently strongly influence facilitating activities.

Assumptions are something taken for granted; a supposition. It is something that you accept as true without question or proof (Cambridge Dictionary, 2018). It represents preconceived notions about what is good or bad, what is possible or impossible.

Goodenough (1963) defines beliefs as propositions that are held to be true and are “accepted as guides for assessing the future, are cited in support of decisions, or are referred to in passing judgement on the behaviour of others”.

Multiple studies have examined those concepts and how these beliefs affect facilitators’ conceptions of their role. In a study of teachers’ theories of learning, Anning (1988) stated that the theories about student’s learning in her study were determined “by their own particular previous experiences of teaching and learning in their classrooms”. Debora Britzman (1991) has wrote useful case studies of two student educators that indicated that they held powerful conceptions of the role of educators --both positive and negative--gained from observing teaching models. Britzman prompted the consideration that these conceptions profoundly affected the student teachers’ classroom behaviours.

All facilitators hold beliefs, about their work, their students, service users, their activity, and their roles and responsibilities. For example, Clark (1988) suggested that their use is not at all consistent with what one might find in textbooks or professors’ lecture notes, for they “tend to be eclectic aggregations of cause-effect propositions from many sources, rules of thumb, generalizations drawn from personal experience, beliefs, values, biases, and prejudices”. These predispositions and beliefs include questions about the purpose of implementing activities, about facilitators responsibility for achieving specific goals, and about beliefs that users are capable of achieving these goals.

In another study Fitzgerald and Kirk (2009) have prepared an analysis of the experience of the persons with disability of physical education and disability sport. They emphasised some of the primary concerns when using disability sports as a tool for change. Considering having a disability is often associated with a deficit perspective, by default then, disability sports is thought to be a lesser form of sport. Consequently disability sports could be viewed as either accommodating basic principles inherent to mainstream sport or as sports activities suitable only for persons with disabilities.

Research that focused on experience of teachers within a teacher education program that encourages reflective teaching, Korthagen (1988) came to important conclusions in relation to attitudes in the education process. He suggested that some teachers varied in terms of their learning orientations from those who learn within an internal orientation (reflection) to those who have an external orientation (just tell me what I should do). As a result of different orientations, Korthagen found that they may relate to their beliefs and theories about how students learn. Many students, whose approaches were not reflective and therefore not in tune with the orientations represented in the program, dropped out after one year, suggesting to Korthagen that educators should understand both their students’ learning orientations and those of the program. These findings definitely lead to useful implication for our programmes in terms of exploring our attitudes and beliefs and those of our users who join the programmes.

In their study of 2006 Smith and Thomas implied that some educators support segregation by engaging students with a disability in different activities to mainstream students, which “appears to be strongly associated with the ‘privileging’ of competitive teams sports over more individualized physical activities”. Jerlinder et al. (2009) declared that “disability ought not to matter”, but also concluded that “it paradoxically seems to matter very much … particularly, in the specific context of sports activities for individuals with physical impairments” who were often judged against “normative aspects of parity of participation.” Researchers noted that students with physical disabilities were often denied participation, not purely because of a lack of resources, but also because individuals’ abilities and desires were not explored and recognised. Slee (2001) drew on the notion of identity and stated that “inclusive education has been framed as a field for special educational research, training and bureaucratic intervention”, in which such perceptions have inhibited inclusion in mainstream schools. He suggested that students with a disability were often denied their individuality as it was believed that physical activity may be dangerous and may cause more complications than benefits. On the other hand authors like Sharma et al. (2008) suggest that educators’ attitudes needed to evolve. In their review of literature, Sharma et al. (2008) outlined that ‘disability physical education’ was the single common variable that influenced educators to be more positive about physical education. Slee (2001) hoped that pre-service teachers might be the innovators of future solutions to inclusive education.

Nevertheless, there are a number of characteristics that a successful facilitator should hold; particularly those related to the exploration of his/her own attitudes (who am I, what is my goal as a facilitator, what am I able to do) and the students’ own beliefs (of their identity and abilities) as well as alternative beliefs and practices. In addition, facilitators should have the opportunity to engage extensively in the active exploration of different living contexts of persons with disabilities. This process may promote the first stages in the acquisition of practical knowledge.

Discussing and evaluating our work and approaches opens opportunities for new ideas and more creative approaches to planning adapted physical activity. Therefore we all would benefit from on-going learning, searching new ways of implementing programmes, differentiate facts from opinions search for information that will enrich our professional learning and discussions with those we work with.


Allport, G. (1967). Attitudes. In M. Fishbein (Ed.), Readings in attitude theory and measurement (pp. 1-13). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Anning, A. (1988). Teachers’ theories about children’s learning. In J. Calderhead (Ed.), Teachers’ professional learning (pp. 128-145). London: Falmer.

Britzman, D. (1991). Practice makes practice: A critical study of learning to teach. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Clark, C. M. (1988). Asking the right questions about teacher preparation: Contributions of research on teaching thinking. Educational Researcher, 17(2), 5-12.

Goodenough, W. (1963). Cooperation in change. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

Korthagen, F. A. J. (1988). The influence of learning orientations on the development of reflective teaching. In J. Calderhead (Ed.), Teachers’ professional learning (pp.35-50). Philadelphia: Falmer.

Mauerberg-de Castro, E., de Souza Paiva, A.C., Figueredo, G.A., Ayres de Costa, T.D., Rodrigues de Castro, M., Frances Campbell, D. (2013). Attitudes about inclusion by educators and physical educators: Effects of participation in an inclusive adapted physical education program. Mortis, Rio Claro, vol. 19 n. 3, p.649 – 661.

Porter, A. C, & Freeman, D. J. (1986). Professional orientations: An essential domain for teacher testing. Journal of Negro Education, 55, 284-292.

Sharma U, Forlin C & Loreman T (2008). Impact of training on pre-service teachers’ attitudes and concerns about inclusive education and sentiments about persons with disabilities. Disability & Society, 23 (7), pp. 773-785.

Slee R (2001). Social justice and the changing directions in educational research: the case of inclusive education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 5 (2), pp. 167-177.

Smith A & Thomas N (2006). Including pupils with special educational needs and disabilities in National Curriculum Physical Education: a brief review. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 21 (1), pp. 69-83.

Fitzgerald H (2005). Still feeling like a spare piece of luggage? Embodied experiences of (dis) ability in physical education and school sport. Physical Education & Sport Pedagogy, 10 (1), pp. 41-59.

Richardson, V. (1996). The role of attitudes and beliefs in learning to teach. In J. Sikula (Ed.), Handbook of research on teacher education (2nd ed., pp. 102–119). New York: Macmillan.