Trainee teachers' beliefs about, and attitudes towards, gay and lesbian learners : a correlational study.
This study’s predominant aim was to investigate whether a correlation existed between the knowledge about homosexuality, and the attitudes towards homosexuals, of trainee teachers in KwaZulu-Natal. The scarcity of empirical data guiding homophobic intervention programs in teacher training colleges, as well as the importance of such research, led to the motivation behind this study. This study was therefore based upon the following objectives; to explore whether low levels of knowledge about homosexuality was related to high levels of homophobic attitudes, to test whether the previous attendance on a course in which homosexuality was included in the syllabus resulted in significantly higher levels of knowledge and lower levels of homophobic attitudes, and finally to make preliminary recommendations for intervention programs based on the findings of this study. This research used quantitative methodology with a correlational research design to achieve its objectives. A sample of 106 first year students at a teacher training college in KwaZulu-Natal were given questionnaires that comprised of 2 psychometric scales; Knowledge about Homosexuality Questionnaire (Harris, Nightengale, & Owen, 1995) and The Modern Homophobia Scale (Raja & Stokes, 1998). Biographic information as well as scores for each participant was obtained indicating their knowledge about homosexuality and attitudes towards gay men, lesbians and homosexuals in general. Findings of this study indicate that lower levels of knowledge about homosexuality are related to higher levels of homophobia. It was also found that previous attendance on a course in which homosexuality was included in the syllabus did not result in significant differences in the trainee teachers’ knowledge about, or attitudes towards homosexuality. Supplementary findings of this study indicated that male trainee teachers’ attitudes towards gay men are significantly more negative when compared to female trainee teachers. Furthermore, knowledge about homosexuality scores for male trainee teachers were significantly lower when compared to female trainee teachers. Another supplementary finding suggested that having close contact with a homosexual individual resulted in significantly lower levels of homophobic attitudes in trainee teachers when compared to those who did not. Preliminary recommendations for homophobia-intervention courses that were made based on this study’s findings included the need to address the low levels of knowledge about homosexuality, the need to expand the scope of the course content to include broader issues of sexuality, specifically gender roles, and lastly to include contact with homosexual individuals while on the course.
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