Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Diane Bunnel Horan


This thesis study developed from an interest in and an awareness of the need to modify attitudes of pre-service teachers toward those who are labelled exceptional. The effects of negative attitudes toward those labelled exceptional have been repeatedly reported in the literature. Negative attitudes toward those labelled exceptional are reported to have resulted in differential treatment toward and lowered self concepts/esteems of those with disabilities. There had been an inclination for individuals without disabilities to place emphasis on the differences between people with disabilities and those without. These differences were reported to have negative connotations. The central purpose of this investigation was to modify pre-service teachers' attitudes toward those labelled exceptional. It was the intent of this thesis study to present results that may be applied in training programs for pre-service teachers. The procedure or methodology chosen was a written response to written attitudinal questions. Any responses that were not consistent with the respondents' attitudes or behaviors were predicted to produce a state of cognitive dissonance. There were 66 individuals enrolled in the undergraduate, introductory special education course where this thesis study took place. Cognitive dissonance was reported to produce a feeling of psychological discomfort putting the respondents in a motivational state. This motivational state posed as a challenge. It had been reported that without challenge students would remain complacent with habit or repetition. In order to reduce or eliminate cognitive dissonance or psychological discomfort, in theory, the individual could change his/her attitude or belief so that it was consistent with a more strongly held ethical norm or value. In this study 18 special education majors and 48 elementary and secondary education majors were randomly assigned to treatment or control groups. Treatment consisted of three administrations of written attitudinal questions in which respondents were asked to support or defend posited attitudes toward those labelled exceptional in writting. Each of the three treatments were administered at the beginning of class prior to three examinations scheduled throughout the introductory special education course. Both groups also simultaneously responded to four cognitive questions taken directly from the required textbook. Attitudes toward those labelled disabled were measured using the Attitude Toward Disabled Persons Scale (Yuker, Block, & Younng, 1966). Analysis of the data included means, standard deviations, t-tests for a difference between two independent means, and factorial analysis of variances. These analyses were designed to report if any differences between treatment and control groups' attitudes toward those labelled exceptional existed. The results of this study did not support the cognitive dissonance theory in modifying pre-service teachers' attitudes toward those labelled exceptional. The written attitudinal questions designed to evoke cognitive dissonance were not successful in the modification of attitudes toward those labelled exceptional. Possible explanations and implications are discussed.