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Abstract

As colleges and universities prepare pre-service teachers to teach in inclusive classrooms, it is important to understand college students’ schema of diversity. Part of creating an inclusive classroom culture is to understand how children view similarities and differences in others, and how to create a culture of acceptance. One way to create a culture of understanding is to use media representations and popular children’s television shows as a springboard for conversation and acceptance, but before pre-service teachers can use media, they have to first understand the characteristics and qualification criteria for students with disabilities, and also how the community at large perceives children with disabilities. This research investigated pre-service teachers’ understanding of proportionality and equality in children’s television programming. University undergraduate students applying to or already admitted into teacher education programs watched several hours of children’s television programs and answered questions about the number of characters they observed with disabilities, as well as the way these characters and their disabilities were presented in the show. The research showed that pre-service teachers disproportionately identified more television characters as having disabilities. Implications for practice include increasing early knowledge of IDEA categories and focusing on positive inclusive models in children’s programming and media.

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