Influence of the ‘Learning Disability’ label on teachers' performance expectations — A matter of attitudes towards inclusion?


Teachers' expectations influence students' outcomes. Studies demonstrate that teachers lower their performance expectations of students with learning problems when these students are labelled with a ‘Learning Disability’ (LD) diagnosis. Our study aims to investigate whether these effects can be replicated in N = 429 special and regular education teachers. We also investigate whether positive implicit and explicit attitudes towards inclusion mitigate the negative effects of the LD label on teachers' performance expectations. Teachers were randomly assigned to the experimental (n = 214) or control group (n = 215). Both groups read the same description of a fictitious student with learning problems. In addition, the student was labelled as ‘learning disabled’ in the experimental group only. Results show that teachers' expected graduation level and school track recommendation were negatively affected by the LD label. It also led to a more frequent assumption that the student has an LD. Regardless of the LD label, special education teachers had lower performance expectations than regular education teachers. A positive implicit attitude towards inclusion reduced the likelihood that teachers believe that the labelled student has an LD. The findings are placed in the context of international research on disability labels and inclusive education.

Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, Advance Online, 1-17
Timo Lüke
Timo Lüke
Professor of Inclusive Education and Improvement of Instruction

Interested in instruction, and assessment, especially for learners with disabilities or at risk. Special educator with a focus on learning & intellectual disabilities, and enthusiastic user of single-case research methods.