Date of Award

Summer July 2015

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Doctorate in Education



School or College

School of Education

First Advisor

Karen K. Huchting

Second Advisor

Adam Fingerhut

Third Advisor

Victoria Graf


Before the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (1975), most efforts to educate students with disabilities happened in isolation. Within the last 40 years, a growing number of districts and individual schools have experimented with inclusive models in hopes of successfully educating students with and without disabilities in the same classrooms; however, general education students still hold negative attitudes toward students with disabilities. The contact hypothesis of intergroup contact theory postulates that prejudicial attitudes toward out-groups can be alleviated if the following conditions are present in and around contact situations: equal status, cooperation, common goals, and institutional support. The purpose of this dissertation was to create and validate the Intergroup Relations Classroom Environment Scale (IRCES), a teacher self-report survey instrument that, within K-12 classrooms, measures the four aforementioned conditions along with two additional conditions that theorists have added to the original list. Data collected from an extensive review of the literature, focus groups with experienced K-12 teachers and administrators, and interviews with social and cognitive psychologists were used to generate scale items; exploratory factor analyses were conducted to test the hypothesized six-factor model and reduce the number of items; and, the IRCES subscales were correlated with other classroom and school environment scales to assess convergent and discriminant validity. Analyses resulted in a 43-item, multidimensional scale that theoretically and practically matches the six optimal contact conditions. The IRCES provides researchers, administrators, and teachers with further knowledge of how to create and maintain a safe learning environment for all students.