ERIC Identifier: ED262498
Publication Date: 1984-00-00
Author: Evans, Robert J.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Handicapped and Gifted Children Reston VA.
Fostering Peer Acceptance of Handicapped Students. 1984 Digest,
Revised and A Minibibliography on Promoting Positive Attitudes toward the
When handicapped students are mainstreamed into the regular classroom,
nonhandicapped students may form an intitial impression of their handicapped
classmates, categorize the observable characteristics, and attach labels to the
categories. Some labels, such as "mentally retarded," "learning disabled,"
"emotionally disturbed," and "hearing impaired" have negative connotations. From
the beginning, therefore, handicapped students may be perceived somewhat
negatively and, as a result, may be rejected by nonhandicapped peers.
However, mainstreaming also is an opportunity for handicapped students to
develop the peer relationships with nonhandicapped students that are necessary
for maximum achievement and healthy social development Johnson and Johnson
1980). This Digest discusses the effect of the learning situation on the
acceptance or rejection of handicapped students, the role the teacher can play
in fostering acceptance, and the social skills that should be taught to
WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACCEPTANCE, REJECTION, AND THE LEARNING
Whether interaction between handicapped and nonhandicapped students results
in acceptance or rejection is determined in part by the type of interdependence
among students' learning goals and rewards that is structured by the teacher.
Within any learning situation, a teacher can structure positive goal
interdependence (i.e., cooperation), negative goal interdependence (i.e.,
competition), or no goal interdependence (i.e., individualistic efforts)
(Johnson and Johnson 1975).
In a cooperative learning situation, students work together to achieve the
goal. Students can achieve their learning goal if, and only if, the other
students with whom they are cooperatively linked achieve their learning goal.
In a competitive learning situation one student can obtain his or her goal
only if the other students with whom he or she is competitvely linked fail to
obtain their learning goal.
In an individualistic learning situation, the goal achievement of each
student is unrelated to the goal attainment of others; there is no correlation
among students' goal attainment. The students' success is contingent on their
own performance irrespective of the quality of performance of others (Johnson
and Johnson 1980).
WHAT ARE THE DYNAMICS OF A COOPERATIVE LEARNING SITUATION?
A cooperative learning situation benefits all students. Working cooperatively
with peers provides:
--More direct face to face interaction among students
--An expectation that one's peers will facilitate one's learning
--More peer pressure toward achievement and appropriate classroom behavior
--More reciprocal communication and fewer difficulities in communicating with
--More actual helping, tutoring, assisting, and general facilitation of each
--More open-mindedness to peers and willingness to be influenced by their
ideas and information
--More positive feedback to and reinforcement of each other
--Less hostility, both verbal and physical, expressed toward peers
Cooperation also creates perceptions and feelings of:
--Higher trust in other students
--More mutual concern and friendliness for other students, more attentiveness
to peers, more feelings of obligation to and responsiblity for classmates, and
desire to win the respect of other students
--Stronger beliefs that one is liked, supported, and accepted by other
students, and that other students care about how much one learns and want to
help one learn
--Lower fear of failure and higher psychological safety
--Higher valuing of classmates
--Greater feelings of success (Johnson and Johnson 1980)
WHAT ARE THE DYNAMICS OF A COMPETITIVE OR INDIVIDUALISTIC LEARNING SITUATION?
When interaction between handicapped and nonhandicapped students is
--Have little face to face interaction
--Expect peers to impede the achievement of their learning goals
--Face peer pressure against achievement and appropriate classroom behavior
--Communicate inaccurate information and frequently misunderstand each other
--Are closed-minded to and unwilling to be influenced by peers
--Give each other negative feedback
--Express verbal and physical hostility toward peers
In both learning situations there are perceptions and feelings of:
--Distrust for other students
--Higher fear of failure and more feelings of failure
--Less mutual concern and feelings of responsiblity for peers
--Being rejected and disliked by classmates
Both competitive and individualistic learning activities provide little or no
information about handicapped peers, thus allowing intial stereotypes to
continue. What little information is available is likely to confirm existing
impressions that handicapped peers are "losers." The boundaries of the handicap
are not clarified (Johnson and Johnson 1980).
HOW CAN REGULAR EDUCATION TEACHERS BECOME FACILITATORS OF MAINSTREAMED
CLASSROOMS AND PROMOTE SOCIAL INTERACTION BETWEEN HANDICAPPED AND NONHANDICAPPED
Social skills can be taught by carefully planned modeling programs. Regular
education teachers can become successful facilitators of mainstreamed classrooms
through the use of social skill instruction and the use of appropriate
individualized instructional methods. For handicapped students:
--Appropriate behaviors need to be modeled. Handicapped students need the
opportunity to practice demonstrated behaviors
--Appropriate behaviors need to be prompted. Handicapped students need the
opportunity to correct behavior when signaled
--Appropriate feedback needs to be given to supply corrective guidance to the
Nonhandicapped students become more accepting when given factual information
about handicapping conditions and handicapped individuals (Schumaker and others
1982). Accurate information needs to be provided to replace the fears and
prejudices cultivated by ignorance (Day and others 1983; Gresham and others
1982). Most importantly, the instructional process needs to be individualized
for both handicapped and nonhandicapped students.
WHAT SOCIAL SKILLS SHOULD BE TAUGHT TO HANDICAPPED STUDENTS?
Teachers need to equip students with the necessary skills to effectively
demonstrate sensitivity, responsiveness, and generosity during peer interaction
(Combs and Slaby 1977). These skills include accepting responsibility for
actions, problem solving, negotiation, conversation, following instructions,
accepting positive feedback, accepting negative feedback, giving positive
feedback, giving negative feedback, resisting peer pressure, and both cognitive
and affective role-taking skills.
WHAT AREAS OF INSTRUCTION SHOULD BE INDIVIDUALIZED FOR BOTH HANDICAPPED AND
The proper individualization of instruction will make it possible for
mainstreaming to provide handicapped and nonhandicapped students with their
least restrictive environments and least restrictive alternatives. The learning
situation has a direct relationship with acceptance and/or rejection. All
students could benefit from individualized instruction in basic skills, higher
level skills, management procedures, time mangement, use of materials and
equipment, note taking, and study habits.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Combs, M. L., and D. A. Slaby. "Social Skills Training with Children." In
ADVANCES IN CLINICAL CHILD PSYCHOLOGY, edited by B. B. Lahey and A. E. Kazdin.
New York: Plenum Press, 1977.
Day, R. M., and others. "The Social Competence Intervention Project:
Developing Educational Procedures for Teaching Social Interaction Skills to
Handicapped Children." BEHAVIORAL DISORDERS 8 (1983):120-127.
Gresham, F. M. "Misguided Mainstreaming: The Case for Social Skills Training
With Handicapped Children." EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN 48 (1982):422-433.
Johnson, D. W., and R. Johnson. LEARNING TOGETHER AND ALONE: COOPERATION,
COMPETITION, AND INDIVIDUALIZATION. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1975.
Johnson, R., and D. W. Johnson. "The Social Integration of Handicapped
Students Into the Mainstream." In SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT OF THE SCHOOLS. Reston, VA:
The Council for Exceptional Children, 1980.
Schumaker, J. B., and others. "Social Skill Performance of Learning Disabled,
Nonlearning Disabled, and Delinquent Adolescents. LEARNING DISABILITY QUARTERLY