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 Disabled.

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 handicapped students.

WHAT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ACCEPTANCE, REJECTION, AND THE LEARNING SITUATION?

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 each other

--More actual helping, tutoring, assisting, and general facilitation of each other's learning

--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 competitive, students:

--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 STUDENTS?

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 handicapped students

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 NONHANDICAPPED STUDENTS?

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 5 (1982):388-397.

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