Integration or toleration? : students' social relationships with and attitudes towards peers with disabilities in two mainstream schools
Abstract of thesis entitled
Integration or Toleration?
Students?Social Relationships with and Attitudes toward
Peers with Disabilities in Two Mainstream Schools
Donna Wong Kam Pun
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy
at The University of Hong Kong
in April 2004
The present research aims at examining students?social relationships with and attitudes toward peers with disabilities in the integrated classroom. The study was carried out at two secondary schools, School A having an intervention program aimed at fostering positive attitudes towards people with disabilities while School B employed a different integration strategy of focusing mainly on helping the students with special needs through a social group. The sample size involved 641 students, with 406 Form 1 and Form 2 students at School A and 235 Form 1 students at School B. There are altogether 7 students with special needs in these two schools, 3 with autism, 1 with hearing impairment, 1 with physical impairment and 2 with more than one type of special needs.
Three measures were included in the quantitative research, viz. the questionnaire of students?attitudes towards people with disabilities, teachers?questionnaire and friendship survey. The key variables examined were educational intervention, classmates or non-classmates, types of disabilities and the pattern of social connectedness in the quantitative methodology. Individual interviews, on-site observations and focus groups were conducted to examine the subjective meaning, satisfaction, barriers and features of the social interactions from the perspectives of both children with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. Qualitative research added flesh to the bone of the quantitative findings by embedding and making sense of them in the contextual richness of individual experiences and social ecology of the classroom.
Altogether the pre-test and post-test questionnaires from 389 students from School A and 200 from School B were analyzed. Both t-test and ANOVA indicated that the classmates were not becoming more positive or negative as a result of being in the same class with the students with disabilities at both schools. The two schools adopting different strategies in their integrative educational intervention strategies did have a different outcome in their students?attitude changes scores, albeit a small one, after one year in implementing their different strategies of enhancing integration in school.
Significantly higher proportions of teachers considered students with autism and multiple types of special needs to be ?acking in conversation skills? ?acking in expressive skills? ?ocially withdrawn? ?motionally unstable?and ?ifferent in outward appearances? Peer cluster results were congruent with teachers?perception and the qualitative accounts of special need students?social status within the classroom. Case by case analysis revealed that the seven students could be classified along a continuum of social acceptance ranging from being popular (Peter) and accepted (Simon), controversial (Kenneth), tolerated (Michael), isolated (Jean), to rejected (Ray & Ivan), in their social status.
Across case analysis metaphorically presented the classroom as a social jungle. Students tended to seek their social survival and de velop friendships based on similarity and mutual benefits. The social ecology features utilitarian calculation of rewards and social exchange in social relationships. Children with autism and multiple disabilities were either isolated or tolerated within networks of unpopular students or ?ocial ghettos? Unpopular students established their identity inside the ghetto through a culture of downward social comparison and negative social interactions.
While the inter-group contact theory postulated that increased social contacts would bring forth the likelihood of attitude changes and social acceptance, the preset conditions of equal social status, and mutual goals stated in the theory were not necessarily present in the integrated classroom. The structural setting of the classroom and conventional mode of instruction left the teachers with little option to accommodate diversity. Knowledge about disabilities, development of appropriate skills, a co-operative group structure, and adult modeling and coaching were all important ingredients in fostering peer acceptance. Schools should be given enough
support and subjected to a different reward system that is in line with the philosophy of integration.
School:The University of Hong Kong
School Location:China - Hong Kong SAR
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:students with disabilities social aspects china hong kong friendship in children junior high school attitudes mainstreaming education
Date of Publication:01/01/2004