Disability Case Studies Learning to Include All Students

By Wilson, Sandy | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, April 2000 | Go to article overview

Disability Case Studies Learning to Include All Students


Wilson, Sandy, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


"I had one undergraduate adapted physical education class last semester, but we only talked about people who have cerebral palsy in one lecture. I have never actually worked with anyone with cerebral palsy." (Kim's physical education preservice teacher)

"Kim is an excellent sport; don't worry, she is happy watching the other children. There is not much I can do with four other students with special needs in this class of 25 students." (Kim's regular physical education teacher)

"I want Kim to be included in her regular physical education class and working on her individual physical skills; isn't it the law?" (Kim's parent)

"I believe the only way that Kim will get the attention that she deserves is to offer a special adapted physical education class for all students with disabilities. Don't worry, the class will be taught by the regular physical education teacher." (Kim's principal)

Unfortunately, conflicts like these among new and veteran physical education teachers, parents, and administrators are not a rarity, and they often occur at the expense of children like Kim, who have disabilities. Such conflicts could be mitigated, however, if the teachers involved had previous exposure to similar situations. One strategy for helping physical educators work with administrators, parents, and students of all ability levels is to use the case study approach, and include an adapted physical education (APE) case, in teacher-preparation classes. Teacher educators need to acknowledge the diversity of today's school population, and the complexity of effectively teaching in such an environment (Bolt, 1998). A case study approach encourages preservice teachers to actively generate solutions to real-life challenges, instead of passively receiving theoretical content through lectures (Silverman, Welty, & Lyon, 1992). It also gives teacher educators an effective method of introducing subject matter in con text (Bolt, 1998).

Additionally, case studies are easily integrated with other curricular units. For example, in the beginning of an undergraduate APE pedagogy class, students can learn about laws concerning students with disabilities. During the middle portion of the semester, students can spend time modifying equipment, the environment, and activities in a way that allows children with different needs to participate safely and successfully in physical education. Towards the end of the semester, following a lecture on a specific disability (e.g., cerebral palsy), a case study can be used as a culminating activity to check the students' understanding of the topic and their ability to generate solutions to potential problems.

The purpose of this article is to present a case study specifically designed to prepare preservice and inservice physical education teachers to meet the needs of students with disabilities. This article does not offer detailed guidelines on developing and teaching cases in general, because that information can be obtained from sources such as Boyce (1992, 1995).

Considerations for Effective Use of the Case Study Approach

Most cases are problem-centered stories about teaching situations that end with a dilemma. They are usually written by experienced teachers and teacher educators. Cases are based on real incidents, which are described in great detail, generally running two to six pages in length.

Preparing to use the case study approach is just as time consuming, if not even more so, than preparing to lecture. The most important aspect of this preparation is deciding how to incorporate the case into the class. For example, a case can be used as an introductory way of exposing students to a new topic. Students can read and discuss the case in detail, after which the teacher can proceed into a full explanation of the topic. This is an excellent way to stimulate interest among students.

Cases can also be used after the teacher has presented a topic, either to generate discussion or to serve as an exam. …

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