The Effects of Using Peer Tutors for Visually Impaired Students in Physical Education

Article excerpt

What Was the Question?

The integration of students with visual impairments is becoming more common in public schools. With this integration, challenges arise relative to academic learning time in physical education (ALT-PE). According to Wiskochil, Lieberman, Houston-Wilson, and Petersen (2007), some of the reasons for this may include reduced participation opportunities compared to sighted peers, apathetic teachers, or teachers without the skills and knowledge to appropriately include visually impaired students. Research has supported the use of peer tutors as an effective and cost-efficient means of increasing the success of students with visual impairments in general physical education classes (Fernandez-Vivo & Cordero, 2005; Houston-Wilson, Lieberman, Horton, & Kasser, 1997). The Wiskochil et al. study (1) examined how peer tutors affect visually impaired students' ALT-PE scores, (2) compared the effects of trained and untrained tutors, and (3) compared the effects of peer tutors on visually impaired students' performance of open and closed activities.

What Was Done?

Data were collected from four students with visual impairments (two with low vision and two who were blind) and from two to four same-aged, same-gendered peer tutors from each of their integrated physical education classes. Visually impaired students (tutees) were chosen from several different grade levels and from different schools in the western New York area. Two to four tutors were selected from each tutee's integrated physical education class and were trained to ensure consistent and skilled tutoring throughout the study. At each site, the primary researcher and physical education teacher chose a sighted classmate with skills comparable to those of the visually impaired participant to serve as a comparison of time spent in physical education. After the selection process, each tutee was videotaped in four to five physical education classes to establish a stable baseline. Once the tutors were trained, all participants were videotaped for six to eight physical education classes as documentation of the intervention. Throughout the intervention phase, the primary investigator monitored and gave feedback to the tutors and met with them before and after each class. Researchers established inter-observer and intra-observer reliability above 90 percent for all ALT-PE scores.

What Was Found?

Researchers found that all tutees increased their ALT-PE mean percentages with the intervention of same-aged, same-gendered peer tutors. The two students with no vision improved their mean ALT-PE scores by 38.8 percent and 10.7 percent, respectively. One student with low vision improved his mean ALT-PE scores by 29.6 percent. The other low-vision participant showed less improvement following the intervention, possibly due to her previous involvement in sports or the presence of more useable vision. …