Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Differential Effects of Peer Tutoring in Co-Taught and Non-Co-Taught Classes: Results for Content Learning and Student- Teacher Interactions

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Differential Effects of Peer Tutoring in Co-Taught and Non-Co-Taught Classes: Results for Content Learning and Student- Teacher Interactions

Article excerpt

Recent Federal legislation, specifically including the reauthorization of Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) 2004 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), shifted the instructional focus with regard to students with disabilities from where they are educated to how they are educated. More than ever, issues of academic achievement and adequate yearly progress in content area classes are the focus of intense scrutiny. Although this shift portends increased emphasis on content learning for students with disabilities as educators work to ensure access to the general education curriculum, it appears that students with disabilities continue to fall further behind as they progress through middle and high school, particularly in science classes (e.g., Anderman, 1998; Mastropieri et al., 2006). Anderman, for example, reported that students with learning disabilities (LD) received lower standardized test scores and overall grades in middle school science based on data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study. According to the 2000 National Assessment of Education Progress Science Assessment, students with disabilities also scored nearly 1 standard deviation lower than nondisabled students at 4th-grade, 8th-grade, and 12th-grade levels (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005). In addition, at the state level, the Virginia Department of Education (2005) reported that the achievement gap in science between students with disabilities and students without disabilities continued to grow while students progressed from elementary to secondary schools.

Research suggests several reasons why students with disabilities struggle in science classes. Among these reasons are that (a) most standard science activities fail to provide accommodations for students with disabilities (e.g., Ormsbee & Finson, 2000); (b) comprehension of content presented in science textbooks is difficult due to deficits in reading ability (e.g., Horton, Lovitt, & Bergerud, 1990); and (c) the volume of new vocabulary and terminology in science textbooks is problematic for students with disabilities (e.g., Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1993). A number of interventions have been developed and tested to address these barriers to science content learning including (a) reading comprehension strategies (e.g., Bakken, Mastropieri, & Scruggs, 1997); (b) textbook adaptations and study guides (e.g., Horton et al.); (c) mnemonic strategies (e.g., Mastropieri, Scruggs, & Levin, 1985); (d) review activities (Maheady, Michielli-Pendl, Mallette, & Harper, 2002); and (e) peer tutoring (e.g., Fuchs & Fuchs, 2001). In a summary of research on science education for students with disabilities, Mastropieri and Scruggs (1994) concluded that study guides and text adaptations demonstrate positive effects on student learning, behavior, and motivation; mnemonic strategies were very helpful in learning the technical language of science education; and activities-based science curricula were generally effective. However, Scruggs, Mastropieri, Bakken, and Brigham (1993) reported that although students with LD can benefit from participating in activities-based science curriculum, students did not acquire a sufficient vocabulary and therefore additional vocabulary review or enhancement was needed.

One way to incorporate additional vocabulary review is through the use of peer tutoring where each student is paired with another student alternating roles of tutor and tutee to learn the provided content (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2000). Many studies examined peer tutoring and documented positive effects in a variety of content areas including (a) reading (Mathes, Fuchs, Fuchs, Henley, & Sanders, 1994); (b) spelling (Delquadri, Greenwood, Stretton, & Hall, 1983); (c) math (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2001); (d) social studies (Mastropieri, Scruggs, Spencer, & Fontana, 2003); (e) science (Mastropieri, Scruggs, & Graetz, 2005); and (f) health and safety (Utley et al. …

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