Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Effects of Collaborative Preteaching on Science Performance of High School Students with Specific Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Education & Treatment of Children

Effects of Collaborative Preteaching on Science Performance of High School Students with Specific Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt


Investigating the effectiveness of inclusive practices in science instruction and determining how to best support high school students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) in the general education classroom is a topic of increasing research attention in the field. In this study, the researchers conducted a single-subject multiple probe across science units design to examine the effects of a collaborative preteaching method on the science achievement of two high school students with SLD in their respective general education biology classes. Results indicated a functional relation between the introduction of the collaborative preteaching and improvement in both participants' performance on daily biology tests. Implications for practice and suggestions for future research are discussed in relation to the benefits of collaborative preteaching for high school students with SLD in general education classrooms.

Keywords: collaborative preteaching, specific learning disabilities, science instruction, special education and general education collaboration


Scientific literacy and engagement in scientific processes have been a goal for all American high school graduates since the publication of A Nation at Risk in the early 1980s (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983). Emphasis on science learning received further attention in several subsequent publications during the past two decades, including Science for All (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1989), the National Science Education Standards (National Academy of Sciences, 1996), and a recent special issue of Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, which focused solely on science instruction for students with specific learning disabilities (SLD; Therrian, Hughes, & Hand, 2011). The most recent dissemination of new science education guidelines, entitled Next Generation Science Content Standards (Achieve Inc., 2013), further emphasizes the importance of science education for all students in today's society by encouraging science educators to teach scientific literacy skills using the process of inquiry. These guidelines provide evidence that it is no longer acceptable to rely solely on antiquated teaching practices that may include memorization as well as drill and practice of rote skills void of real-world application.

Despite the urgent need for scientific literacy, recent statistics show that students with SLD continue to perform below their same-aged peers on standardized science assessments. According to the 2009 Science Assessment (National Assessment of Educational Progress 2009), only 6% of students with SLD scored at or above proficiency in the science assessment, with approximately 70% of students scoring at the basic or novice level.

Researchers have hypothesized that low science test scores for students with SLD could be the results of (a) the complex and abstract nature of science instruction or (b) aspects of traditional science instruction, such as lectures and textbook readings, with a high reliance on memorization and limited real-world contexts (Bringham, Scruggs, & Mastropieri, 2011; Fensham, 2008; Jegede & Kyle, 2007; Kozoll & Osborne, 2004; Millar, 2008; Villanueva & Hand, 2011). With the focus on inclusive education, a high proportion of students with SLD in public schools are receiving science instruction within the general education classroom from teachers who may not be trained or aware of specialized instructional strategies such as graphic organizers (Dexter, 2010; Griffin, Simmons, & Kame'enui, 1991) and mnemonic instruction (King-Sears, Mercer, & Sindelar, 1992; Mastropieri, Scruggs, & Levin, 1985), which are effective for teaching students with SLD. Further, owing to the high percentage of literacy and mathematics components within science instruction, students with SLD often experience additional difficulties in science learning related to motivation, self-esteem, and attention and behavior issues based on their deficits in reading and mathematical skills (Cutting & Denckla, 2003; Elbaum & Vaughn, 2003). …

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