Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Montague and Rinaldi and Meltzer, Katzir-Cohen, Miller and Roditi: A Critical Commentary

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Montague and Rinaldi and Meltzer, Katzir-Cohen, Miller and Roditi: A Critical Commentary

Article excerpt

Abstract. One purpose of this commentary is to highlight what I found to be some of the most intriguing findings of the two studies reported. In keeping with the tenets of critical theory, however, in this commentary I also raise questions about the unacknowledged but complicating factors of race, class, and gender and suggest that important information might be obscured in these (and other) research reports when authors do not report on such variables. A major contribution of both of these studies is their exploration of how students' and teachers' thinking (and by implication, feelings) help to define the educational environment, particularly students' beliefs and actual behaviors. Finally, I suggest that quantitative studies cannot alone provide the depth of information that we need as a field to learn about the productive, generative role of educational practice. Qualitative investigations -- especially life histories, interview studies, and ethnographies -- could complement this line of research in important ways, mostly by allowing the current, more complicated picture of both self-concept and classroom dynamics to be studied.

Although these very interesting articles by Montague and Rinaldi and Meltzer, Katzir-Cohen, Miller and Roditi both discuss issues related to the domains, if not the standard measures, of academic self-concept/self-esteem in students with or at risk for learning disabilities (LD), it is somewhat difficult to compare them. The Montague and Rinaldi article examines differences between groups of young students who are and are not at risk for developing learning, emotional, and behavioral disorders on a set of variables designed to assess classroom dynamics (i.e., teacher-student interactions, peer interactions, students' self-perceptions, their perceptions of teachers' expectations for them, and the amount of time spent academically engaged). In this study, the authors report two years of longitudinal data for second through fourth graders in the cohort Lago-Dellelo (1998) studied when they were in first and second grade. Together these studies follow the students over a three-year period. The Meltzer, Katzir-Cohen, Miller and Roditi study, on the other hand, is cross-sectional and examines adolescents' perceptions of the impact their effort and strategy use have on academic performance and compares their ratings to those of their teachers. Nevertheless, some interesting issues emerge when these articles are read together.

In this commentary, I will first engage in a general discussion of Montague and Rinaldi's research. I will follow that with commentary on the Meltzer et al. investigation and in doing so indicate some issues that arise when the study is read with the Montague and Rinaldi work in mind. Finally, I suggest some ways that this line of research might be complemented by qualitative studies.

MONTAGUE AND RINALDI

Montague and Rinaldi are interested in determining whether there is a developmental course through which students at risk begin increasingly to internalize their teachers' negative attitudes and peer rejection, which are thought to be related, at least in part, to negative responses from teachers. Lago-Dellelo found that even first graders at risk for learning, emotional, or behavior disorders were more rejected by their teachers and received more negative, neutral, or nonacademic feedback than did their peers. The findings of. Montague and Rinaldi were the same a year later. In addition, these students spent significantly less time on task, a finding that was consistent throughout all three years of the study. By the third year, when the students were 8-10 years old, they began to perceive their teachers as having lower expectations of them than of their peers and began to perceive themselves more negatively, as Montague and Rinaldi point out, "in line with the negative school experiences they were having" (p. 81). In keeping with Chapman's (1988) conclusions from his review of the self-concept literature with young children and McPhail and Stone's (1995) recommendations after their review of the literature with adolescents, Montague and Rinaldi both put an emphasis on the processes in play as students come to develop feelings of positive or negative self-worth and on the impact of the environmental context. …

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