Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Students' Perceptions of Special Education Service Delivery Models

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Students' Perceptions of Special Education Service Delivery Models

Article excerpt

Abstract

Studies about the most appropriate service delivery model for students with learning disabilities (LD) have focused on the opinions and practices of teachers, school administrators, legislators, and parents. This study focuses on the opinions of students. The study found that both students with LD and general education students in the inclusion model had more positive feelings about their classmates than their LD and general education peers in the resource room model. The study also found that students in the inclusion model, both students with LD and general education students, felt far more positive about the ways teachers assist students who need extra help. Parents, teachers, and administrators evaluating service delivery models for LD students might take into consideration the findings of this study suggesting that LD students feel better about themselves, their education, and their classmates in the inclusion setting.

Introduction

What is the most effective service delivery model for students with learning disabilities (LD)? Discussions about where students with disabilities should be instructed have received more attention and generated more controversy than any other issue concerning the education of students with disabilities, including how or what these students should be taught (e.g., Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994; Fuchs, Fuchs, & Fernstorm, 1993; Gartner & Lipsky, 1987; Roberts & Mather, 1995). The continuum of services that has been available to students with disabilities includes separate schools, full-time special classes, resource rooms, and inclusion in general education classrooms. Until recently the most frequently utilized service delivery model was the resource room, with most students placed in special education programs spending their school day in the general education classroom and receiving specialized instruction in the resource room (Vaughn & Bos, 1987). However, the debate over the most appropriate service delivery model for students with LD continues. In order to resolve this debate, the opinions and practices of teachers, school administrators, legislators, and even parents have been ascertained. But what about the principle stakeholders in education, the students? Their voices have frequently gone unheard.

Only a small number of studies have directly examined students' perceptions of the learning process. All of these studies, however, have uniformly concluded that the information garnered from students provides cogent and thoughtful insight into student learning (e.g., Babad, 1990; Babad, Bernieri, & Rosenthal, 1991; Guterman, 1995; Klingner, Vaughn, Schumm, Cohen, & Forgan, 1998; Vaughn, Schumm, Klingner, & Saumell, 1995). In addition, students communicate their preferences to teachers in many subtle and not so subtle ways, and these preferences are likely to influence instruction and its outcomes as much as teachers (Weinstein, 1983). Therefore, it is important for educators to consider students' perceptions of, and preferences for the type of service delivery model that will be used in their education program. Students' preferences for one model over another are likely to influence their academic self-concept and their overall motivation toward succeeding in school, as well as, their social self-concept, and how they believe their classmates and teachers view them.

Few studies have examined students' perceptions and preferences toward learning in general, and even fewer studies have specifically investigated students' perceptions toward their special education service delivery model. In one study conducted, individual interviews were initiated with elementary students in order to better understand their knowledge and opinion of the special education resource room in their school (Vaughn & Bos, 1987). Students with LD and general education students showed no significant differences in their knowledge and perception of the resource room. …

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