Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Comparison of the Self-Concepts, Social Skills, Problem Behaviors, and Loneliness Levels of Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Classrooms

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Comparison of the Self-Concepts, Social Skills, Problem Behaviors, and Loneliness Levels of Students with Special Needs in Inclusive Classrooms

Article excerpt

The principle of teaching students with special educational needs (SEN) in the least restrictive environments (LRE) and the necessity of the legal arrangements regarding this issue have been commonly accepted and are supported in the field of special education (Taylor, 1988). However, considerable debate remains regarding the interpretation and implementation of the LRE principle into the practice (McLeskey, Landers, Williamson, & Hoppey, 2010). Recently, inclusive education has been considered as an opportunity for SEN students to become a part of a peer-group, form positive social relationships and friendships, and develop and learn, rather than integrating these students into general education classrooms (Odom, Buysse, & Soukakou, 2011). In this context, the main goal of inclusive education is to create socially supportive and developmentally appropriate learning environments for SEN students (Odom, 2000). The legal ground for inclusion practices was established in Western countries in the 1970s and in Turkey in 1983. Since then, several studies have examined the effectiveness of inclusive education on academic achievement and focused on several indicators of socio-emotional and behavioral functioning such as the self-concept, social skills, peer relationships, social status, and problem behaviors of SEN students. A number of studies have reported that inclusive education yielded positive outcomes for SEN students in terms of communication skills, social skills, and behavior (For a review, see Katz & Mirenda, 2002; see also Rafferty, Piscitelli, & Boettcher, 2003). However, other studies have indicated that inclusive education was not effective in obtaining positive outcomes for SEN students (Freeman & Alkin, 2000; Gresham & McMillian, 1997). In their review article, Gresham and MacMillan (1997) stated that students with learning disabilities, mild intellectual disabilities, behavioral problems, and attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorders had peer-related difficulties, social skills deficits, more problem behaviors, and less peer-acceptance or more rejection compared to typically developing students. They also highlighted that the findings regarding the self-concepts of SEN students were contradictory.

Some studies have reported that the self-concept of SEN students in inclusive classrooms did not differ significantly from those of typically developing children (Arnold & Chapman, 1992; Koster, Fiji, Nakken, & Van Houten, 2010), whereas other studies have indicated that SEN students had lower self-concept (Cambra & Silvestre, 2003; Schmidt & Cagran, 2008; Valas, 1999). Rosenberg (1979) defined self-concept as "the totality of the individuals thoughts and feelings with reference to himself as an object" (p. 7). The development of self-concept begins in the family context and this process accelerates during school years and is shaped through interpersonal interactions (Bilgin & Kartal, 2002). The attitudes and behaviors of family and peers affect the development of the child's self-concept to a great extent (Bolger, Patterson, & Kupersmidt, 1998). Social comparison with other students in the same setting may also affect children's sense of self as well as their awareness of the opinions and appraisals about them by other significant individuals (Allodi, 2000). Festinger (1954) reported that individuals take others whose skills or attitudes are similar to them into account as the criterion for social comparisons (as cited in Coleman, 1983). It has also been argued that SEN students in segregated settings may have more positive self-concept since such settings offer a social comparison group composed of similar peers in terms of academic skills. Moreover, these settings can decrease student's failures by assigning appropriate academic tasks and providing special educational support (Ribner, 1978). Chapman (1988) reviewed the studies that investigated the effects of placement settings (general education vs. …

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