Peer Interactions of High School Students with Severe Disabilities During Inclusive Service-Learning

This session presents the findings from a mixed methods study examining the peer interactions and roles assumed by students with severe disabilities within the context of high school general education art classes. The relationship between peer interactions and various contextual factors, including composition of groups, type of task, adult proximity, and adult prompting during inclusive service-learning was also examined. Following this session, participants will be able to: a) discuss the potential benefits of inclusive service-learning (SL) to promote peer interactions for students with severe disabilities (SWSD) b) identify the types of interactions SWSD engage in and the roles they assumed during inclusive SL c) identify the contextual factors that are associated with increased peer interactions d) summarize recommendations for enhancing peer interactions and equitable roles during inclusive SL. Service-learning is a teaching practice that connects the school curriculum to community service and can lead to several positive outcomes for K-12 students (Furco & Root, 2010). SL is a promising practice that has been suggested by educators in the field of special education as a means to promote inclusive education and can provide opportunities for SWSD to increase interactions with peers (Carter, Sweeden, & Moss, 2009). Throughout the implementation of SL, students work collaboratively on a service project that enhances their learning process and is mutually beneficial for a community partner. The conference participants will meet the learning objectives through a description and discussion of a mixed methods multiple case study, which examined the peer interactions of SWSD and the relationship of these interactions to various contextual factors during inclusive SL. Data were collected at three high schools using document reviews, surveys, observations, interviews, and focus groups, and involved 30 days in the field, over a period of 12 weeks.

Michelle Bonati, Stacy Dymond