Can Inclusion Strategies Result in Learned Helplessness in Students?

Can Inclusion Strategies Result in Learned Helplessness in Students? Kim Lacey ED 557 Dr. Sara Lawrence May 4, 2011 Abstract As a result of my coursework through the Alternate Teacher Certification Program and my current position as an instructional aide at a rural middle school in Texas, I became concerned that strategies utilized with achieving the goals of the Individualized Education Plan for certain special education students were leading to instances of learned helplessness.

I believe that this is not due so much to poor teaching techniques or unskilled paraprofessionals as it is a result of the misuse of educational strategies that could be utilized in a more efficient manner. It has been my pleasure to watch one gifted teacher flawlessly utilize several of Lemov’s strategies to bring these special children “to life” in the classroom.

In an age where students are bombarded with pressure to succeed on the standardized tests that may or may not ever make a difference in their lives, it is even more important to work with these special students to make sure that they have the ability and desire to learn – not just what is to regurgitated on a bubble test – but to achieve what skills they may someday have to have for their livelihood. Can Inclusion Strategies Result in Learned Helplessness in Students?

I am currently employed as an “instructional aide” in a intermediate school in rural Texas. My position as explained to me was to (1) work with groups and/or individual students in daily instruction using behavior modification techniques to motivate students toward academic success (2) supervise students and maintain class procedures when teachers is not present and (3) perform various duties as specified in the Individual Education Plan involved in attending to the needs of students.

I came from an educational background of pursuing an EC-6 Generalist teaching certification. Accepting an aide’s position in this school district seemed an “easy inroad” to getting a full-time position. What I have discovered, however, was that this “easy” position is amazingly complex, politically and educationally charged. Prior to 1975, there was little to no hope for children with disabilities to enter a general education classroom.

Being forty-nine years old, I have memories of the “retarded” students being walked from “their classroom” to the lunch room. That is all. Nothing more. No social interactions with anyone who was not disabled – except the teacher. In 1975, however, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act began to change all that. Today, 98. 54% of students with disabilities attend local schools. 82. 31% of these students spend part of all of the day in a general education setting! (Tom Mihail & Calumet, 2011)

Due to the fact that inclusion and mainstreaming are necessary to educate these students with certain disabilities in the least restrictive environment, there have evolved different types of teaching programs to support the general education teachers who are teaching special needs children (Idol, 2006): (a) consulting teaching model: a special education teacher serves as a consultant to a classroom teacher working indirectly with the students by working directly with the classroom teacher; (b) cooperative teacher model: general and special education teachers work together with co-teaching arrangement in the same classroom; (c) supportive resource programs: a setting to which students come to receive specific instruction on a regular basis; and (d) instructional assistants: assistants accompany special education students attending general education classes. All of these types of instruction further the idea of inclusion in our educational system. Data supports that Texas (educators as well as legislators) support inclusion efforts. Texas has funded inclusive education over divisive education (but stopped prior to mandating inclusion in Texas schools). (Baxt, 1998) The reason for this support has been questioned. Did the upport come from an effort to better the education of the children or to address their civil rights. (Baxt, 1998). Helen Keller may have said it best, “Until the great mass of people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attended. ” Is having inclusion because it is the “right thing to do” the best situation for students if we don’t have a correct model to follow? Because of the fact that we are monetarily driven as school districts to produce high scores on content mastery standardized tests, are we pushing children into classrooms where they are becoming more confused and feel more left out because they have “helpers” (instructional aides).

There are many myths that surround inclusion: (1) Inclusion jeopardizes the education of the “other” students; (2) Full inclusion is mandated by federal law; (3) Segregating students with disabilities has been effective; (4) The cost of including students with special needs is prohibitive; (5) Inclusion is another educational fad, etc. (Tom Mihail & Calumet, 2011). The fact that inclusion is a world-wide concept in 2011, indicates that these statements above are, indeed, myths. There are inclusion policies in Japan, China (which began in the mid-1980’s), Australia, the United Kingdom; Spain, New Zealand, Pakistan, etc. According to Michelle Aniftos and Linda McLuskie, inclusive education first emerged as the goal of equal access to mainstream education for students with disabilities. The USA became the first nation to legislate mainstreaming in 1975 with the UK following in 1981 (McLuskie). There are also concerns expressed by educators.

A few of these concerns are (a) the possible adverse effect that special education students in the general education classroom might have on the statewide testing results of other students, (b) whether bringing these children in the classroom will be disruptive to other students or if the students themselves will be disruptive (Samuel Hodge & bethany Hersman, 2009); (c) lack of training, knowledge, time and material resources relative to the behavioral and learning needs of the special needs students (Alexander, 2001) There are also concerns that could easily come from the other side of the table. Research has found that teachers involved in inclusive schools (2) exhibited multiple teaching styles, (b) had different concerns about student outcomes, (c) expressed frustrations with the situations, and (d) varied in their inclusion practices (Samuel Hodge & bethany Hersman, 2009).