According to Mastropieri and Scruggs (2001), providing meaningful education to secondary students with disabilities in an inclusive setting is particularly challenging. As discussed earlier, the major limitations of discussing inclusionary practices is the relative dearth of research regarding inclusionary practices for students in inclusive settings. However, there have been a number of important investigations within inclusive settings that may help us to describe inclusive best practices. For example, there have been a large number of studies discussing self-regulated strategy instruction to improve achievement of students in reading and writing (Losinski, Cuenca-Carlino, Zablocki, & Teagarden, 2014; Reid, Lienemann, & Hagaman, 2013).
Peer-mediated instructional strategies are another set of practices that enjoy a wide research base in reading and math at all levels and for students with a variety of disabilities (Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathew, & Simmons, 1997; Mastropieri and Scruggs, 2001; McMaster, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2006; Ryan, Reid, & Epstein, 2004). These strategies have been mainly discussed within the general education classroom as a means of differentiating instruction for students of all ability levels. Thus, the utility of the strategies to support the inclusion of students with disabilities is strong.
Peer-mediated instructional strategies are complementary teaching strategies that utilize students to help facilitate instruction and increase engagement (Maheady, Harper, & Mallette, 2001; Utley, 2001). According to Utley, peer-mediated instruction may be an effective strategy for enhancing academic achievement, improving interpersonal relationships, and improving behavioral issues. These findings has been corroborated by various researchers (Fuchs and Fuchs; Mastropierri and Scruggs) in a diverse number of settings and content areas. Often these interventions pair a student with disabilities with typical peers, though larger groupings consistent with cooperative learning have also been utilized. Additionally, utilizing peer mediated interventions though time-consuming at the beginning may result in allowing the teacher to become more of a supportive role or facilitator, thus allowing the teacher to focus on student to maybe having particular problems and need additional instruction. Within structured environments, and carefully planned groupings peer-mediated instruction can increase opportunities to respond, and behaviors specific praise, two strategies that have been shown to reduce behavioral problems and increase student achievement.
While there are numerous variations on the themes within peer-mediated interventions, researchers have defined four broad categories: class-wide peer tutoring (CWPT; Greenwood, Delquadri, & Carta, 1999); reciprocal peer tutoring (RPT; Miller, Barbetta, & Heron, 1994); peer-assisted learning strategies (PALS; Fuchs, Fuchs, Phillips, & Karns, 1994); and class-wide student tutoring teams (CSTT; Maheady, Harper, Sacca, & Mallette, 1991).
The grass is not completely green, however, as Maheady and colleagues also describe increased noise levels, more teacher preparation, and increases in behavior problems for certain students particularly if groups were not carefully considered based on student personalities. There are also instances where students would rather work alone, (your author is one of those people), and students who may take advantage of limited adult supervision to either coerce other students to do their work for them, or get everyone off task (See Levi).
Class-wide peer tutoring
In an attempt to address limited opportunities to respond in the general education classroom, researchers at the Juniper Gardens Children’s project developed the Classwide peer tutoring strategy (Maheady & Gard, 2010; Maheady, Mallette, & Harper, 2006). When developing the program, Delquardi and colleagues (1983) wanted to ensure that they answered calls for a program to help students with disabilities in the classroom through a program that would help all students, and not burden the teacher with more work by using preexisting materials within normal instructional time and supplement current practices. CWPT can be used across a variety of subject areas each with its own unique procedures. For example during reading comprehension, the tutee will answer who, what, when, where questions from the tutor.
CWPT is conducted daily and 30 minute sessions for each subject area. At the beginning of the lesson teachers instruct students over new material, then instruct students to get out their materials and for those students who would be moving to move to the new area now. Next, the teacher instructs the student groups to set up materials and get ready for the first 10 minute session where one student will act as tutor and the other as tutee. For the remainder of the time, the teacher circulates throughout the classroom helping pears as needed awarding extra points for exemplary tutoring, and keeping track of the time. At the end of 10 minutes the teacher signals students to switch roles and continues as before.
For each correct response, the tutor rewards the two teams with two points. In the event of a incorrect answer, the tutor stops the student and provides the correct answer. The tutor write down one point for the correction. Finally, the tutor and tutee total up the points awarded and adds them to the team point sheet. For more information on CWPT see Greenwood., Delquadri, & Carta, (1999).
Reciprocal peer tutoring
Similar to classwide peer tutoring, reciprocal peer tutoring was developed in the 80s as a means to utilize students as instructors, and increase student opportunities to respond through carefully planned sessions. Students are paired in same age dyads and follow a scripted 30 minute session. Peer tutoring sessions comprise 20 minute sessions where students take turns tutoring for 10 minutes and acting as the student the others 10 minutes. This tutoring session is then followed by a worksheet assessment takes approximately 7 to 10 minutes. Students are awarded points for successful work in tutoring sessions and assessments, and thepoints are then applied to larger teams.
In RPT math, the teacher provides the tutor with flash cards containing a problem on one side, and answer + directions for solving on the back (Fantuzzo, Davis, & Ginsburg, 1995). Once time has started, the student tutor provides the problem to the tutee who works out the problem on a standard sheet of paper. The process for providing tutoring follows a four-step procedure (try1, try 2, help, try 3). In the event the student gets the first problem correct, praises delivered followed by introduction of another flash card. If the answer is incorrect, tutor moves to try 1 where the tutor explains the process of solving the problem as described on the back of the flash card. The student then tries again (try 2), if wrong, the teacher is called (help) to provide coaching, and the student tries again (try 3). Following tutoring sessions for each child and the assessment, students results are compared to their goal for the day. If the student met the goal, the day is considered a win. After five wins are achieved in the pair, students receive a predetermined reward.
Peer-assisted learning strategies
Owing to earlier successes like CWPT and reciprocal peer tutoring, Fuchs and colleagues (1995) developed Peer-assisted Learning Strategies (PALS). A key difference within the PALS reading program are specific strategies to improve reading comprehension (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Kazdan, 1999). These strategies in particular lend themselves to use in the upper grades, and in different content areas. PALS is conducted within the student’s normal classroom and is introduced through a series of training lessons conducted within the normal class time (Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Simmons, 1995). The 6 to 10 introductory lessons last between 30 and 60 minutes and describe teacher roles, student roles, and leads students through each of the three main strategies so that they may maintain a certain amount of fluency with the strategy.
Once training has finished PALS is implemented three times per week during regular reading instruction. Lesson sessions include dyads with one high-performing and one low performing student. Determining the pairing could be done by the teacher either using their judgment on a ranking system, or utilizing scores on a universal screening measure (e.g., DIBELS). Ranking of the students should follow a process where the class is split in half based on the rankings in the highest ranking student from the better performing half would be paired with the highest-ranking student from the lowest scoring half. Materials used for reading should be determined based on appropriate level for the lower reader. Additionally, the higher performing students would assume the role of the student first with the lower performing students assuming the role of the teacher. This allows the higher performing students to model appropriate reading skills.
As with reciprocal peer tutoring the class is split into two teams, and points scored from each dyad for correctly conducting one of the skills are added to the total team points. The teacher also moves about the room providing help and awarding points based on correct cooperative learning. Team and pair assignments are adjusted every four weeks to allow for students to be given the opportunity to work with other peers.
The first PALS strategy, partner reading, is designed to increase reading fluency.
Each student reads aloud connected text for 5 minutes, for a total of 10 minutes of sustained reading. The higher-performing student reads first; the lower-performing student rereads the same material. Whenever a word-reading error occurs, the tutor says, “Stop. You missed that word. Can you figure it out?” The reader either figures out the word within 4 seconds or the tutor says, “That word is __ . What word?” The reader says the word. Then the tutor says, “Good. Read the sentence again.” Students earn 1 point for each correctly read sentence (if a word-reading correction is required, 1 point is awarded after the sentence is read correctly) and 10 points for the retell. After both students read, the lower performing student retells for 2 minutes the sequence of what occurred in the text (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Kazdan, 1999, pp. 312).
Paragraph shrinking is a reading comprehension strategy that is designed to help students learn to summarize text quickly. Utilizing the same text as the previous strategy:
Students read orally one paragraph at a time, stopping to identify its main idea. Tutors guide the identification of the main idea by asking readers to identify (a) who or what the paragraph is mainly about and (b) the most important thing about the who or what. Readers are required to put these two pieces of information together in 10 or fewer words. When the tutor determines that a paragraph summary error occurs, he or she says, “That’s not quite right. Skim the paragraph and try again.” The reader skims the paragraph and tries to answer the missed question. The tutor decides whether to give points or give the answer. If the error involves more than the allotted 10 words, the tutor says, “Shrink it.” (As with each PALS activity, tutors formulate their own responses to questions in order to provide corrections; there are no answer keys.) For each summary, students earn 1 point for correctly identifying the who or what; 1 point for correctly stating the most important thing; and 1 point for using 10 or fewer words. Students continue to monitor and correct reading errors, but points are no longer awarded on a sentence-by-sentence basis. After 5 minutes, the students switch roles (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Kazdan, 1999, pp. 312-313).
The prediction relay builds on concepts detailed in paragraph shrinking, however within this strategy students are looking at larger blocks of text, making predictions about what is likely to transpire, then proving or disproving those predictions.
The activity comprises four steps: The reader makes a prediction about what will be learned on the next half page; reads the half page aloud while the tutor identifies and corrects reading errors; (dis)confirms the prediction; and summarizes the main idea of the half page. When the tutor judges that a prediction is not realistic, he or she says, “I don’t agree. Think of a better prediction.” Otherwise, the word-reading and paragraph summary correction procedures are used. Students earn 1 point for each viable prediction; 1 point for reading each half page; 1 point for accurately (dis)confirming each prediction; and 1 point for each component (i.e., the who or what, what mainly happened, and 10 or fewer words of each summary. After 5 minutes, the students switch roles (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Kazdan, 1999, pp. 313).