Social Competence and Collaborative Guided Inquiry Science Activities: Experiences of Students with Learning Disabilties

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Taylor, Jennifer Anne
Collaborative Learning , Learning Disabilities , Elementary Science Education
This thesis presents a qualitative investigation of the effects of social competence on the participation of students with learning disabilities (LD) in the science learning processes associated with collaborative, guided inquiry learning. An inclusive Grade 2 classroom provided the setting for the study. Detailed classroom observations were the primary source of data. In addition, the researcher conducted two interviews with the teacher, and collected samples of students’ written work. The purpose of the research was to investigate: (a) How do teachers and peers mediate the participation of students with LD in collaborative, guided inquiry science activities, (b) What learning processes do students with LD participate in during collaborative, guided inquiry science activities, and (c) What components of social competence support and constrain the participation of students with LD during collaborative, guided inquiry science activities? The findings of the study suggest five key ideas for research and teaching in collaborative, guided inquiry science in inclusive classrooms. First, using a variety of collaborative learning formats (whole-class, small-group, and pairs) creates more opportunities for the successful participation of diverse students with LD. Second, creating an inclusive community where students feel accepted and valued may enhance the academic and social success of students with LD. Third, careful selection of partners for students with LD is important for a positive learning experience. Students with LD should be partnered with academically successful, socially competent peers; also, this study suggested that students with LD experience more success working collaboratively in pairs rather than in small groups. Fourth, a variety of strategies are needed to promote active participation and positive social interactions for students with and without LD during collaborative, guided inquiry learning. Fifth, adopting a general approach to teaching collaborative inquiry that crosses curriculum borders may enhance success of inclusive teaching practices.
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