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Disabilities and Inclusion in the Music Classroom

A description of the findings of multiple research studies dealing with disabilities and inclusion in music education.
by Nicole Davis on 20 June 2011

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Transcript of Disabilities and Inclusion in the Music Classroom

Disabilities and Inclusion in
the Music Classroom The inclusion of mentally or physically disabled children into "regular" classrooms has been a topic of discussion for many years in education. The following studies look at teacher attitudes, student attitudes and opinions, student productivity in an inclusive classroom, as well as exceptional cases of children facing their disabilities and succeeding. The first study, by Wilson and McCrary, discovers that at times, teachers may be wary of inclusive classrooms in terms of how prepared they are to teach all of the students successfully. In this study, 18 master's level music education students
enrolled in a 7-week summer course about teaching music
to special learners. Before starting the course, the students
were surveyed about their comfort and willingness to teach
students with disabilities. Before the course, students showed high scores in their comfort and willingness to teach disabled students; however, they did not feel capable of working with students with exceptionalities. After the course, student opinions were reversed. Posttest scores showed decreases in their comfort and willingness, and increases in their feelings of capability. Participants also ranked their willingness
to work with students with multiple impairments and emotional impairments lower than students with mental or physical impairments. This collaborates with other research cited in this study, which indicate that music educators believe that students with emotional/physical disabilities are more difficult to mainstream. Several students cited decreases in comfort
because they felt they would be
excluded from planning sessions for students placed in their classrooms, and that they would not receive enough information about the student's capabilities or his/her disability. The researchers suggest that course work coupled with practical experience may increase positive attitudes toward teaching special needs learners, rather than just the course work (like these students). Another study by Christopher Johnson and Alice-Ann Darrow discovered the effect of positive models of inclusion on band student's attitudes toward integrating disabled students. Elementary, junior high, and senior high school band students from public schools were shown a thirty-minute video (during various conditions) that documented students with cognitive, physical, behavioral, or sensory disabilities successfully participating in a band rehearsal/performance. The video utilized positive models of disabled students participating in the ensemble, showed an interview with the director, and also comments from the disabled student and his/her classmates. The treatment group (those who viewed the video) showed a more positive outlook toward inclusion issues than the control group. In addition, female students were more positive than male students in their attitudinal statements toward inclusion. Differences in age responses were as follows:
Senior high students were most positive in attitudes toward efficiency and procedure
Junior high students were the most negative toward inclusion, comfort, and efficiency
Elementary students were the most positive toward inclusion and comfort. This study is incredibly important as it shows that students who view successful models of inclusion respond in a more positive manner than students who do not have successful models. When being approached with inclusion, utilizing positive models may encourage acceptance of students with disabilities into their music classroom. The third study, by Judith Jellison, explores the effects of inclusion in the classroom on the on-task participation of students who are located near the disabled children during class. In this study, ten fourth-grade students were selected due to their seating placements in the classroom (at times sitting close to disabled peers, and at times sitting away from their disabled peers). Two disabled students attended the music class: "Ann," a student with mild retardation and coordination problems, and "Thomas," who had severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Data was collected for one year from recorded videotapes. Behavior was recorded in four codes: On-Task, Off-Task Looking (or off-task behavior while looking at a classmate with a disability), Off-Task Active (touching/prompting a student with a disability), and Off-Task Other (a behavior that did not involve a disabled classmate, but was off-task nonetheless), Results of the study indicated that more students were on-task (78% than off-task (21.5%). However, on-task percentages were higher whan they were located away from their disabled peers (Close On-Task = 68.9%; Away On-Task = 87.2%). There was also a difference found between students who were close to Thomas (severe disabilities) and those who were close to Ann (mild disabilities). Close On-Task with Thomas = 55.9%, and Close On-Task with Ann = 81.8%. Certain students, however, were not affected by proximity to the disabled students. One student in particular was on-task whether she was close (96%) or away (98%) from Ann. The results show that there are observable differences in the on-task and off-task behavior of students depending on how close they are to disabled peers. However, not all students responded similarly in relation to their classmates with disabilities; in some cases, it did not affect their on-task behavior at all. This indicates that teachers need to be aware of student behavior when creating seating placements in an inclusive classroom, as some may be able to stay on-task/aid the other student better than others could. The fourth study, by Judith Jellison and Patricia Flowers, looks into the interviews with disabled and non-disabled children in terms of their attitudes, perceptions, and preferences toward music. This study consisted of 228 students from four age groups: 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, and 12-14. Seventy three students were classified as "disabled," meaning they were identified by their schools as being elegible for special education services. Each student was interviewed with the same questions. Questions included:
Do you like music?
What do you like to do while you're listening to music?
What is your favorite kind of music? Why do you like this kind of music the best?
Is there any other kind of music that you really like? What is it? Why do you like it?
Where do you listen to music most often?
Have you ever played a musical instrument?
Would you like to play a musical instrument? Which one? Why would you choose this instrument?
etc.... Interesting Results from the Study:
Of all of the students, only one student said that they did not like music.
The most frequent response was that students liked to "dance, sing, or listen" while listening to music.
57% of the students with disabilities and 79% of nondisabled students indicated their favorite kind of music by naming style, a particular song, or performer.
84% of nondisabled students indicated that they listened to music at home and 12% at school; Disabled students indicated 53% at home and 32% at school.
Most often, students listed their favorite songs in the category of pop/rock, with some folk songs as well.
Most students (in all age groups) said that they wanted to play a particular instrument because of its specific sound.
Singing was the most frequently mentioned favorite music class activity.
When asked to clap a steady beat, 76% of students with disabilities and 59% of nondisabled students maintained a steady beat while clapping.
Drums were mentioned more frequently by students with disabilities (in terms of what they wanted to play), while nondisabled students frequently mentioned wind instruments. This study is important as it shows that responses between students with disabilities and nondisabled students were extremely similar. The researcher stated, "the recognition of similarities and specific areas of difference among the groups in the present study has implications for the development of positive social behavior of students in the integrated music classroom and implications for curriculum and instruction as well. While being disabled, these students still understand their own preferences, experiences, and skills in the music classroom. The final study, by Deborah Sheldon, looked at the history of The Illinois School for the Deaf and how they successfully implemented a band and music program at the school for many years, showing how music education can be available to all, even with disabilities. Some Background: In the early 1800s, there are accounts of music instruction given in residential schools and training institutions designed for children with specific handicapping conditions such as blindness, deafness, mental retardation, and epilepsy. "W.W. Turner, principal of the American Asylum for the Deaf, and D. D. Bartlett, a teacher at the New York School for the Deaf and the American Asylum, spoke in the mid-19th century of the meritorious qualities of music instruction for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. They believed that pleasure and fulfillment is derived by not just the sound, but through regular rhythm and vibrations." Finally, in 1975, Public Law 94-142 was put into effect, which assured that exceptional children were given the right to appropriate education in the least restrictive environment. School Attributes: In the band ensemble at the school, the curriculum voiced that the use of rhythm and vibration in auricular classes helped to imporve speech and communication skills among the students. Students would be asked to touch a piano while melodies were being played and would try to recognize the songs through the vibrations. They would hop, skip, and jump to vibrations, as well as using rhythm sticks, sleigh bells, cymbals, etc. to perform rhythms with piano accompaniment. Pupils learned basics of drumming/music reading by using baseball bats, parts of chairs, and benches on which they would beat time. Music performed by the band was largely military, as that type of music had already been successful in other deaf schools. The band soon performed at parades, ceremonies, festivals, and more. Critics stated that while music is a good activity, spending the time playing music at the school ultimately robs time from "more critical endeavors."
Supporters and local band leaders, however, were impressed and said that the band consistently improved in terms of its performances. In some instances, their performance made some question whether the players were actually deaf! Quotes from the Superintendent of the School: "The entire student population of the school as well as the deaf employees derive pleasure from "feeling" the musical vibrations produced by the band in the same degree as hearing people derive pleasure from hearing music. In other words, the sensation created by music is just as much enjoyed when conveyed by vibrations as when conveyed by sound waves. The fact that these deaf boys and girls do enjoy the music is demonstrated by the fact that they congregate around the bnad when it is playing." "The members of the band enjoy playing for the same reason, and because there is a new field in which they are able to demonstrate their equality with hearing children." "By marching and dancing to the cadence of the band, the students have dropped their stooping posture and shuffling gait and are more erect and alert physically and mentally." "The band has given to the entire student population an added respect from the school and materially increased their confidence in themselves." In all, there have been great amounts of research concerning inclusion, both positive and negative. In terms of these five studies, a more positive majority stands out. From these studies, it seems the correct strategies, planning, attitude, and willingness will help to lead to a successful, inclusive classroom. References: Jellison, J.A. & Flowers, P.J. (1991). Talking about Music: Interviews with Disabled and Nondisabled Children. Journal of Research in Music Education, 39(4), 322-333.
Jellison, J.A. (2002). On-Task Participation of typical Students Close and Away from Classmates with Disabilities in an Elementary Music Classroom. Journal of Research in Music Education, 50(4), 343-355.
Johnson, C.M. & Darrow, A. (1997). The Effect of Positive Models of Inclusion on Band Students' Attitudinal Statements regarding the Integration of Students with Disabilities. Journal of Research in Music Education, 45(2), 173-184.
Sheldon, D. A. (1997). The Illinois School for the Deaf Band: A Historical Perspective. Journal of Research in Music Education, 45(4), 580-600.
Wilson, B. and McCrary, J. (1996). The Effect of Instruction on Music Educator's Attitudes toward Students with Disabilities. Journal of Research in Music Education, 44(1), 26-33.
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