Positive Social Competence in Mainstream Deaf Students

A Study of Behaviors, Characteristics and Environmental Aspects

Michelle Swaney

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Social Competence of Mainstream Deaf Students

Mainstreaming of deaf students in the general education classroom has drastically increased over the past 10 to 15 years. Generally, deaf students in general education/mainstream settings demonstrate lower social competence (e.g., self-concept, self-esteem, social skills and peer relationships) (Antia, Jones, Luckner, Kreimeyer, & Reed, 2011) reporting feelings of isolation and loneliness (McCain and Shirin, 2005; Gent, Goedhart, Knoors, Westenberg, & Treffers, 2011) than those in inclusion settings. Considerable research has been conducted related to deaf students and low social competence (Vogel-Walcutt, Schatschneider, & Bowers, 2011) in general education settings, but there is not research readily available for deaf students who have positive social competence in these settings. This study proposes to ascertain behaviors and characteristics of deaf students who exhibit positive social competence as well as environmental aspects they interact within. As mainstreaming of deaf students continues to significantly increase, having studies available that provide information about deaf students with positive levels of self-concept, self-esteem, social skills and peer relationships in the mainstream setting will greatly benefit parents and educators alike.

Design

This proposed design of the study will be to determine behaviors and characteristics of deaf students with positive social competence as well as environmental aspects that may lend to enhancing the students’ social competence. Questions to be considered in this study include: 1) How does the deaf student interact and communicate with hearing peers (sign language, writing notes, etc.)? 2) What is the deaf student’s level of self-concept in relation to their deafness? 3) Does the deaf student have supportive and involved parents and/or family relationships? 4) What are the characteristics of the educational classrooms and the environment for the student (e.g., do teachers willingly recognize and interact with the student)? 5) Is the deaf student involved in extra-curricular activities? Answers to each of these questions will provide guidance and help educators to determine what behaviors could be modeled, environmental changes that could be made as well as what characteristics they should encourage in deaf students in order for more deaf students to begin to develop positive social competence in the general education setting.

Participants

This study will include up to 25 deaf students in the mainstream/general education setting who demonstrate positive social competence. Students will be selected from elementary, middle/junior high, and high school levels in order to determine characteristics, behaviors, and environmental aspects of these students at each interval of education. Preference will be to have 5 students at the elementary level, 8 students at the middle/junior high level, and 12 students at the high school level. Participant use of amplification (hearing aids) or whether they have a cochlear implant will also be noted in the study as well as their preferred mode of communication as this may indicate a correlational relationship with social competence.

Procedure

The study procedure will include both observations of the student at home as well as in the educational environment and interviews with the student, educators, and family members. The student will participate in an interview with researchers where they are asked relevant questions to provide their perspective on each of the five questions. After the interview has been conducted with the student, observation in the educational and home setting will be held in order to determine if the student’s answers are an appropriate reflection of their environments. Once the observations have taken place, researchers will also interview educators and parents/family and ask for their perspectives regarding the student on each of the five questions. Interviews and observations will be documented through researcher note-taking as well as video recording for review as needed. Follow-up will occur with elementary and middle/junior high students one-year after they have transitioned to the next level to determine if there have been any noticeable positive or negative changes in any of the five questions. Follow-up for high school students who were freshmen through juniors at the time of the study will occur mid-year of the students’ senior year in high school. This type of follow-up will provide researchers a longitudinal study that will provide a strong basis of information on positive social competence for deaf students as they transition throughout their elementary and secondary education (Wolters, Knoors, Cillessen , & Verhoeven, 2012).

Predictions

Predictions regarding the questions of the study come from the researcher’s knowledge and understanding of the aspects of deafness. Predictions are listed for each study question.

1) How does the deaf student interact and communicate with hearing peers (sign language, writing notes, etc.)? Unless the deaf student utilizes speech, it is predicted that communication and interaction initially originates with writing notes and progresses with lip reading and then into the use of sign language if the student utilizes sign language. If the student is oral, it is highly likely that deaf students will immediately utilize speech in communication and interaction with hearing peers. 2) What is the deaf student’s level of self-concept in relation to their deafness? It is predicted that the deaf student will have a mainly positive level of self-concept in relation to their deafness. They will likely view their deafness as part of their identity rather than a disability that negatively impacts their lives. In addition, they will also be satisfied with their mode of communication, speech/language use, and amplification if used. 3) Does the deaf student have supportive and involved parents and/or family relationships? As with any child who has positive social competence, it is predicted that deaf student’s parents and families will be supportive and involved and well as have consistent ongoing communication with the student. This is not always the case for deaf students, especially with fathers as the lack of communication in the family unit occurs frequently. 4) What are the characteristics of the educational classrooms and the environment (e.g., do teachers willingly recognize and interact with the student) for the student? It is predicted that the characteristics of the educational environment will include teachers who model positive relationships and communication with the deaf student. Likely, the interpreter or other accommodations that the student utilizes are viewed in a positive light and the student is constantly encouraged to be an active member and participant. 5) Is the deaf student involved in extra-curricular activities? The prediction for this question is that a high percentage of the student participants will likely be involved in extra-curricular activities and have integrated themselves into the school culture.

Implications

The implications of the findings from this study have the potential to make positive changes for deaf students in the mainstream environment as it relates to their level and development of social competence. This may occur several ways: 1) by providing educators and parents with information on behaviors and characteristics that demonstrate positive social competence for deaf students in the mainstream/general education setting, 2) helping both educators and parents determine what potential environmental changes could take place in both settings that could promote positive social competence, and 3) provide deaf middle and high school students transitioning into the mainstream/general education environment with examples of deaf students who have had positive social experiences and thereby been successful in both academic and social realms of the mainstream/general education setting.

References

Antia, S. D., Jones, P., Kreimeyer, K. H., Luckner, J., & Reed, S. (2011). Social outcomes of students who are deaf and hard of hearing in general education classrooms. Exceptional Children, 77 (4), 489+.

Antia, S. D., & McCain, K. G. (2005). Academic and social status of hearing, deaf, and hard of hearing students participating a co-enrolled classroom. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 27 (1), 20+.

Van Gent, T. Goedhart, A. W., Knoors, H. E. T., Westenberg, P. W., & Treffers, P. D. A. (2012). Self-concept and ego development in deaf adolescents: A comparative study. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, (3), 333-351.

Vogel-Walcutt, J. J., Schatschneider, C., & Bowers, C. (2011). Social-emotional functioning of elementary-age deaf children: A profile analysis American Annals of the Deaf, 156 (1), 6-22. Gallaudet University Press.

Wolters, N., Knoors, H. Cillessen, A. H. N., & Verhoeven, L. (2012). Impact of peer and teacher relations on deaf early adolescents’ well-being: Comparisons before and after a major school transition. Journal Of Deaf Studies And Deaf Education, (4), 463-482.

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