Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Education

Abstract

This thesis presents the results of a mixed method study conducted in Australia investigating the impact of a cooperative learning intervention on the social interaction behaviours between three 14yr old students with a mild intellectual disability (SMID) and peers without a disability (PWOD) in inclusive secondary school physical education classes. Considering the importance of social interaction for inclusion, friendship and health, the study was designed to address the problem of limited social interaction between SMID and PWOD in the above setting. Cooperative learning has been considered a promising pedagogical approach for teaching and the promotion of social interactions in the inclusive physical education setting but research to date has not provided empirical evidence to support this.

This evidence was gathered to address the four research questions. Research Question One quantitatively examined what was the impact of a cooperative learning intervention on the social interaction between SMID and PWOD in secondary school physical education classes. Research Questions Two, Three and Four, qualitatively investigated of the impact of roles, social and person factors, the provision of feedback and the flow of resources respectively on the social interactions between SMID and PWOD to help explain the quantitative results.

By using a single-subject-multiple-baseline design across three inclusive secondary school Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) classes a substantial functional relationship between the cooperative learning intervention and some of the social interaction behaviours between SMID and PWOD was established. The results indicated that the cooperative learning intervention was responsible for the increase in the frequency of interaction and the improvement in some of the quality measures of interactions between SMID and PWOD.

Furthermore, by using a case study design to further explain this increase and improvement in interactions as a result of the cooperative learning intervention, several layers of themes emerged. Overall, the first distinguishing theme was the impact of the group dynamic on interactions through the additional roles, the membership of the group and the additional range of personal attributes. The second theme was the impact on interactions of the provision of more frequent and focused feedback to the group. The third theme was the impact on interactions of the availability of more resources with improved access to and control of the social, knowledge and physical resources.

By interpreting the results through the theoretical framework of identity theory and contact theory, it appears that the cooperative learning intervention can provide several opportunities for identity verification and equal status. Considering the link between identity verification and continued interactions; and equal status and favourable interactions, it is important for educators and teachers to consider the use of cooperative learning as a teaching approach for the promotion of social interactions between SMID and PWOD in secondary school inclusive physical education classes. Additionally, within this approach educators and teachers should also strive to build the resources of both students in order to maximise the interaction opportunities between them.

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