Observations of students with disabilities in inclusive music classrooms and guidelines for future research
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As a result of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, most children with disabilities in the US are now educated in schools with their typically developing peers. Although many of these children are in elementary schools (VanWeelden & Whipple, 2014) there is little empirical research that informs educational practice in elementary music classrooms (Jellison & Draper, in press). This dissertation comprises an observational study of the behavior of children with disabilities in inclusive music classrooms and their opportunities to practice their Individual Education Program (IEP) goals, and guidelines for conducting research with children with disabilities in inclusive elementary music classes. In the observational study I describe the opportunities for nine students with disabilities (Specific Learning Disabilities and/or Speech or Language Impairments) to engage in behaviors related to objectives defined in their IEPs in four inclusive music classrooms in relation to the music activities in which the children participated (e.g., singing, playing instruments) and instructional formats of the class (e.g., whole class, small groups, pairs). A further goal was to identify students’ participation and peer interactions. Results indicated that music theory and other music knowledge activities provided opportunities for students to engage in behaviors related to their IEP objectives. Opportunities for individual responses (verbal/nonverbal and music) and music performances were rare, but when students responded they were most often accurate. Students were most often on-task, particularly when engaged in music making activities, and they interacted with peers when assigned to work in groups and also when interactions were extemporaneous. I developed guidelines for future research based on my experiences conducting the study, and I discuss the challenges of identifying schools, classrooms, and participants; obtaining formal consent; developing the methodology (research questions, variables, operational definitions, equipment and materials); analyzing and reporting results; and consulting with school personnel before, during, and following the completion of research.