LMSVEF Grantee Research Proposal: Teaching Music in a Full Inclusion Class: Does it Work?

By Carolyn Lindstrom

    LMSVEF Grantee Research Proposal: Teaching Music in a Full Inclusion Class: Does it Work?

    About the Practitioner-Researcher

    Carolyn Lindstrom
    La Mesa, CA
    Carolyn Lindstrom

    I have been in education for 27 years, beginning as a substitute teacher. I have taught 7th/8th grade general education, as well as a private, alternative, high school Director/Executive Director. I have been with LMSV Schools since 2008, teaching students with moderate/severe disabilities, the last two years at Spring Valley Academy. In addition to teaching, I am also an adjunct professor for Brandman University teaching general and special education credential teachers. I have two masters, Education Administration and Special Education, and a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership. I have written articles about best practices for teaching students with disabilities in an inclusive setting. I have written a book “What’s Missing? Best Practices for Teaching Students with Disabilities.” This action research proposal will continue my quest to ensure all students, regardless of learning or physical challenge, can access the curriculum and be positively contributing members of their community.

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    Project Summary

    The goal of this action-research project is to determine whether inclusion by forming partnerships between students with and without disabilities will have a positive effect on students’ perception of peers with disabilities. Students’ perceptions will be assessed by surveys, observations, and recordings of discussions. Positive results from this research will be a piece of ecologically valid practice-based evidence and help educators understand that the partnerships in such endeavors may be worth trying in their own class.

    Project Context

    The music class is in partnership with United Sound, a national organization that promotes music programs for students with disabilities to perform with students without disabilities. From their website:

      • United Sound is a school-based instrumental music club for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their typical peers. Dedicated to promoting social involvement through shared ensemble performance experience, United Sound joins students with and without disabilities to learn and perform in the music class together.
      • The program is run by a school band director and a special education teacher. With assistance from students (Peer Mentors), New Musicians learn to play the instrument of their choice. The New Musicians learns a piece of music they will perform live in concert with their Peer Mentors.

    This purpose is in alignment with Spring Valley Academy’s core philosophy of an International Baccalaureate Learner: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-Minded, Caring, Risk-Takers, Balanced and Reflective. Students enrolled in this class will develop relationships with other students, break down barriers of learning and develop interpersonal communication skills that are not typically found on a public school campus. The action research is to demonstrate that when students with and without disabilities work together, perceptions of people will change.

    Project Significance and Method

    Project Significance

    This project has great significance in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District. It is the first school/class to enroll students with moderate/severe disabilities in a general curriculum music class. It requires non-disabled students to be “mentors” to students with disabilities. Students/mentors are the class leaders and work together to develop the class structure. All students are expected to perform in two shows – one before winter break and one at the end of the school year. However, whether the inclusion has been working effectively or not has not been studied. This action research will provide the classroom-based evidence that may or may not support this approach. The findings of this research may help promote inclusion for students with disabilities in a general curriculum class.

    Research Plan          

              How: Students with (n =15) and without disabilities (n = 20) will form partnerships and learn how to play and perform music together. During class, students will work together to learn how to read and play music in an inclusive environment, culminating in performances throughout the year. Research will be conducted through observations and discussion conducted by the Band Director and Special Education Teacher, and through surveys given to the Peer Mentors addressing changing perception of students with moderate/severe disabilities.

              Area of focus: To determine the significance of providing a Full Inclusion music class that can bridge the interaction of students with and without disabilities and enable those students to engage in a common learning activity that encourages them to develop relationships to work together for a common purpose, that is, performing in front of an audience.  

              Collection of data: Three types of data will be collected: Survey, observations, and summary of class discussions. A survey questionnaire will be distributed to Peer Mentors 3 times within course of the school year – 1st trimester, 2nd trimester, and 3rd trimester. These surveys concentrate on the peer mentors’ perception of the students with moderate/severe disabilities and their own feelings toward working with them in a fully inclusive setting. Questions will be answered using a 5-point Likert scale. The data from the surveys will be analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance in order to compare the same group over time. Observations will be recorded by video tapes. Throughout the course of each trimester, videos of student interactions will be recorded to determine the increase in interaction and communication between the two sets of students. Throughout the course, formative data, through class discussion and observation, will be gathered and adjustments to instruction will be evaluated and implemented. Each Friday, the Band Director has the Peer Mentors in class by themselves. The Director and the students discuss what worked in the instruction of the music program, as well as their interactions with the students with disabilities that week. Did they have questions about behaviors or communication concerns that need to be addressed before the next week? The Band Director and the Special Education teacher will then meet to discuss the issues that came up and develop a plan to address the concerns before the next class meeting. Discussions between the Band Director and students and between the Band Director and the Special Education teacher will be summarized to examine whether discussions show progress.

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