Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Bodies coping with standardization: An ethnography of children with learning disabilities
by Mazher, Waseem, Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University, 2012, 468; 3545644
Abstract (Summary)

How students labeled as learning disabled (LD) cope with standardization in their schools is mostly a mystery, as is the broader question of how such persons adapt throughout their lives. Participant observation research methodology involved daily observing and interviewing labeled students (6 boys and 4 girls) over nearly one whole academic year about their academic and social experiences in school. School adults (their teachers, principals, and guidance counselor) were also interviewed.

Findings are that about two-thirds of the obstacles the labeled students faced were negative academic experiences (e.g., teachers ignoring their learning needs, overly difficult curricular content, boring tasks, and vague directions on assignments from teachers). The other one-third of the obstacles came mainly from negative social experiences: peers and teachers ignoring and bullying them. The teachers and peers only relatively scarcely interacted positively (e.g., tutored them, showed affection, and accepted help). Merely a handful of positive obstacles were identified (i.e., facing challenging, but doable, gratifying academic experiences). The overall frequency of coping students used was withdrawal coping (disengaging) the most, then problem-focused coping, and then rationalization. Better students used problem-focused coping the most, withdrawal, and then rationalization coping. Weaker students used withdrawal the most, problem-focused coping, and then rationalization. Better students used more problem-focused than withdrawal coping and vice versa was the case among the weaker students. Better students used more mature coping mechanisms (e.g., sublimation and humor) and immature mechanisms more harmlessly than weaker students, who used more immature coping mechanisms (e.g., rationalization, acting out, and self-blame) more harmfully. Between the two groups of better and weaker students, the better students were comparatively better in their coping in the social domain than the academic one of school life.

The LD program controlled the labeled students rather than provide them with tailored instruction and emotional support. The labeled students led lonely, abused lives –being mostly ignored and bullied or punished by their peers and their teachers. The ultimate necessity of incorporating the burgeoning response to intervention (RTI) system of tiered instruction is suggested as a way of providing specialized, intensive instruction to students labeled as disabled to help them cope better. The study also concludes that interrogating disablism as a material, bodily experience of oppression is needed to explore and adopt different, more inclusive ways of interacting with difference.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Harrington, Charles
Commitee: Lesko, Nancy, Varenne, Herve
School: Teachers College, Columbia University
Department: Curriculum and Teaching
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 74/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Special education, Cognitive psychology, Curriculum development
Keywords: Coping, Disability, Ethnography, Impairment, Learning disabilities, Standardization
Publication Number: 3545644
ISBN: 9781267782960
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