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Students' preferences for service delivery: pull-out, in-class, or integrated models.

ABSTRACT: This study assessed students' preferences about where and by whom they receive instruction for learning difficulties. Subjects were 686 special, remedial, and regular education students in grades 2, 4, and 5, from classrooms that used a pull-out, in-class, or integrated model for specialized instruction. Results of student interviews indicated that children's preferences for in-class and pull-out services were affected by the service delivery model used in their classroom and their grade level. The majority of children preferred to receive additional help from their classroom teacher rather than from a specialist.

Decisions about where handicapped students should be instructed have received more attention, undergone more modifications, and generated even more controversy than have decisions about how or what these students are taught. Handicapped students' educational journey has come nearly full circle. Their odyssey, which began in general education classrooms, took them first to separate schools, from there to full-time special classes, and on to resource rooms with part-time placement in regular classrooms, and now they appear to be headed in the direction of full-time placement in general education classrooms (Wang & Birch, 1984; Will, 1986).

Vestiges of each setting remain, but by far the most prevalent placement today is the special education resource room. But "pull-out" programs such as resource rooms have recently come under attack by reform-minded educators who view the general education classroom as the appropriate setting for special and compensatory education. Criticisms of pull-out programs are many. They have been charged with disrupting classroom instruction (Wang, Reynolds, & Walberg, 1987); absolving classroom teachers of responsibility for instructing low-performing students (Pugach & Lilly, 1984); attaching stigmas to the children who are pulled out (Will, 1986); failing to coordinate their instruction with that of the classroom (Johnston, Allington, & Afflerbach, 1985; Haynes & Jenkins, 1986); failing to increase academic learning time (Haynes & Jenkins, 1986; Thurlow & Ysseldyke, 1983); failing to produce transfer to the regular program (Anderson-Inman, 1986); costing more than other alternatives Affieck, Madge, Adams, & Lowenbraun, 1988); and, most important, ineffectiveness (Gallagher, 1984).

Broad generalizations based on investigations where only a few students, teachers, or schools were sampled are particularly hazardous in situations where there is large variation across programs that use the "same" service model. Haynes and Jenkins (1986), for example, found sizable differences in the way that individual students were treated within and across special education resource programs, suggesting that resource rooms should not be viewed as homogeneous entities. Moreover, many criticisms are based on absolute rather than relative judgments. That is, researchers or critics observe that a program does not result in increases in academic engagement (Thurlow & Ysseldyke, 1983), or instruction in pull-out programs is poorly articulated with that of the regular classroom (Haynes & Jenkins, 1986), but confine their observations to one type of service model (e.g., pull-out), instead of comparing different service models (e.g., pull-out vs. various in-class models). Perhaps other service-delivery models would alleviate the problems associated with pull-out programs and perhaps they would not. More than likely they would present a different set of problems.

Even though many studies of pull-out programs lack relative comparisons between service models, sample a restricted range of programs, and overgeneralize findings, concerns about these programs are legitimate enough to warrant efforts to develop and evaluate alternative models (Reynolds, 1988). Two such alternatives are "in-class" and integrated classroom models. In-class models differ from pull-out in that remedial and special education support staff provide instruction in regular classrooms rather than remove eligible students to an outside setting (McDonald, 1987). Presumably, instruction in pull-out and in-class models is identical in content and in the personnel delivering it, differing only in location.

In the integrated classroom model Affleck et al., 1988), handicapped and remedial students receive all instruction in regular classrooms. Unlike resource rooms and in-class models where support staff instruct eligible students, the integrated classroom model uses no outside specialists. Relative to ordinary classrooms, integrated classroom have fewer students and employ a teacher aide. Thus far, investigations of in-class and integrated models suggest that student achievement in these programs is comparable with that obtained in resource rooms Affleck et al., 1988; Jenkins, Peterson, & Schrag, 1988).

The present study was designed to investigate stigmatization associated with different program models. We reasoned that students are sensitive to situations that influence stigmatization, and that their perception of the relative stigmatization effects resulting from different program models could be inferred from their preferences for service delivery models. That is, students would prefer to receive specialized instruction in a manner that they perceive as effective and that limits embarrassment. As far as we can tell, no one has conducted a systematic inquiry into students' preferences for different types of assistance. In the only study we could locate related to this topic, Vaughn and Bos ( 1 987) reported that the majority of elementary-aged learning disabled (LD) and non-LD students knew the purpose of a resource room and gave it as their first or second choice of a place for spending time outside of the classroom. But respondents were not asked whether they would prefer going to the resource room or having the resource teacher come to their classroom, or whether they would prefer to receive services from their classroom teacher or from an outside specialist. In the present study, we asked those questions of mildly handicapped special education students, and of remedial and regular education students. Because students' current experiences in a program and grade level might influence their judgments, we sampled primary and upper elementary students who were receiving service in a variety of delivery models. METHODS Subjects In all, 686 students were interviewed. The grade levels and program placements are shown in Table 1. Students were drawn from 15 schools, in four school districts from the Puget Sound area of Washington State. All 2nd-, 4th-, and 5th-grade students receiving specialized reading instruction in the participating schools were interviewed. Included were 101 special education recipients, 236 remedial students, and 349 regular education students.

Special education students were children qualified to receive special education under federal and state guidelines. Most were learning disabled. Remedial students received compensatory education services through Chapter 1, the state Remedial Assistance Program, or local district remediation programs. Regular education students were those who were not recipients of special or compensatory education. For every remedial or special education student in the study, classroom teachers were asked to nominate a regular education student from the same classroom.

Different students received remedial and special education instruction through traditional pull-out programs, in-class models, and integrated classrooms. The three types of programs are described in the following sections. Pull-out Programs. Remedial and special education students served in pull-out models went to a resource room or remedial reading room for supplemental reading instruction from a specialist, for example, special or remedial education teacher.

TABLE I Number of Students (Regular, Remedial, and Special Education) in Each Classroom Model

Grade Model 2 415 Overall Pull-out 201 213 414 In-class 151 62 213 Integrated 26 33 59 Total 378 308 686 In-class Programs. These programs were similar to pull-out programs in that students received instruction from a specialist, but differed from pull-out in that instruction took place in the general education classroom. Remedial and special education teachers came to the students rather than remove students to a special setting. Integrated Programs. These programs differed from in-class and pull-out models in that all instruction was provided by a classroom teacher and an aide Affleck et al., 1988). No outside specialists were used. Typically, integrated classes were composed of 24 students, 8 of whom were learning disabled and 16 of whom were regular and remedial education students. Interviews The student interviews consisted of questions about program preference. The interview procedure was field-tested in a suburban elementary school and the questions adjusted to ensure that students could understand them. Two questions sought to determine where and from whom students would rather receive specialized instruction. The first addressed preferences about the location of remedial instruction and was phrased as follows:

If you were having a lot of problems in your

classroom reading lessons and needed extra help,

would you rather: (a) go to Mr./Ms. (the special

reading teacher's) classroom for help, or (b) have

Mr./Ms. (the special reading teacher) come to your

classroom to help you?

The second question addressed students' preference for help from their classroom teacher or from a specialist.

If you were having a lot of problems in your

classroom reading lessons and needed extra help,

would you rather: (a) get extra help from Mr./Ms.

(the special reading teacher), or (b) get extra help

from Mr./Ms. (the regular classroom teacher)? After each response, interviewers asked students to give a reason for their choice. Procedure Individual interviews were conducted with special, remedial, and regular education students. Research assistants interviewed students in a quiet location in or near their regular classroom. Interviewers told students that they were trying "to learn about things kids liked about school." To establish rapport with the students, interviewers began by asking them about where they liked to have recess and what they liked to do in class when there was spare time. Next, interviewers asked students the two questions relating to preference for service model, along with the reason for their choice. Finally, students were thanked for their help and returned to their classroom. RESULTS Preference for Pull-Out Versus In-Class Instruction Because remedial and special education students responded similarly to the questions, their data were combined in the following analyses. Two analyses were performed to separate the effects of students' current service mode and grade placement on their preference for pull-out and in-class services. Table 2 shows students' preferences, depending on their current placement in a service model and grade. For these analyses, current service model included integrated classes in addition to pull-out and in-class services.

Students' current service mode significantly influenced their preference for service mode, X2 (2, n = 335) = 21.52, p < .01. More students from pull-out programs preferred that type of program over in-class programs (72% vs. 28%), whereas students who were currently receiving in-class services split evenly between preference for pull-out and in-class (51% vs. 49%). Those in integrated classrooms leaned toward in-class help (38% vs. 62%), although this latter difference was not significant. Grade level was also significant, X2 (1, n = 335) = 4.06, p < .05, with more older students than younger selecting pull-out.

Regular students were categorized according to the type of service given to remedial and special education students in their classrooms. That is, regular students were categorized as "pull-out" if their classmates received pull-out services, as "inclass" if their classmates received in-class services, or as "integrated" if they were in an integrated classroom. See Table 2 for the pattern of preference.

Regular students' preference for a service model was significantly affected by the type of service used in their classrooms, X2 (2, n = 349) = 8.13, p < .05, with more students from classrooms that used pull-out services (70%) or an integrated model (67%) preferring pull-out than students from classrooms that used an in-class model (54%). Grade was significant, X2 (1, n - 349) = 21.53, p < .01, with more upper grade students than lower grade students (76% vs. 55%) expressing preference for pull-out. Preference for Help from Classroom Teachers Versus Specialists When special and remedial education students were given a choice between receiving additional help from their classroom teacher or help from a specialist, whether through pull-out or in-class, they overwhelmingly expressed preference for additional help from their classroom teacher. Even though students in each service mode and in each grade preferred help from their classroom teacher, their preference was significantly affected both by current service mode, x2 (2, n 335) 6.76, p < .01), and grade level, x2 1, n

335) 6.57, p < .01 (see Table 3). More students who were currently receiving in-class (78%) and integrated services (79%) preferred help from their classroom teacher than did students who were currently recipients of pull-out (65%). Also, more students in lower than in upper grades (72% vs. 57%) preferred to receive help from their classroom teacher.

When regular education students were given a choice between receiving additional help from their classroom teacher or from a specialist, they overwhelmingly selected the former. Unlike their handicapped and remedial peers, regular students' pattern of responding was not significantly affected by the type of service used in their classroom. Students' Reasons for Selection of Service Model Table 4 shows the reasons given for selecting pull-out and in-class services, broken down by student type and grade level of the respondents. The principal reasons behind selection of pull-out were the perception that the specialist can give more or better help in a pull-out model, and that pull-out is less embarrassing than having a specialist come into the classroom. The pattern of reasons varied somewhat with grade level. Most notably, avoiding embarrassment played a larger role for older than younger students. The principal reasons behind selection of in-class services were convenience (e.g., not having to walk to another room), preferring to stay with classmates, and avoiding the embarrassment of pull-out.

Table 5 shows reasons given for preferring to obtain help from the classroom teacher or from a specialist. The principal reasons given for selecting help from the classroom teacher were that the classroom teacher knew what students needed, and students liked that teacher. The principal reasons for selecting help from a specialist were that students perceived specialists as being able to provide more help and as knowing more about reading. DISCUSSION Pull-out Versus In-Class Services Given the choice between pull-out and in-class models, students' preferences were influenced both by the type of program in which they were currently served and by their grade level. The majority of students who were taught in pull-out programs preferred to be pulled out. In contrast, the responses of students who were receiving in-class services were split evenly between preference for in-class and pull-out services. However, among older students receiving in-class services, more opted for pull-out. Somewhat more students from integrated classrooms selected in-class over pull-out services, but this difference, based on a small sample of students, was not statistically significant. Likewise, among the regular education students, pull-out was clearly preferred, regardless of the type of program used in their classroom. Thus, when there was a clear preference for a service delivery model, it was for pull-out. When grade level was considered, relatively more older than younger students preferred to be pulled out. These results challenge the notion that children, generally, prefer to have specialists come to them rather than go to the specialists.

Embarrassment played a substantial role in students' choices of models. In selecting pull-out, special, remedial, and regular students stated that they would receive more or better help in this model, or that the alternative (in-class) would cause them embarrassment. Some special and remedial education students who selected in-class services also mentioned embarrassment (caused by pull-out) as one of the reasons for their choice. Thus, a major reason behind children's preference for a service model is avoiding embarrassment, regardless of the model selected. This was particularly true for older students, who more often explained their selection in terms of avoiding embarrassment. Considering that the majority of respondents served in pull-out programs preferred this option, that half of the respondents served in in-class programs preferred pull-out, and that embarrassment was often cited as a reason for selecting a service mode, students apparently view pull-out as no more embarrassing and stigmatizing than in-class services, a finding that runs counter to the perception of many educators. Perhaps special educators have overgeneralized notions about stigmatization to situations (i.e., pull-out programs) where they do not apply. As we will see later, perceived stigmatization may be related more to being singled out than to the location of services per se.

Avoiding embarrassment is by no means the sole reason for preferring one service model over another. Although 6%-20% of the children who chose in-class services stated that leaving the classroom would cause them embarrassment, 39%-50% gave reasons related to convenience and wanting to stay with their classmates. A substantial number of students 21%36%) "didn't know," or couldn't state why they preferred one model over another. Some of these students may have seen one model as causing more embarrassment than another, but were reluctant to give embarrassment as a reason. Interpretation of these results is further complicated by the fact that we cannot determine how students envisioned the two service models. We can safely assume that recipients of in-class and pull-out instruction could accurately visualize the model that they were currently experiencing, but they may have had difficulty envisioning the alternative. For example, students who had never received in-class services may have interpreted this alternative as a situation where they would be singled out in front of their classmates, or as a situation where a specialist would instruct a group within their classroom. If students thought of in-class service in the former way, then they may have selected pull-out to avoid the embarrassment of being singled out before their peers. At any rate, our results suggest that children's preference for particular service models is influenced not only by their experience with a model and their age, but also by a complex array of perceptions related to the models themselves, the quality of the learning environment, the reaction of their peers, and even such mundane factors as convenience and the avoidance of extra work. Help from Regular Teachers Versus Specialists Students were given the choice between receiving additional help from their classroom teacher or from a specialist (whether delivered through pull-out or in-class models). The vast majority of students chose their classroom teacher, but responses varied somewhat depending on students, current services and their grade. Significantly more students receiving services through in-class and integrated models preferred to get help from their classroom teacher than did students who were currently receiving pull-out assistance. Also, relatively more students in lower grades than those in upper grades preferred to obtain help from their classroom teacher rather than from a specialist.

Why do students overwhelmingly prefer to obtain additional help from their classroom teacher rather than from a specialist? The reason most often given by all students was that the classroom teacher knows what I need." Students seem to recognize the difficulty that specialists and classroom teachers have in coordinating their instruction, and believe that instruction from a specialist may he of limited help in solving their classroom learning problems. It is interesting that the leading reason given by students who selected the specialist over the classroom teacher was that they would get more or better help from the specialist. Students appear to have grasped the essence of the major conflict in organizing a system that provides help for learning problems, that is, weighing the advantage of obtaining help from someone who is familiar with their problem (the classroom teacher) against the advantage of obtaining help from someone who has the time to provide it (the specialist).

An alternative explanation for students' tendency to choose the classroom teacher rather than the specialist is that they view additional help from the classroom teacher as less stigmatizing than help from a specialist; that is, it is not unusual to see their classroom teacher helping a classmate or themselves. However, few students mentioned embarrassment as a reason for selecting the classroom teacher over a specialist. Another possibility is that students' choice of their classroom teacher over a specialist is a form of denial (i.e., denying that a learning problem would be serious enough to warrant outside assistance).

Overall, these results leave us with two general impressions. First, regardless of their typology (regular, remedial, or special education), students do not wish to draw attention to their skill deficits. If they encounter learning problems in the classroom and need extra help, they would rather receive that help from their classroom teacher. Although students' experience with various service models along with their grade level affect their choices, the majority of students would rather not have to see a specialist.

Second, when students must see a specialist, they look upon leaving the classroom (pull-out) as at least as preferable as having a specialist come to them. This finding can also be interpreted in light of the operating rule, "Don't draw peer attention to your skill deficits." Students might be concerned that instruction from a specialist in the classroom would publicize their learning problems more than would leaving the classroom---that is, when they are pulled out, their performance is not witnessed by their peers.

Apparently, some students perceived pull-out, the more restrictive" service, as less stigmatizing than the "less restrictive" in-class service. However, their perceptions of stigmatization are extremely personal. Jenkins and Heinen 1988) found that students appeared equally receptive to a "new classmate" whether the classmate was described as (a) receiving specialized in-class instruction, (b) receiving specialized pull-out instruction, or (c) not requiring specialized instruction. Thus, although students may view a particular service delivery mode as preferable for themselves, they appear not to differentially judge others according to service mode.

Concerning mode of service delivery, the present results suggest that the majority of students would be inclined toward a total mainstreaming model such as the integrated classroom model Affleck et al., 1988) or the adaptive learning environment model (Wang & Birch, 1984). Most students prefer to obtain additional help within the general education classroom from nonspecialists who are familiar with them and their classroom curriculum.

In summary, students do hold preferences about where and by whom they are instructed. Their preferences are affected by their current experience and by their grade level, and by a complex array of factors including perceptions about teachers' knowledge of their instructional needs, teachers' ability to help, the quality of the learning environment, and peer judgments. Most students would like to think that their classroom teachers can provide the instruction necessary to overcome their learning problems. They do not necessarily see the world in the same way that adults think they do or should. We have heard professionals argue that one or another service model should be employed because it is more effective and because students prefer it over other models. Regarding the second argument, students may need to be consulted about their preferences, because it is hazardous to assume that children necessarily "see it our way."
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Author:Jenkins, Joseph R.; Heinen, Amy
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Apr 1, 1989
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