Research project “Peer tutoring for students with severe and multiple disabilities in inclusive physical education” Print E-mail

Target group: Students with multiple and severe disabilities, students without disabilities.

Purpose: Increase interactions between students with severe and multiple disabilities (SMD) and their peers without disabilities in physical education. Furthermore, to enhance students' with SMD inclusion in everyday life in school and increase access to all of the activities for students with SMD.

Description of EGP

This research project was done in two elementary schools. Participants were three students with severe and multiple disabilities (Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and intellectual disability) and nine general education students who served as peer tutors. All students with SMD attended special classroom for most of their school day, but they participated in general physical education with age appropriate peers without disabilities. The class sizes were about 25–30 students. The physical education was taught by GPE teachers and students with SMD were assisted by teacher assistants and adapted physical education (APE) personnel. The project consisted of three stages:

  1. Observation of intact physical education class
  2. Selection and training of peer tutors
  3. Implementation of peer tutoring

During observation of intact PE class students with SMD most frequently interacted with adults (i.e., APE teacher, assistant teacher). All students were socially isolated from others and most of activities did together with adults. It might be attributed to continuous close proximity of the assistant personnel and students with SMD that increased students’ dependence on adults and limited their interactions with classmates.

Peer tutors were selected from the same class students with SMD joined in PE. Tutors were trained for three 30-minute training sessions. The student with SMD and his or her teacher assistant attended the second and third session. The training manual was provided to all peer tutors including five tutoring steps they had to learn: (1) instructions (e.g., cues, prompts), (2) demonstration, (3) physical assistance, (4) feedback, and (5) error correction. On the second and third session peer tutors practiced their skills working in pairs including student with SMD.

When the peer tutoring intervention was implemented, interaction behaviours between target students and peer tutors raised immediately. Teacher assistants and APE specialist monitored tutoring activities from about a 3– m distance and ensured a systematic rotation of peer tutors (10 min period for one tutor) so that none of the tutors would get tired or overwhelmed during the tutoring process. Also, the use of multiple peer tutors and the organisational arrangement including systematic peer tutor rotation benefited maintenance of the high level of interaction behaviours between students with SMD and peer tutors. Furthermore, the interaction behaviours between students with SMD and other peers (not peer tutors) also slightly increased during peer tutor intervention. Students not designated as peer tutors occasionally joined the tutors and students with disabilities dyad and showed desire to assist in activities.

Relevance of EGP to EUSAPA project

This project contributed to the practice on peer tutoring as an effective instructional strategy to increase interactions between students with SMD and other peers without disabilities in the inclusive learning environment. Peer tutoring seems to be very successful and efficient way of support in adapted physical education and thus should be considered in all European countries.

EUSAPA competencies presented in this EGP

  1. Ability to prepare human environments (assistant personnel e.g., teacher assistants, peer tutor, students without disabilities and school staff)
  2. Ability to prepare the physical environment (facilities, equipment, temporal)
  3. This EGP also relate with transfer of basic competencies in adaptation and appropriate support to peer tutors
  4. Introduction of peer tutoring depends on teachers ability to advocate for equal provision of PE for all students and ability to advocate for the rights of students with SEN for participation in PE/APE (e.g., support services, adapted equipment)

Example of good practice was described by Aija Klavina from Latvian Academy of Sport Education.