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Peer Buddy Program: Students with Disabilities in High School Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 20th, 2022

Secondary schools that have adopted inclusion programs have enhanced performances and interactions of student with disabilities and those without disabilities.

These schools adjust themselves according to Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program in order to enhance learning, socialization, and friendship among all students irrespective of disabilities. Thus, the study shows how peer buddy programs serve purposes of enhancing inclusion (Hess and Chester, 2007).

Authors like Carolyn Hughes and Erik Carter are outstanding in the field of peer buddy programs. They note that implementation of peer buddy programs step-by-step always gives successful results. Consequently, they identify several reasons and purposes why peer buddy program is important in promoting educational achievements among learners with disabilities and those without disabilities (Hughes and Carter, 2008).

Well implemented peer buddy programs increase learners’ interests in learning and at the same time establish the role of each participating individuals in inclusion programs. The success of peer buddy program depends on educators, parents, counselors and students. Similarly, program implementations must also create inclusion by identifying unique students’ needs, strengths, weaknesses and common interests.

This research paper seeks to establish the purpose, importance, and rationale of the study of peer buddy program on students with disabilities in high school, in both social and academic grounds. The paper will explore how provisions of suitable inclusion programs enhance academic, support, and promote socialization in the school environment.

This is only possible through assessing and expanding peer buddy program, and including feedback of all participants. The proven strategies of peer buddy program should change high schools into supporting and compassionate environment where all learners support one another.

However, some studies show that some sections of educators are reluctant to make changes to their current teaching approaches in response to IDEA and NCLB programs.

Their methods still tend to exclude students with severe cases of learning disabilities (Cowne, 1998). At the same time, some teachers show relaxed approaches to inclusion programs because they do not have experience in such programs. This necessitates the purpose for this research paper.

Importance of study

This study seeks to find out the importance of peer buddy program in enhancing social and academic achievements of students in high school. Peer buddy programs for students with disabilities in the learning environment have been sources of fundamental concerns for educators and society at large. Consequently, inclusion issues have attracted both legislative and political supports.

In every society, there are segments that are fighting to access equality of opportunity and social justice in the national educational systems. Therefore, the study is important in addressing the needs of learners with disabilities in high schools using peer buddy programs.

Studies by Troyna and Hatcher established that education systems are necessary in perpetuating or lessening limitations associated with education for marginalized learners (Troyna and Hatcher, 1992). These findings led scholars like Slee, Vlachou, and Pijl critically analyze importance of special education on students with disabilities (Pijl, 1997).

On the other hand, Tomlison has concentrated on the impacts of educational underperformance and disadvantages on individuals. In addition, society has placed education at the center of security, employment and opportunity (Tomlinson, 2000).

Social justice systems have recognized the fact that individual’s characteristics and available resources are not the only factors controlling opportunities in education, and chances in life. Some factors like living conditions, family members and community influence life chances and educational opportunities.

In all these, the key to success is social capital. Social capital entails ways of getting networks, trusts and norms that enhance cooperation and coordination for a mutual benefit (Putnamm, 1993). Therefore, a healthy society must rely on its social capital in order to make life possible for its members.

The current political situations favor the principle of inclusion and education for an inclusive society. Despite these favors, the failure by many education systems to support inclusive learning programs is noticeable. Therefore, the aim has been to develop education systems and programs that will enhance the potential of every learner in society, and recognize and appreciate their differences.

Chances are that learners who lack access to inclusive and mainstream education will not have all rounded experience. The problem is that people who invented past curriculums never meant schooling to accommodate every child. The disadvantaged learners are students with special educational needs.

However, the current education systems tend to accommodate such learners through various programs like peer buddy program. Thus, the importance of the study is to identify how peer buddy programs promote equal learning for learners with disabilities in high school through distribution of social capital.

Like any other social program, peer buddy program has also experienced some challenges. The main challenge lies in creating a sustainable social capital and social well-being in a fragmented and struggling school system. However, we must realize that peer buddy program is important when all participants get in an interactive mainstream school environment.

For instance, scholars make references to the success of Metropolitan Nashville Peer Buddy Program. Despite these benefits and importance, educators rarely use such achievements to inclusion programs because of their invisibility. Educators must be aware of the contributions students with disabilities make to a school community.

This is a problem because not many researchers have concentrated on peer buddy programs. In addition, available information concentrates on the needs of students with disability instead of focusing on the value students with disabilities add to education in a school environment.

According to Young, “the programs of inclusions have not gone unopposed. Most scholars note that people identify students with disabilities in terms of the relatively low share of social goods they have” (Young, 1990). Educators use various educational programs to reduce noticeable disadvantages in learners with special needs. The challenge is that all these programs rarely contain inputs of those most affected.

Therefore, the programs become undemocratic because the procedures and processes of distributing social goods are not favorable to some of the stakeholders. These procedures and processes show the values and interests of people who are in charge of the education system (Smith, 1986).

The participatory approach works well in peer buddy programs. This is because the model advocates for the inputs of all participants. Policymakers use this approach in distribution of the predetermined public goods, status, and inputs of the participants. Participants identify social goods, policies, needs, and practices, which they negotiate and investigate using democratic and justice principles as the ideal approaches.

Stenhouse also expresses his concern for the principle of difference because of a balance between an approach that gives all learners equal chances to access cultural goods, and a curriculum developed for the purpose of productive use (Stenhouse, 1975).

Stenhouse indicates that students with natural abilities and suited for the curriculum will gain more than other students. However, the participatory and peer buddy program will benefit all learners in long-term irrespective of disabilities (O’Donoghue and Chalmers, 2000).

According to Elliot, accesses to programs like peer buddy enable students to acquire self-esteem in a learning community. This serves the importance of enhancing primary goods of promoting students’ achievements and social status (Elliott, 1991). However, achievements in education also depend on practices and policies of education.

Educators have realized that it is only through carrying out comprehensive reforms to the existing educational, and institutional control that primary aims of peer buddy programs can achieve its missions. Past studies on the importance of peer buddy programs focused on education as a whole and ignored individual contributions.

These approaches made teachers, learners and other educators irrelevant in the feedback but were only subjects of influence by forces in society.

In conclusion, scholars like Bogdan and Biklin noted that any educational achievements knowledge learners got through such means were not helpful but misleading. This is because the approaches did not include the moral dimension of education according to inclusion and justice in education (Bogdan and Biklin, 1982).

Rationale of study

There are changes taking place in the education system. These changes show that peer buddy programs in education enable schools to accept and retain students with various disabilities. Therefore, this study highlights reasons why studying peer buddy program is necessary among educators. These were the students the education system initially segregated, or were in special schools.

There are ways that schools can increase and participate in the provision of inclusion through curriculum support and development of socially representative students’ fellowship. This is the rationale behind of the peer buddy program study. The issue of how best to give students with superior learning abilities and those who have disabilities is a matter of concern among the educators.

Researchers like Oliver argue that mainstreaming does not help gifted learners. Oliver states that gifted students do not suffer from stigmatization and separation, which students with disabilities experience. He insists that separation works better for gifted students. This is because the program provides small class size, and wise use of time and resources than in regular class.

In addition, Oliver insists that placement of gifted students in regular class limits their potential and creative abilities. He concludes that mainstreaming and inclusion programs like peer buddy in schools contribute to a diminution of potential in gifted learners. Oliver proposes a system whereby students’ placement should permit and encourage special classes and schools for gifted learners and those with disabilities (Oliver, 1996).

Most professional changes in education systems or structures aim at inclusive practices. Occasionally, these changes begin with an individual through enhancing self-awareness, self-evaluation and changing attitude towards inclusion programs like peer buddy.

However, educators only implement those practices they believe promote inclusion. The professional approach to peer buddy program should encourage openness in discussions among participants. It is also necessary for educators to learn how to avoid hasty judgments in introducing new practices (Osgood, 2005).

Educators use their own different approaches in peer buddy programs because there are no standard structures of rationality for general inclusion programs. However, there are criteria for making a judgment about peer buddy programs. Educators can only develop such criteria by dialogues among various participants. These discussions and dialogues are mandatory for any in peer buddy program.

Educators must monitor goals and quality of a peer buddy program as an inclusive approach to learning through the use of problems and feedback. The education system remains the only alternative to solving social challenges in a school environment democratically.

Participants can address issues of moral concerns in quality, equality and inclusion. Therefore, the aim of education is to provide a way so that people can comprehend educational equality and equal opportunity as social goods of the education system (Ainscow, 1999).

Educators should determine the quality of education with no exceptions of equality. Consequently, educators must note that any peer buddy program must apply reputable educational practices. Researchers have noted that poor educational practices enhance negative practices among participants, to the extent of socially marginalizing learners within and beyond a school environment.

Educators believe that equity in education is a matter of physical and human resource. Therefore, they may change peer buddy program into a resource of risk management whereby extents of the learners’ disabilities determine the limits of resource allocation in order to maintain equilibrium in a school environment (Slee, 1996).

Slee argues that resources should support the development in school to enhance positive cultures through curriculum, teaching methodologies and extracurricular involvements. Conversely, she argues that the use of resources to enhance peer buddy program and mainstreaming should be challenged. According to Slee, a mere mainstreaming may conceal the underlying issues in peer buddy program, in a school environment.

Students’ differences and diversity in a learning environment increase and strengthen the scope of educational culture. Therefore, a change in access to teacher and professional training for the creation of a professional diversity needs to occur in parallel with the increasing student peer buddy program so as to provide role models for diverse and different pupils.

Peer buddy programs have situations which are complex in nature and require reconstruction of educational institutions. Therefore, it is better for educators to have insight and reliable knowledge on how such institutions operate.

It is advisable to carry out inquiries rather than stick to preconceived ideas. In this regard, experimental inquiry is the basis of a democratic life, which implies a willingness to entertain novel ideas and the personal flexibility to carry out new ways of perceiving and acting.

In peer buddy program, promoting students with disabilities to make their own choice is an important step to inclusion. Subsequently, educators must inculcate such choices into teaching programs. Educators must know that students with severe disabilities have limited chances of learning what depends on personal preferences.

For instance, students with communication difficulties may not be able to express themselves verbally. Therefore, educators must be able to identify problem behavior in their actions. At the same time, learners who have intensive support may learn by other means of making preferences.

According to Shevin and Klein, teachers should incorporate students’ choice earlier enough in their instructional programs. Likewise, they should also increase the number of choices and domains for every activity students undertake. In making choices, educators must engage students in clear communication and indentify the extents of such choices (Shevin and Klein, 1984).

Peer buddy program must involve goal setting and support. This idea comes from a theory of goal setting and attainment. The theory notes that goals are the main control of people’s actions. Teachers must base their goal setting strategies on identification and clear formulation of ideas in terms of objectives, actions, and tracking techniques. This is a participatory process.

Peer buddy program must help students with severe disabilities achieve a step-by-step system in setting their goals. This process must ensure that students with disabilities remain as point of learning in the inclusion process.

An example of a success story of the inclusion programs is the Metropolitan Nashville Peer Buddy Program. The peer buddy program aimed at inclusion among all learners. The program also aimed at increasing the knowledge capacity in inclusion programs. Finally, peer buddy program also focused on the distribution of information collected for social goods of other inclusion programs.

The peer buddy program also aimed at giving support and resources to high school students with severe disabilities so that they become actively engaged in school life. Educators designed the inclusion program to promote students social skills. The Nashville program teaches normal students different manifestations of disabilities and their associated learning difficulties.

At the same time, teachers and students learned motivational, instructional, and basic concepts and techniques on how to help their colleagues with disabilities become part of the main school system (Guth and Hughes, 2011).

Learners spent their time (at least a period per day) in activities of their choices, such as games, eating lunch, attending lessons, joining clubs, or just relaxing. The program created role models for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities received support from normal students for skill developments.

Peer buddy engaged in collaboration activities with regular, special education teachers, vocational, students, and parents. They also carried out research on transition and inclusion activities. Educators used their findings as a benchmark for implementation of peer buddy programs, or similar ones in other states.

In Nashville, there was general improve in all areas of focus. For instance, participants realized fundamental changes in both students with and without disabilities. In addition, students with disabilities participated in school activities than before. At the same time, all participants noticed improved activities and participation in community programs (Presley and Hughes, 1999).

The significant social achievement was that all peer buddies showed improvement in interaction and involvements among regular students and students with disabilities. There were the formation of partnerships and friendships among students with disabilities and those without disabilities.

Participants also noticed increased activities in leisure and recreational involvements. It is also of interest to note that all high schools in Metropolitan Nashville have incorporated peer buddy programs in their main school systems.

There is a peer buddy grant coordinator. The coordinator works with administrators and guidance and counseling teachers in enhancing inclusion among learners with disabilities and learners without disabilities. In this regard, all participants recorded increased acceptance and awareness among participants concerning disabilities. The program developed permanent models that educators used outside Nashville area.

Increased tolerance of others Reduced fear of human differences Increased awareness of disabilities Developed friendship with students with disabilities Increased social-cognitive growth
6% 12% 20% 43% 92%

Source: Metropolitan Nashville Peer Buddy Program

This is how important peer buddy programs have been in Nashville high schools. The programs adopted the use of peer teaching and tutoring to support inclusion in schools. Regular interaction among students without disabilities and those with disabilities built friendship, and promoted learning of new ideas among all participants. In this process, both students acquired new social interaction basic skills.

In conclusion, peer buddy program has been important program in enhancing student inclusion and interaction. This is the rationale, importance and purpose of the study. We notice these gains in results of peer buddy program of Metropolitan Nashville high schools.

For instance, participants recorded improvement in both social and academic achievements notably in disability awareness, changes in communication skills, understandings among participants in schools and community, making friends, and recognizing individuals’ differences.

Reference List

Ainscow, M. (1999). Understanding the Development of Inclusive Schools. London: Falmer Press.

Bogdan, R. and Biklin, S. (1982). Qualitative Research in Education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Cowne, E. (1998). The Senco Handbook: Working within a Whole-school Approach. London: David Fulton.

Elliott, J. (1991). Action Research for Educational Change. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Guth, C. and Hughes, C. (2011). Inclusion on the High School Level: The Metropolitan Nashville Peer Buddy Program. Baltimore: Brooke Publishing.

Hess, F. M. and Chester E. (2007). No Remedy Left Behind: Lessons from a Half- Decade of NCLB. Washington, DC: The AEI Press.

Hughes, C. and Carter, E. (2008). Peer Buddy Programs for Successful Secondary School Inclusion. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

O’Donoghue, T. and Chalmers, R. (2000). How teachers manage their work in inclusive classrooms. Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(8), 889–905.

Oliver, M. (1996). Understanding Disability: From Theory to Practice. London: Macmillan.

Osgood, R. L. (2005). The History of Inclusion in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press.

Pijl, S. (1997). Inclusive Education: A Global Agenda. London : Routledge.

Presley, J. and Hughes, C. (1999). Peer Buddy Program Manual: Metropolitant Nashville Peer Buddy Manual. Washington, D.C: Vanderbilt University Press.

Putnamm, R. (1993). The prosperous community: social capital and public life. American Prospect, 13, 307–308.

Shevin, M. and Klein, N. (1984). The Importance of Choice-Making Skills for Students with Severe Disabilities. The Journal of thc Association for Perons with Severe Handicaps, 9(3), 159-166.

Slee, R. (1996). Inclusive education in Australia? Not yet! Cambridge Journal of Education, 26(1), 19-32.

Smith, F. (1986). Insult to Intelligence: The Bureaucratic Invasion of Our Classrooms. New York: Arbor House.

Stenhouse, L. (1975). An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. London: Heinemann.

Tomlinson, S. (2000). Ethnic minorities and education: new disadvantages. London: Falmer Press.

Troyna, B. and Hatcher, R. (1992). Racism in Children’s Lives. London: Routledge. London: Routledge.

Young, I. (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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