Recent science reform documents call for students to develop robust understandings of scientific concepts and reasoning through inquiry-based instruction. The challenge of this goal is increased in heterogeneous inclusive classroom settings with students identified as having learning disabilities and emotional impairments. This article describes a design experiment conducted over two school years in which we investigated the experiences and outcomes for special needs students in guided inquiry science instruction in upper-elementary grade classrooms (n = 4). Phase 1 ('97-'98) of the design experiment utilized qualitative and quantitative data to construct case studies of individual learners with special needs. Patterns across the cases informed the identification of advanced instructional strategies hypothesized to support special needs students relative to language/cognition, print literacy, attention, and social relations challenges. In Phase 2 ('98-'99), we studied learning outcomes from instruction including the advanced strategies (same teachers, topics as Phase 1). Our findings indicate that in Phase 2 (with the advanced strategies) all students demonstrated significant learning gains over Phase 1 and that special needs and low-achieving students in three of four classes showed changes in understanding comparable to those of normally achieving students. We conclude by identifying implications of these findings for the roles of general and special educators.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Health Professions(all)
- Behavioral Neuroscience