The effects of inquiry-based science on the social and communicative skills of students with low -incidence disabilities

Heather Hopkins D'Angelo, University of Pennsylvania


This research utilized inquiry based science as a vehicle to implement and maintain social skills training for secondary students, ages 14 to 20, with low-incidence disabilities in a self-contained classroom. This three year action research study examined the effects of an inquiry based science curriculum on the level and quantity of social skills used by students with one or more of the following challenges: significant learning disability (functioning more than two grade levels below grade level), emotional/social disability, mental retardation, Autism, and/or varying degrees of brain damage. Through the use of video recording, the students in the study were analyzed based on the level of social interaction and the amount of socialization that took place during inquiry based science. The skills sought were based on the social and communication skills earmarked in the students' weekly social skills training class and their Individualized Education Plans (IEP). Based on previous research in social skills training it has been determined that where social skills training is lacking are in the areas of transfer and maintenance of skills. Due to the natural social behavior that must take place in inquiry based science this group of students were found to exhibit gains in (1) quantity of social interactions on topic; (2) developing higher levels of social interactions (sharing, taking other's suggestions, listening and responding appropriately, etc.); and (3) maintenance of social skills taught outside of formal social skills training. These gains were seen overall in the amount of student involvement during inquiry based science verses teacher involvement. Such increases are depicted through students' verbal exchanges, excerpts from field notes, and student reflections. The findings of this research is expected to guide special educators, administrators and directors of curriculum as to how to better create curriculum for this specific population where social skills training is utilized and maintained in all aspects of the academic day, thus helping this population of student achieve more independence and appropriate interactions in their live as citizens of society. ^

Subject Area

Education, Special|Education, Sciences

Recommended Citation

Heather Hopkins D'Angelo, "The effects of inquiry-based science on the social and communicative skills of students with low -incidence disabilities" (January 1, 2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI3209980.