Students' interactions with teachers, peers, and texts in a second-grade inclusion classroom: A critical ethnography

Catherine S Cavanaugh, Fordham University


Several models of inclusion are being implemented in schools across the United States. One such configuration in New York City public schools is termed Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) classrooms, in which classified and unclassified students are taught in the same setting by two teachers. As the number of CTT classrooms being established increases, the need to study these settings is imperative. This study documented the interactions of three focal students with their teachers, peers, and texts in a second-grade CTT classroom in order to examine and to investigate the literacy experiences of individual students. This study used qualitative design methods and critical ethnographic procedures in order to determine findings and generate hypotheses. Multiple data sources, including systematic observations, detailed field notes, transcriptions of audiotapes, artifact collection, and a focused teacher interview, were analyzed using discourse analysis, construction of case studies, and theme identification. From the data analysis, four hypotheses were generated: (a) although an ideological intent of inclusion is to integrate and equalize certain academic and social aspects in educational settings, in practice, classified students are marginalized in subtle and powerful ways by teachers and students; (b) teachers who prioritize a whole group, teacher-directed focus on explicit rules, directions, and behaviors influence students to attend to superficial details of texts without truce engagement, critical thinking, and conceptual understanding; (c) in educational settings, such as inclusion settings, the quality and quantity of teacher and peer language may significantly affect and limit students' learning experiences, especially in cases of students who are most in need of support; and (d) teacher support for academic inquiry, self-determination, and critical thinking may lead to more in-depth and supportive learning environments. By critically examining the differential experiences of students within the same classroom context, this study illustrates the complexity embedded in the participants' experiences. Multiple recommendations for ways to reform and enrich inclusion settings are proposed, such as incorporate a variety of classroom discourse frameworks, support the acquisition of self-determination strategies, provide extensive learning models and scaffolds for students, and systematically and critically evaluate instructional practices. Strategies, models, and theories for implementing these recommendations are provided.

Subject Area

Elementary education|Curriculum development|Education philosophy

Recommended Citation

Cavanaugh, Catherine S, "Students' interactions with teachers, peers, and texts in a second-grade inclusion classroom: A critical ethnography" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3361349.