Students with Learning Disabilities: Self-Concepts

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18th Jun 2018 Education Reference this

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Learning disabilities (LD) is an umbrella term used to describe a number of other, more specific learning disabilities (SLD). Students with SLD comprise the largest single category of students with special needs (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2016). There are many obstacles that students with LD encounter. One of those obstacles being how they judge themselves based on comparisons of other students without LD. In order to better understand this obstacle, one must first examine how children with LD understand their disability and how this understanding is associated with global self-esteem and other self-perceptions.

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A study conducted by Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen (1999) used an assessment consisting of three components: Harter’s What I am Like scale, Heyman’s Self-Perception of a Learning Disability (SPLD), and a series of open-ended questions about learning disabilities to determine how children with LD understand their disability and how this understanding is associated with global self-esteem and other self-perceptions. The study consisted of students from both elementary and junior high school. Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen (1999) findings revealed that students in the junior high school group had more negative self-perceptions than did students in the elementary group. The largest population of students in each group was informed about their learning problems by school personnel, while other students were informed by their parents. 20% of the junior high students and over one-third of the elementary students reported that no one told them about their disability. A majority of elementary students were not able to explain LD in their own words, while one-third of junior high students were able to define learning disabilities as a specific academic problem. A majority of all students believed they would outgrow their LD; however, one-fourth of the junior high students stated that LD would continue to affect them, but not as severe. The remaining students felt that their learning disability would continue to affect them the same as now or didn’t know what would happen in the future. Data from the SPLD scores showed that students who reported being informed about their learning disability from teachers had less positive perceptions of their learning disability than students who were told by their parents. Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen’s (1999) revealed additional data that some students told by their teachers were able to articulate an accurate verbal description of their LD; while others told by their teachers demonstrated very little understanding. Therefore, Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen’s (1999) determined that the source of information had a mixed impact on the student’s self-understanding. There was some indication that greater knowledge about learning disabilities was associated with lower self-esteem for the children in this study. Now, that we’ve gained some insight on how self-understanding of one’s learning disability affects self-esteem and self-perceptions, let’s uncover what research shows about children with LD in regards to academic self-concept and self-esteem.

Heyman (1990) examined the self-perception of a learning disability and its relations to academic self-concept and self-esteem. The instrument used for measuring self-esteem was the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory School Short Form, Form B (SCEI-SF). Academic self-concept was measured by three subscales of the Student’s Perception of Ability Scale (SPAS) developed by Boersma and Chapman (1979). Self-perception of one’s learning disability (SPLD) was assessed by a 25-item scale developed by Heyman specific for this study. Participants were tested individually or in small groups of two to eight children. Heyman (1990) found a positive correlation between self-perception of learning disabilities and academic self-concept and self-esteem. Self-perception of learning disability explained 12% of the variability in self-esteem and more than 30% of the variability in academic self-concept. This relationship remained significant after controlling for sex, ethnicity, age, reading and math achievement, self-contained versus mainstreamed class setting, and age at the time the learning disability was diagnosed. The results of Heyman’s (1990) study suggest that self-perception of the learning disability may have an effect on academic self-concept and self-esteem, which in turn may influence achievement for children with learning disabilities (Heyman, 1990). At this point, I will discuss differences in self-concept between a student with LD and nonhandicapped students.

Cooley and Ayers (1988) investigated differences in self-concept between a student with LD and nonhandicapped students, differences between attributes made by students with LD and those made by nonhandicapped students when explaining success and failure, and the relationship between self-concept and the attributions used by the students. Instruments used for this study included The Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale and the Intellectual Achievement Responsibility Questionnaire (IAR). Cooley and Ayers (1988) analysis of the data indicated that the children with LD reported significantly lower self-concept scores than their nonhandicapped peers. Cooley and Ayers (1988) indicated that there was not a significant difference between attributes made by students with LD and those made by nonhandicapped students when explaining success and failure. In regards to the relationship between self-concept and attributions, analysis of Cooley and Ayers’ (1988) data suggested that external attributions for success and ability attributions for failure are related to the self-concept scores. Below I will review students from primarily Hispanic backgrounds with LD.

Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) examined the self-concept of children with learning disabilities (LD) from primarily Hispanic backgrounds. The study compared children with LD and their peers without LD on self-concept and contributes to the literature by using a primarily Hispanic sample and by examining gender differences. The Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale (PHCSCS) was selected for this study due to its theoretical understanding of self-concept, its ease of administration and the targeted population. The PHCSCS includes six cluster scales: Behavior, Intellectual and School Status, Physical Appearance and Attributes, Anxiety, Popularity, and Happiness and Satisfaction. Participants completed this 80-item scale by responding yes or no to the test statements. Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) found that participants with LD scored significantly lower on the PHCSCS subscale of Intellectual and School Status than participants without LD. Also, Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) found that participants with LD scored lower on the PHCSCS subscale of Behavior than participants without LD. None of the other subscales yielded significant differences between participants with LD and those without LD. There was no difference between boys with LD and girls with LD on self-concept. The correlations of PHCSCS Subscales for students with LD and students without LD were presented. The correlation of Happiness with Behavior was significantly higher for students with LD than for the students without LD. No other subscale correlations were significantly different. This study focused on children from the primarily Hispanic background from only one school in an urban area. The results are generalized only to schools with similar populations; therefore, future research should employ larger samples of other ethnic groups. The next study will evaluate the self-concept of LD students versus academically gifted children.

Educators and researchers traditionally relate self-concept with educational status, often concluding that children with LD have low self-concepts and academically gifted children have high self-concepts (Montgomery, 1994). Using the Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale (MSCS), Montgomery (1994) assessed the self-concept of students with LD, comparing observer ratings and self-reports both within the LD group and across LD, nondisabled, and high-achieving classes. Montgomery’s (1994) results show that children with LD report lower academic and competence self-concepts than do high achieving and nondisabled children. However, the three student groups; LD, Nondisabled, and High Achieving, did not differ significantly in their social, family, affect, or physical self-concepts. Montgomery’s (1994) comparisons of teachers’ evaluations of LD, nondisabled, and high achieving students’ global self-concepts showed that teachers incorrectly evaluated children with LD as having lower self-concepts than nondisabled or high achieving students. The teachers appeared to magnify the differences among the student groups and clearly differentiated among LD, nondisabled, and high achieving children did themselves. The teacher-children comparisons for each student group show that teachers did indeed underrate the self-concepts of the children with LD. Montgomery (1994) concluded that parent evaluations of the children with LD were equivalent to the children’s self-reports. Parents of nondisabled and high achieving children also assessed their children’s global self-concepts accurately. Lastly, I will discuss the effects of school placement and social support on the self-concept of children and adolescents with LD.

The primary purpose of the study conducted by Forman (1988) was to examine the effects of two types of social factors; school placement and perceived social support, on the self-concepts of children and adolescents with LD. The LD students received three types of educational services: self-contained LD classrooms, remediation during part of the day in LD resource rooms, and not yet receiving LD services in school. Perceived social support was assessed using a self-report measure developed by Harter which provided information on the availability of support from parents, teachers, classmates, and friends. Forman’s (1988) finding concluded that the self-perceptions of the LD students and adolescents studied were related to their perceived access to adequate social support. Forman (1988) showed the higher social support from parents, classmates, teachers, and friends were associated with higher self-esteem in general self-worth, scholastic competence-specific behaviors, athletic competence, and behavioral conduct. Also, Forman (1988) revealed that school placement did not seem to affect self-concept in her sample of subjects. She contributed this to the small number of subjects in both resource and regular classroom placements, making it difficult to achieve statistically significant difference at the .01 level. Further research using a larger sample is needed to better assess the impact of school placement on students with LD.

The research described above demonstrates some of the many obstacles that students with LD encounter. There were inconsistencies in the research regarding the self-concept of students with LD. Heyman (1990) noted that there is a positive correlation between self-perception of learning disabilities, academic self-concept, and self-esteem. Cooley and Ayers (1988) concluded that there is a difference between students with LD and nonhandicapped students’ self-concepts. Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) suggested children from primarily Hispanic backgrounds with LD had lower self-concept based on their responses on the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale. Also, Montgomery (1994) found that students with LD had lower self-concept based on their responses on the Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale. Additional factor such as placement of students with learning disabilities was also reviewed. Foreman (1988) showed that there isn’t a reliable correlation between placement and self-concept. In conclusion, the research discussed in my literature review revealed that there are obstacles that students with LD encounter that affects their self-esteem and other self-perceptions.

References

Cooley, E.J. & Ayres, R. R. (1988). Self-Concept and Success-Failure Attributes of Nonhandicapped Students and Students with Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21, 174-178.

Cosden, M., Elliot, K., Noble, S. & Kelemen, E. (1999). Self-Understanding and Self-Esteem in Children with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 22, 279-290.

Forman, E.A. (1988). The effects of social support and school placement on the self-concept of LD students. Learning Disability Quarterly, 11, 115-124.

Gans, A. M., Kenny, M. C., & Ghany, D. L. (2003). Comparing the Self-Concept of Students With and Without Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities,36(3), 287-295.

Heyman, W. B. (1990). The Self-Perception of a Learning Disability and Its Relationship to Academic Self-Concept and Self-Esteem. Journal of Learning Disabilities,23(8), 472-475.

Montgomery, M.S. (1994). Self-Concept and Children with Learning Disabilities: Observer-Child Concordance Across Six Context-Dependent Domains. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27(4), 254-262.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Digest of Education Statistics, 2015 (NCES 2016-014), Table 204.30. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=64

Learning disabilities (LD) is an umbrella term used to describe a number of other, more specific learning disabilities (SLD). Students with SLD comprise the largest single category of students with special needs (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2016). There are many obstacles that students with LD encounter. One of those obstacles being how they judge themselves based on comparisons of other students without LD. In order to better understand this obstacle, one must first examine how children with LD understand their disability and how this understanding is associated with global self-esteem and other self-perceptions.

A study conducted by Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen (1999) used an assessment consisting of three components: Harter’s What I am Like scale, Heyman’s Self-Perception of a Learning Disability (SPLD), and a series of open-ended questions about learning disabilities to determine how children with LD understand their disability and how this understanding is associated with global self-esteem and other self-perceptions. The study consisted of students from both elementary and junior high school. Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen (1999) findings revealed that students in the junior high school group had more negative self-perceptions than did students in the elementary group. The largest population of students in each group was informed about their learning problems by school personnel, while other students were informed by their parents. 20% of the junior high students and over one-third of the elementary students reported that no one told them about their disability. A majority of elementary students were not able to explain LD in their own words, while one-third of junior high students were able to define learning disabilities as a specific academic problem. A majority of all students believed they would outgrow their LD; however, one-fourth of the junior high students stated that LD would continue to affect them, but not as severe. The remaining students felt that their learning disability would continue to affect them the same as now or didn’t know what would happen in the future. Data from the SPLD scores showed that students who reported being informed about their learning disability from teachers had less positive perceptions of their learning disability than students who were told by their parents. Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen’s (1999) revealed additional data that some students told by their teachers were able to articulate an accurate verbal description of their LD; while others told by their teachers demonstrated very little understanding. Therefore, Cosden, Elliot, Noble, and Kelemen’s (1999) determined that the source of information had a mixed impact on the student’s self-understanding. There was some indication that greater knowledge about learning disabilities was associated with lower self-esteem for the children in this study. Now, that we’ve gained some insight on how self-understanding of one’s learning disability affects self-esteem and self-perceptions, let’s uncover what research shows about children with LD in regards to academic self-concept and self-esteem.

Heyman (1990) examined the self-perception of a learning disability and its relations to academic self-concept and self-esteem. The instrument used for measuring self-esteem was the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory School Short Form, Form B (SCEI-SF). Academic self-concept was measured by three subscales of the Student’s Perception of Ability Scale (SPAS) developed by Boersma and Chapman (1979). Self-perception of one’s learning disability (SPLD) was assessed by a 25-item scale developed by Heyman specific for this study. Participants were tested individually or in small groups of two to eight children. Heyman (1990) found a positive correlation between self-perception of learning disabilities and academic self-concept and self-esteem. Self-perception of learning disability explained 12% of the variability in self-esteem and more than 30% of the variability in academic self-concept. This relationship remained significant after controlling for sex, ethnicity, age, reading and math achievement, self-contained versus mainstreamed class setting, and age at the time the learning disability was diagnosed. The results of Heyman’s (1990) study suggest that self-perception of the learning disability may have an effect on academic self-concept and self-esteem, which in turn may influence achievement for children with learning disabilities (Heyman, 1990). At this point, I will discuss differences in self-concept between a student with LD and nonhandicapped students.

Cooley and Ayers (1988) investigated differences in self-concept between a student with LD and nonhandicapped students, differences between attributes made by students with LD and those made by nonhandicapped students when explaining success and failure, and the relationship between self-concept and the attributions used by the students. Instruments used for this study included The Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale and the Intellectual Achievement Responsibility Questionnaire (IAR). Cooley and Ayers (1988) analysis of the data indicated that the children with LD reported significantly lower self-concept scores than their nonhandicapped peers. Cooley and Ayers (1988) indicated that there was not a significant difference between attributes made by students with LD and those made by nonhandicapped students when explaining success and failure. In regards to the relationship between self-concept and attributions, analysis of Cooley and Ayers’ (1988) data suggested that external attributions for success and ability attributions for failure are related to the self-concept scores. Below I will review students from primarily Hispanic backgrounds with LD.

Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) examined the self-concept of children with learning disabilities (LD) from primarily Hispanic backgrounds. The study compared children with LD and their peers without LD on self-concept and contributes to the literature by using a primarily Hispanic sample and by examining gender differences. The Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale (PHCSCS) was selected for this study due to its theoretical understanding of self-concept, its ease of administration and the targeted population. The PHCSCS includes six cluster scales: Behavior, Intellectual and School Status, Physical Appearance and Attributes, Anxiety, Popularity, and Happiness and Satisfaction. Participants completed this 80-item scale by responding yes or no to the test statements. Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) found that participants with LD scored significantly lower on the PHCSCS subscale of Intellectual and School Status than participants without LD. Also, Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) found that participants with LD scored lower on the PHCSCS subscale of Behavior than participants without LD. None of the other subscales yielded significant differences between participants with LD and those without LD. There was no difference between boys with LD and girls with LD on self-concept. The correlations of PHCSCS Subscales for students with LD and students without LD were presented. The correlation of Happiness with Behavior was significantly higher for students with LD than for the students without LD. No other subscale correlations were significantly different. This study focused on children from the primarily Hispanic background from only one school in an urban area. The results are generalized only to schools with similar populations; therefore, future research should employ larger samples of other ethnic groups. The next study will evaluate the self-concept of LD students versus academically gifted children.

Educators and researchers traditionally relate self-concept with educational status, often concluding that children with LD have low self-concepts and academically gifted children have high self-concepts (Montgomery, 1994). Using the Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale (MSCS), Montgomery (1994) assessed the self-concept of students with LD, comparing observer ratings and self-reports both within the LD group and across LD, nondisabled, and high-achieving classes. Montgomery’s (1994) results show that children with LD report lower academic and competence self-concepts than do high achieving and nondisabled children. However, the three student groups; LD, Nondisabled, and High Achieving, did not differ significantly in their social, family, affect, or physical self-concepts. Montgomery’s (1994) comparisons of teachers’ evaluations of LD, nondisabled, and high achieving students’ global self-concepts showed that teachers incorrectly evaluated children with LD as having lower self-concepts than nondisabled or high achieving students. The teachers appeared to magnify the differences among the student groups and clearly differentiated among LD, nondisabled, and high achieving children did themselves. The teacher-children comparisons for each student group show that teachers did indeed underrate the self-concepts of the children with LD. Montgomery (1994) concluded that parent evaluations of the children with LD were equivalent to the children’s self-reports. Parents of nondisabled and high achieving children also assessed their children’s global self-concepts accurately. Lastly, I will discuss the effects of school placement and social support on the self-concept of children and adolescents with LD.

The primary purpose of the study conducted by Forman (1988) was to examine the effects of two types of social factors; school placement and perceived social support, on the self-concepts of children and adolescents with LD. The LD students received three types of educational services: self-contained LD classrooms, remediation during part of the day in LD resource rooms, and not yet receiving LD services in school. Perceived social support was assessed using a self-report measure developed by Harter which provided information on the availability of support from parents, teachers, classmates, and friends. Forman’s (1988) finding concluded that the self-perceptions of the LD students and adolescents studied were related to their perceived access to adequate social support. Forman (1988) showed the higher social support from parents, classmates, teachers, and friends were associated with higher self-esteem in general self-worth, scholastic competence-specific behaviors, athletic competence, and behavioral conduct. Also, Forman (1988) revealed that school placement did not seem to affect self-concept in her sample of subjects. She contributed this to the small number of subjects in both resource and regular classroom placements, making it difficult to achieve statistically significant difference at the .01 level. Further research using a larger sample is needed to better assess the impact of school placement on students with LD.

The research described above demonstrates some of the many obstacles that students with LD encounter. There were inconsistencies in the research regarding the self-concept of students with LD. Heyman (1990) noted that there is a positive correlation between self-perception of learning disabilities, academic self-concept, and self-esteem. Cooley and Ayers (1988) concluded that there is a difference between students with LD and nonhandicapped students’ self-concepts. Gans, Kenny, and Ghany (2003) suggested children from primarily Hispanic backgrounds with LD had lower self-concept based on their responses on the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale. Also, Montgomery (1994) found that students with LD had lower self-concept based on their responses on the Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale. Additional factor such as placement of students with learning disabilities was also reviewed. Foreman (1988) showed that there isn’t a reliable correlation between placement and self-concept. In conclusion, the research discussed in my literature review revealed that there are obstacles that students with LD encounter that affects their self-esteem and other self-perceptions.

References

Cooley, E.J. & Ayres, R. R. (1988). Self-Concept and Success-Failure Attributes of Nonhandicapped Students and Students with Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21, 174-178.

Cosden, M., Elliot, K., Noble, S. & Kelemen, E. (1999). Self-Understanding and Self-Esteem in Children with Learning Disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 22, 279-290.

Forman, E.A. (1988). The effects of social support and school placement on the self-concept of LD students. Learning Disability Quarterly, 11, 115-124.

Gans, A. M., Kenny, M. C., & Ghany, D. L. (2003). Comparing the Self-Concept of Students With and Without Learning Disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities,36(3), 287-295.

Heyman, W. B. (1990). The Self-Perception of a Learning Disability and Its Relationship to Academic Self-Concept and Self-Esteem. Journal of Learning Disabilities,23(8), 472-475.

Montgomery, M.S. (1994). Self-Concept and Children with Learning Disabilities: Observer-Child Concordance Across Six Context-Dependent Domains. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27(4), 254-262.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). Digest of Education Statistics, 2015 (NCES 2016-014), Table 204.30. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=64

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