Hearing impaired students in a middle school

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Hearing impaired students in a middle school
Crutchfield, Paul B., 1946-
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Subjects / Keywords:
Adolescents ( jstor )
Auditory perception ( jstor )
Deafness ( jstor )
Hearing loss ( jstor )
Middle schools ( jstor )
Observational research ( jstor )
Schools ( jstor )
Social interaction ( jstor )
Students ( jstor )
Teachers ( jstor )

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
AJA4975 ( LTUF )
25215752 ( OCLC )
0026479187 ( ALEPH )

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ABSTRACT............................................. iv


I BACKGROUND FOR THE STUDY..................... 1

Statement of the Problem..................... 5
Methods ..................................... 5
Research Questions........................... 7
Theoretical Base.............................. 7
Significance................................. 12
Definitions of Terms.......................... 14
Organization of the Dissertation............. 15

II REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..................... 16

The Nature and Needs of Early
Adolescents ................................ 17
Addressing the Needs of Early
Adolescents in the Middle School........... 35
Characteristics of Hearing Impaired
Early Adolescents.......................... 43
Hearing Impaired Students in Public
Schools.................................... 58
Hearing Impaired Students in Middle
Schools.................................... 76
Constructivist Theory in Related
Research.................................. 82
Summary...................................... 86

III METHODOLOGY.................................. 88

The Research Perspective..................... 88
Entry .. ....................................... 90
The Setting................................... 92
Research Methods and Procedures.............. 93
Methodological Issues......................... 104
Summary...................................... 110

SCHOOL................................ ...... 112

Introduction................................. 112
Cultural Theme: Normalizing Hearing
Impairment................................. 129
Social Processes and Ends Within the
Group..................................... 165
Students' Perceptions of the Middle
School....................... ............... 185


The Cultural Theme........................... 195
Secondary Socialization..................... 198
Perceptions of Middle School................. 201
Relationship of the Findings to Previous
Research.................................... 202
Implications of the Findings for
Researchers................................ 208
Implications of the Findings for
Practitioners .............................. 211

REFERENCES ...... ................ ... ................. 216

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH... .............................. 229

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Paul B. Crutchfield, Jr.

May, 1991

Chairman: Dr. Paul S. George
Major Department: Educational Leadership

The purposes of this study were to describe and

explain the social processes and cultural themes within a

group of hearing impaired early adolescents and to examine

the meaning that a middle school context had for these stu-

dents. The informants included 11 students, their teacher,

her aide, and the students' interpreter. The primary focus

of the study was on the social interactions that occurred

among members of this group. Ethnographic methods in the

tradition of cognitive anthropology, specifically, Sprad-

ley's Developmental Research Sequence, were used in col-

lecting and analyzing data. Participant observation and

in-depth interviewing were the principal procedures used to

collect data. The cultural theme for organizing the data

into a comprehensive view of the cultural scene can be

stated as follows: The students collaborated to maintain a


social context in which hearing impairment was a normal

condition. The data were then organized according to the

prominent categories in Berger and Luckman's theory of

secondary socialization. The students' social processes

and the partial reality that resulted from them were deter-

mined to be in consonance with Berger and Luckman's theory.

Finally, data were examined to determine the nature of

students' perceptions of the features of their public

middle school. These findings suggested that the students

valued and benefitted from the middle school practices of

advisor-advisee groups and interdisciplinary teams.


Two recent developments in education may have had an

important effect on early adolescent, hearing impaired

students: the development of the middle school and the

enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act

of 1975 (PL 94-142). Early in the 1960s, innovative educa-

tors recognized the special needs of early adolescents and

changed the direction of educational practice to center the

curriculum on those needs. This practice has spread

nationwide; nearly 12,000 middle level schools were in

operation in 1988 ("Recognition of," 1988). With the

passage of PL 94-142 in 1975, new educational opportunities

were opened to handicapped students. For the first time,

large numbers of hearing impaired students were able to

attend special and regular classes in public schools. The

combination of these two developments resulted in the

mainstreaming of some hearing impaired children in public

middle schools. This practice has presented both promise

and challenge for educators and students. At the present

time, there is a compelling need for additional research on

hearing impaired students in this unique and important

educational context.


Early adolescence has been described as a period of

tumultuous change: Early adolescents undergo rapid

cognitive, physical, psychological, and social transitions.

In Piaget's terms, these young people begin a transition

from concrete to formal operations (Brazee, 1983; Toepfer,

1979). They experience spurts of physical growth and, with

the onset of puberty, the beginning development of second-

ary sex characteristics (Lawrence, 1980; Romano & Timmers,

1978). Their social affiliations begin to shift from

family to peers (Berndt, 1982). Throughout these periods

of change, there is sometimes a great struggle to maintain

a sense of self and to develop a healthy self concept

(Blyth & Traeger, 1983; Craft & Hogan, 1985). Accommodat-

ing these changes poses a challenge for educators. One

fundamental reason for the development of middle schools is

to address the special needs of early adolescents by match-

ing learning tasks to cognitive ability, providing appro-

priate physical activities, promoting healthy psychological

development, and fostering social interactions (Alexander &

George, 1981; Arnold, 1985; Madon, 1966). An important

part of this process involves counseling and peer interac-

tions, both of which require genuine and effective communi-

cation. Teachers and administrators face significant

challenges in addressing the developmental needs of normal

early adolescents; the challenge is even greater for those

working with hearing impaired students.


The condition of hearing impairment interferes with an

individual's ability to acquire spoken language; in turn,

this diminished ability to communicate in a normal manner

encumbers the education and socialization of people with

hearing impairments. Generally, the greater one's hearing

impairment, the less one is able to succeed in a regular

school setting and to interact successfully with people who

hear (Liben, 1978; Moores, 1987).

Until quite recently, the education of most severely

and profoundly hearing impaired students entailed segregat-

ing them from other students. Because of the low incidence

of this handicap, public and private residential schools

were called upon to provide education for the majority of

these hearing impaired students. In some larger cities,

special but separate programs and classes were developed so

that hearing impaired students could live at home and

attend school in their own communities (Moores, 1987).

Both residential and special programs imposed segregation

on students; the difference was only a matter of degree.

Public Law 94-142 provides that handicapped students

must be educated in the least restrictive environment, and

further specifies that this entails educating handicapped

students with nonhandicapped students in regular classrooms

whenever possible. This has produced substantial effects

on the education of hearing impaired students: Now a

majority of these students attend local public schools


(Moores, 1987). Some of these hearing impaired students

are partially integrated; that is, they receive instruction

in both special and regular classes. Generally, a certi-

fied teacher of the hearing impaired maintains a class

composed of hearing impaired students only. This teacher

provides instruction in academic subjects and assists in

preparing Individual Education Programs and in coordinating

the mainstreaming of hearing impaired students into regular

classes. The students who are mainstreamed may be accompa-

nied by an oral or sign interpreter when they attend regu-

lar classes, or they may utilize amplification devices,

lipreading, and speech skills to communicate with hearing

teachers and students. All these options impose unnatural

constraints on communication between hearing impaired

students and their teachers and hearing peers (Libbey &

Pronovost, 1980; Raimondo & Maxwell, 1987).

Because of the recency of the development of the

middle school and the implementation of PL 94-142, little

research has been conducted on the nature of middle school

education for hearing impaired students. Researchers have

demonstrated the need for additional qualitative studies of

hearing impaired students in public schools (Foster, 1989;

Saur, Layne, Hurley, & Opton, 1986). Moores (1978) and

Weiss (1986) stated that more ethnographic studies of

hearing impaired students in public schools are needed.


Statement of the Problem

The purposes of this study were to describe and

explain the social processes and cultural themes within a

group of hearing impaired early adolescents and to examine

the meaning that a middle school context had for these

students. Although a number of qualitative studies have

been conducted to investigate the social interactions of

hearing impaired early adolescents in mainstream settings,

these were primarily focused on the socialization between

the hearing impaired students and their hearing peers.

Findings from these studies indicated that socialization

between hearing impaired students and their nonhandicapped

peers was limited and superficial. The purpose of this

study was to investigate and explain the social processes

that occurred when hearing impaired students interacted

among themselves.


Because the purposes of this study were to describe

and explain the cultural themes that resulted from student

socialization in a middle school context, an ethnographic

approach was appropriate. Among the ethnographic tradi-

tions, the assumptions and methods of cognitive anthro-

pology were most fitting here. Jacob (1987) described the

assumptions of this tradition as follows:

1. Each bounded human group has a distinct system of

perceiving and organizing its environment.


2. This cultural knowledge is manifest in the seman-

tic relationships within the language of the group.

3. The most efficient means of studying the cultural

knowledge of a group is to study its semantic systems.

Spradley (1979, 1980) provided a comprehensive, sys-

tematic method for gathering data, organizing them into

categories of semantic relationships, and analyzing the

meanings within and across the categories. His Developmen-

tal Research Sequence (Spradley, 1979, 1980) was used in

this study for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting

data. Participant observation, ethnographic interviews,

and unobtrusive measures were utilized. A group of 11

students was observed, and interviews with students, teach-

ers, and other relevant members of the school staff were

conducted. The study spanned an entire school year.

Regular visits that averaged 3 1/2 hours per week were made

to the site.

The essence of validity in qualitative research is

accuracy in collecting and analyzing data (Kirk & Miller,

1986). The researcher addressed this issue by acknowledg-

ing and taking into account his background and biases,

devoting sufficient time to the study, gaining informants'

trust, and triangulating data (searching for confirming and

Idisconfirming evidence in a variety of situations). The

researcher also kept a record of the conditions in which he

collected and analyzed data.


Research Questions

The research methods selected for this study entailed

beginning the research with a general focus that resulted

from a set of initial questions about the phenomena to be

investigated (Jacob, 1987; Lutz & Ramsey, 1974). The ques-

tions that guided the early stages of this study were as

follows: What are the prominent features of socialization

within this group of hearing impaired students? How do

these students perceive the middle school milieu? How do

nonmainstreamed hearing impaired students perceive main-

streaming? How do these students perceive themselves,

given the opportunities for close interaction and compari-

son with hearing peers? In what ways does a middle school

meet, or fail to meet, the needs of early adolescents who

are hearing impaired?

Theoretical Base

Berger and Luckman's (1967) theory of the social con-

struction of reality has been used widely to frame ethno-

graphic research (Magoon, 1977). A central assumption of

this constructivist theory is that members of a social

group collaborate to structure their socialization and to

create and maintain a distinct reality. The nucleus of

this theory is that knowledge of the world is socially

created and maintained through the interaction of external-

ization, objectivation, and internalization.


Subjective knowledge, the individual's private

reality, may be externalized through human activity. As an

example, a preschool teacher may possess knowledge and

values about maintaining an orderly classroom environment.

Acting from this knowledge, she may discard trash only in

the classroom wastebasket. Through this physical activity,

she externalizes her subjective knowledge. Because this

activity occurs among the other events and objects in the

physical world, it takes on the character of objectivity.

Her externalized knowledge is objectivated; that is, it is

accessible (here, through observation) to her students.

There is a tendency for human activity to be repeated; the

habituation of an activity strengthens its objectivation,

and it becomes even more real to others. In the example,

the students observe many instances of the teacher's trash

disposal activity over time, and come to accept it as a

matter of course. This acceptance of the activity as a

routine is internalization. The actor as well as the

observer internalize the pattern, and in turn, it tends to

act upon all members of the group, including the original


This dialectical process is strengthened when the

activity is explained and justified linguistically; in

fact, according to Berger and Luckman (1967), true social-

ization cannot occur without linguistic mediation. In the

example, not only does the teacher dispose of her trash in


the wastebasket, she directs her students to do the same.

She might state that this is the proper way to behave; she

might also give reasons for the behavior. In so doing, the

teacher legitimizes the activity for her students and for


Not only is physical activity externalized, objectiv-

ated, and internalized; so is linguistic activity.

Thoughts externalized in language become objectivated and

internalized. That is, knowledge (recipes for performing

physical actions in certain ways, definitions for relation-

ships, sanctions, norms, taboos, and so on) takes on the

character of fact. It becomes real in that it exerts a

force on the ways in which individuals think and behave.

Socialized activity and knowledge are not generally

subject to rapid and chaotic change. Once patterns are

habituated, they tend to be maintained through legitima-

tion, the process of explaining and justifying them through

language. The construction of roles (specifically defined

subsets of patterned activity), norms (regulatory schemes

of beliefs, values, obligations, and so on), and other

structures assist in maintaining the stability of social


Socialization of individuals occurs at three levels,

primary socialization, secondary socialization, and reso-

cialization. Individuals are born into a previously con-

structed social world. They internalize the objectivated

social reality in which they find themselves as though it

were natural and inevitable. For most individuals, ele-

ments of this primary socialization endure as their basic

structure of reality. Secondary socialization occurs as

individuals move into a different social context (a school,

for example). There they internalize new elements of

objectivated knowledge; they perform new patterns of activ-

ity, assume new roles, act according to new norms, and

learn new legitimations. Secondary socialization is

grounded in primary socialization. Rather than replacing

the primary social world, the new social context is condi-

tional. It is a partial reality limited to a certain

context; it need not be disturbingly alien to the indivi-

dual's primary social world. Individuals perceive it as

distinct from their original social world, yet they may

move between the two with relative ease. In contrast to

secondary socialization, resocialization requires a com-

plete alienation of individuals from their original social

world. Individuals' identities are redefined in terms of

the new reality, and their primary socialization is rein-

terpreted so that it is eclipsed by the new social order.

Because primary socialization takes place in the

family, and resocialization occurs only under extreme

circumstances (induction into a restrictive religious order

or into a radical revolutionary group, as examples), the

process of secondary socialization appears to be the most


relevant for explaining what might be found within a group

of students in a school. In order to confirm that second-

ary socialization is taking place, there should be evidence

that a cohesive partial reality has been constructed that

contains normative, affective, and cognitive components.

The six constituents of secondary socialization are

1. Identifiable roles, the conduct in which is gov-

erned by norms, should be established.

2. Individuals should act as significant others,

confirming and maintaining reality for one or more other

individuals in the group.

3. A specialized vocabulary should be evidenced that

assists in interpreting and legitimating conduct.

4. There should be some apparatus for maintaining the

secondary social reality. Here, linguistic legitimations

are obligatory elements; ritual or material symbols may

also be found.

5. Some means of socializing new members is essen-

tial. This may appear as activity subsumed under a dis-

tinct role, or new members may be socialized in less formal

ways by older members.

6. Routines and tacit understandings should be oper-

ating to maintain the reality of everyday life within the

social context.

Berger and Luckman's (1967) constructivist theory is

closely compatible with ethnographic methods (Magoon, 1977)

and fortified this study with an added dimension. In

addition to supplying a theoretical underpinning for ethno-

graphic research, the posited elements of secondary social-

ization provided a means of characterizing the quality of

the informants' socialization. Because it was established

that the informants were maintaining a social reality that

included the six constituents of secondary socialization,

the assertion that they were engaged in a high level of

socialization can be made with confidence.


A number of curriculum theorists, including John

Dewey, John Holt, A. S. Neil, William Pinar, Harold Rugg,

and Joseph Schwab have considered students' experiences and

perspectives to be essential components of curriculum

(Eisner, 1985; Oliva, 1988; Schubert, 1986). Educators who

understand students' perceptions of school are better

prepared to make education more effective. Findings from

this study should be especially helpful to educators of

hearing impaired students in middle schools. Broader and

deeper insights into students' perceptions, their social

interactions, and the meanings they have for school may

benefit educators in other related contexts, as well.

Educational leaders in all levels of school adminis-

tration are aware of PL 94-142, and are generally willing

to support the development of programs to serve hearing


impaired students; however, they are often not familiar

with the educational needs of these students (Brill,

MacNeil, & Newman, 1986). Similarly, regular classroom

teachers have positive attitudes toward mainstreamed hear-

ing impaired students (Behrens, 1979; Green, 1981; Martin,

Bernstein, Daly, & Cody, 1988), yet their knowledge about

hearing disorders is low (Martin et al., 1988). Findings

from the present study may be useful to educational lead-

ers, especially those in middle schools, who seek to

develop or modify programs for hearing impaired students.

Regular classroom teachers, especially those in middle

schools who have hearing impaired students mainstreamed

into their classes, may also benefit from this study.

This study may also prove to be useful for future

educational research. Ethnographic studies provide

descriptions and explanations of human social behavior

(Spradley, 1980); they may reveal information that is

otherwise unavailable (Rist, 1975; Wilson, 1977); and they

are potentially valuable for contributing to educational

theory (Lutz & Ramsey, 1974). All these features are

especially important for research in recently developed

educational contexts. Initial explanations of behavior are

made available, previously undetected phenomena may be

revealed, and directions for future research are indicated.

At the present time, there are few studies of any kind that

are focused specifically on hearing impaired students in

middle schools. In the review of the literature, the

researcher did not find any qualitative studies of hearing

impaired students in this context. This study may contrib-

ute new knowledge about hearing impaired students' social-

ization in and perceptions of a public middle school.

Findings from the study may also assist in identifying

topics for future studies.

Definitions of Terms

1. "Hearing impairment {is) a generic term indicating

a hearing disability which may range in severity from mild

to profound; it includes the subsets of deaf and hard of

hearing." (Brill et al., 1986, p. 67)

2. "A deaf person is one whose hearing disability

precludes successful processing of linguistic information

through audition, with or without a hearing aid." (Brill

et al., 1986, p. 67)

3. "A hard of hearing person is one who, generally

with the use of a hearing aid, has residual hearing suffi-

cient to enable successful processing of linguistic infor-

mation through audition." (Brill et al., 1986, p. 67)

4. Mainstreaming is the integration of handicapped

students into regular academic classrooms and nonacademic

activities, either with or without accompanying special


5. A special classroom is a classroom in which handi-

capped students are segregated from nonhandicapped students

so that they may receive instruction from a special educa-

tion teacher.

6. A cultural theme is "any cognitive principle,

tacit or explicit, recurrent in a number of domains and

serving as a relationship among subsystems of cultural

meaning." (Spradley, 1980, p. 186)

7. Externalization is the expression of subjective

knowledge through human activity.

8. Objectivation is the manifestation of human activ-

ity as an element of the objective reality perceived by

individuals in a group.

9. Internalization is the acceptance of patterned

behavior as a social fact by members of a group.

Organization of the Dissertation

The following chapters contain a discussion of the

review of the literature, the methodology, the findings,

and the conclusions and implications. In Chapter II, the

review of the research literature in early adolescence,

middle school theory and practice, and the mainstreaming of

hearing impaired early adolescents is discussed. A discus-

sion of the research methods and related issues appears in

Chapter III. Chapter IV contains a discussion of the

findings that resulted from the study. Conclusions and

implications are discussed in Chapter V.


The purpose of this review of the literature is to

establish a background of research and theory to support

the present study. A considerable amount of research has

been conducted on the nature and needs of early adolescents

in the areas of cognitive, physical, psychological, and

social development. This work establishes that early

adolescence is indeed a period of developmental complexity.

The evolution of the middle school has been accompanied by

a body of literature that demonstrates how educational

practice can be designed and implemented to meet the vari-

ety and complexity of early adolescents' needs. In the

area of the education of hearing impaired students, two

branches of research apply to the present study. First is

the treatment of the special needs of hearing impaired

early adolescents in the areas of cognition, physical

development, self concept, and socialization. Second, the

implementation of PL 94-142 has engendered a body of

research on the effects of mainstreaming, partial main-

streaming, and related issues that arise when hearing

impaired students are placed in the regular education

context. Surprisingly few studies have addressed specifi-

cally and directly the placement of hearing impaired



students in public middle schools. Finally, a number of

qualitative studies have been conducted that apply Berger

and Luckman's (1967) theory of the social construction of

reality to educational contexts. Although none of these

studies are substantively related to the present study,

they do indicate that the theory is promising as a means of

explaining the social phenomena that may be found in a

group of hearing impaired students in a middle school.

The Nature and Needs of Early Adolescents

Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget's fixed-stage theory of cognitive develop-

ment has been applied to a number of studies that included

early adolescents. A pair of British studies (Shayer,

Kuchemann, & Wylam, 1976; Shayer & Wylam, 1978) indicated

that children in early adolescence experienced rapid devel-

opment of concrete thinking, but that only 20 percent of

them evidenced development of formal operational thinking.

In the first of the studies (Shayer, et al., 1976), cogni-

tive processes of nearly 10,000 subjects aged 9 to 14 years

were assessed in three types of group tests. The first

measured pre-conceptual through late concrete operational

thinking, the second measured early concrete through early

formal thinking, and the third measured late concrete

through late formal thinking. Virtually all subjects com-

pleted the first set of tests successfully, and a steady

increase over age was observed for the second set (c. 35%


of the 9-year-olds to c. 80% of the 14-year-olds). A

gradual increase was observed across ages on the third set

of tasks, but by age 14, only 20% of the subjects were suc-

cessful. In the second study (Shayer & Wylam, 1978), the

age range was increased to 16 years. Results of this study

indicated that up to age 14 there was no difference in

girls' and boys' development of operational thinking;

girls' performance did not increase beyond age 14, but boys

continued developing for another year. The authors attrib-

uted this difference to boys' more frequent prior experi-

ences in tasks involving spatial relationships.

Basing her study on a number of investigations that

indicated that the final stages of formal operational

thinking may not emerge until late adolescence or early

adulthood, Martorano (1977) examined the cognitive perfor-

mance of 80 females in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12. The sub-

jects were tested individually on Inhelder's 10 formal

operations tasks. Results indicated that performance

improved steadily with age, and that the greatest differ-

ences occurred between 8th and 10th grades. However,

although formal operational thinking began to appear during

this age period, it was not the characteristic mode of

thought. Even a majority of the oldest subjects did not

exhibit formal operational thinking consistently.


Stone and Day (1978) found evidence of latent formal

operational thinking in a study of 9-, 11-, and 13-year-old

subjects. These researchers hypothesized that formal

operational abilities, rather than being either present or

absent, might also be evidenced in a third (latent) cate-

gory that could be revealed under certain test conditions.

Control groups and experimental groups at each age level

were randomly formed from a sample of 28 subjects. All

groups were tested twice using the bent-rod task; between

the two administrations, students in the experimental group

received a brief statement of rules for successfully com-

pleting the task. Performance of the nine-year-olds showed

little improvement on the second test; performance of the

older children in both the experimental and the control

groups improved significantly. The researchers concluded

that (a) any procedure, either rule or task repetition,

that clarified the task for the subject may have improved

performance; (b) because only the older subjects showed

improvement, they were judged as possessing cognitive

abilities that were unavailable to the younger subjects;

and (c) the appearance of the latent formal operational

competency in the second test indicated that formal opera-

tional thinking is more common than earlier believed.

Adelson (1983) conducted two group interview studies

of a total of 750 subjects aged 11 to 18 years. A simple

scenario was presented, and the subjects were asked


questions on the topics of community, law, principles,

psychology, and social order. Generally, younger students

(11 to 13 years old) possessed an adequate body of knowl-

edge, but were unable to organize their information effec-

tively. They tended to personalize the discussion topics;

they showed little evidence of extrapolating, categorizing,

or considering a range of alternatives; and they tended to

make contradictory statements. Older students (15 to 18

years old) were better able to apply principles in state-

ments of moral, political, and social judgments; they were

able to perceive a variety of alternatives; they were not

limited to direct or immediate considerations; and they

indicated a comprehension of the functions and relation-

ships of institutions.

Parallel to the findings of research using Piaget's

model is Epstein's research in brain growth periodization

(Epstein & Toepfer, 1978). According to Epstein's find-

ings, the human brain increases in weight from 350 grams at

birth to approximately 1,400 grams at maturity, around 17

years of age. Over the course of this development, there

are five discrete periods of accelerated growth at the

approximate ages of 3 to 10 months, 2 to 4 years, 6 to 8

years, 10 to 12 years, and 14 to 16 years. Toward the

beginning of early adolescence, a period of accelerated

brain growth and the corresponding advances in cognitive

ability occur. For the remainder of early adolescence,


brain growth is markedly slower; there is a corresponding

reduction in the rate of development of cognitive ability.

During this period of slow growth, it may be difficult for

early adolescents to develop new cognitive processes.

As a group, these studies indicate that early adoles-

cents are cognitively more advanced than older children;

that concrete operational thinking is the predominant

cognitive mode of early adolescents; and that some formal

operational thinking begins to appear, at least for some

early adolescents. These findings have important implica-

tions for middle school practice. They also suggest that

early adolescents may be suitable candidates for inter-

views, but that care should be taken in selecting and

pursuing questions and in interpreting responses.

Physical Development

Interest in the impact of physical development and

variations in maturational timing has grown in recent

years, and results are still inconsistent across the

increasing number of studies (Brooks-Gunn, Petersen, &

Eichorn, 1985). A study of the effects of delayed puberty

and growth retardation in adolescents revealed that only

growth retardation had a significant effect on self-esteem

(Apter, Galatzer, Beth-Halachmi, & Laron, 1981). Results

of this study indicated that retarded growth had a signifi-

cant negative effect on self-image, but that delayed


puberty did not. Petersen and Crockett (1985) examined the

effects of maturational timing and grade level on the

adjustment of early adolescents. Biological timing was

associated with three factors: Late maturers exhibited

greater impulse control than early or on-time maturers,

early maturers had significantly higher literature grades,

and early maturers evidenced more psychopathology. As

students progressed from the sixth through the eighth

grades, their academic achievement in four subject areas

declined, as did their perceptions of family relations and

body image. Their emotional tone and perceptions of peer

relations improved during those three years. Steinberg's

(1987) study of the effects of pubertal timing on family

relationships indicated that as physical maturity

increased, perceived closeness with parents decreased; that

conflict at puberty was more frequent between adolescents

and their mothers than between adolescents and their

fathers; and that autonomy for the adolescent increased

with physical maturation.

Brooks-Gunn et al. (1985) stated that four age-related

factors were relevant in studies of early adolescents:

chronological age, biological age, cognitive age, and grade

in school. In addition, a number of other factors exerted

varying amounts of influence. These included differences

between the individual's perception of maturational timing

and the actual timing, social context (as an example, being


off-time in groups in which off-time development was common

as opposed to groups in which it was rare), social class,

family structure, and religion. Certain timing effects

were found to be important. Girls who matured early and

boys who matured late were found to be at greater risk of

experiencing adjustment problems than other children.

Early maturation could be disruptive in the developmental

tasks of middle childhood.

Sandusky (1983) discussed several less obvious but

important factors associated with physical development.

During early adolescence, the cartilaginous bones begin the

rather lengthy process of ossification. Generally, this

process begins around the age of 11 years for girls and 12

1/2 years for boys; it is complete around 14 years of age

for girls and 17 for boys. During this transition from

cartilage to bony matrix, the new bony structures are thin

and less stress-resistant to sheering, tensile, and com-

pression forces. Youngsters during this period are partic-

ularly susceptible to athletic injuries and certain overuse

injuries associated with overtraining or improper training.

Sandusky also pointed out that between the ages of 10 and

16 years, individual differences in structure can vary by

as much as 60 months in children of the same chronological

age; similarly, differences in height can be as great as 15

inches, and in weight, as much as 90 pounds. When children

in the same chronological age compete in sports, substan-

tial physical mismatching can occur.

Aside from issues of physical development, physical

competence may be important in gaining social status (Evans

& Roberts, 1987). Basing their discussion on a number of

interviews with physically competent and physically inept

students and on results of a number of studies of child-

ren's physical performance, these researchers concluded

that athletic ability contributed substantially to child-

ren's achieving status among their peers, especially for

boys. Not only was the mere perception of ability impor-

tant; high-ability youngsters were more likely to assume

leadership roles in sports and games, and these roles

provided opportunities for developing and strengthening

friendships. The authors acknowledged that within the

context of sports and games, social competence is also an

important element for acquiring social status. They sug-

gested that traditional physical education programs do not

adequately address the social and physical needs of chil-

dren who exhibit low levels of physical performance.

The characterizations of the variables associated with

physical maturation support the frequent assertions in the

literature that early adolescents undergo physical develop-

ment at widely differing times and rates. In turn, the

physical changes, the differences in developmental rate,

and the differences in physical competence exert a variety

of influences on early adolescents' self-esteem and social

relationships. These phenomena are addressed by several

middle school practices. Also, knowledge of the implica-

tions of variations in physical development might prove

useful to the researcher who is investigating social rela-

tionships in any group of early adolescents.

Psychological Development

One important aspect of early adolescent development

is the refining of a notion of self and of self as per-

ceived by others. Herzberger, Dix, Erlebacher, and Gins-

burg (1981) investigated differences in the nature of self-

and social self-concepts from early to late adolescence.

These researchers administered a social self-concept ques-

tionnaire to a sample of 180 6th through 12th graders and a

self-concept questionnaire to a second sample of 155 stu-

dents in the same grades. The findings indicated that

differences across age were quantitative but not qualita-

tive. Early adolescents described themselves and their

perceptions of others' impressions of them in sophisticated

terms. Their self-concepts tended to be more descriptive

and to show more depth than their social self-concepts, and

their parental social self-concepts were more descriptive

than their peer social self-concepts. In general, early

adolescents recognized that others hold diverse opinions,

and they were able to set aside their own viewpoints and

take on the perspective of others. They were able to


describe their self- and social self-concepts in terms of

stable psychological characteristics rather than superfi-

cial qualities and behaviors. Also, although peers become

increasingly more influential during early adolescence,

these students indicated that their parents had more var-

ied, extensive, and intensive knowledge of them than did

their peers.

In a more recent study, Hart (1988) investigated the

characteristics that older children and adolescents

believed to be the most important constituents of a sense

of self. The researcher conducted individual in-depth

interviews with a total of 64 students in grades 5, 6, 9,

and 11 in a middle-class suburban school. Each subject was

presented with a hypothetical dilemma in which his or her

self was fictionally divided into two new persons, each

with a distinct set of characteristics. The subject was

asked to select the "new person" that better preserved the

subject's identity, and then to give reasons for the

choice. The dilemma was repeated twice; in each successive

version, the selected set of characteristics of the preced-

ing dilemma was paired with a new set. The four character-

istics considered were physical appearance, capabilities

and activities, location in a social network, and psycho-

logical qualities. A chi-square analysis revealed signifi-

cant differences across the age groups. More older chil-

dren (61%) and younger adolescents (71%) believed that


social relations best preserved identity; more 9th graders

(66%) and llth graders (76%) chose psychological character-

istics as being essential to identity. Results of this

study support frequent assertions in the literature that

social relationships are extremely important for early


Shirk (1987) investigated the relationship between

self-doubt and the development of role-taking ability in

older children and early adolescents. The sample included

75 subjects in grades 5, 8, and 11; all subjects were

enrolled in the same parochial school. Self-doubt was mea-

sured by means of a Likert-type questionnaire; a standard-

ized interview technique was used to assess role-taking

ability. Because results on both measures were subject to

contamination by social desirability of responses, a social

desirability questionnaire was also included. Results

indicated that role-taking ability increased and self-doubt

decreased with age; social desirability was not influen-

tial. The researcher concluded that both role-taking

ability and level of self-doubt were associated with age,

but that role-taking ability was not necessary for the

decline in self-doubt. The generalizability of this study

is limited due to the nature and size of the sample; none-

theless, findings are consistent with other studies of

role-taking and self-doubt.


Protinsky (1988) examined characteristics of adoles-

cents' self-concept by comparing the level of ego identity

achieved by problem and nonproblem adolescents. Rasmus-

sen's Ego Identity Scale, a 72-item questionnaire based on

Erikson's theory of human development, was administered to

18 problem adolescents aged 15 to 18 years and 19 nonprob-

lem adolescents aged 14 to 17 years. Nonproblem adoles-

cents exhibited significantly higher degrees of general ego

identity, trust, initiative, and identity than the problem

adolescents. Protinsky contended that identity achievement

in this sample was more closely associated with trust,

initiative, and identity than with autonomy and industry.

Comparison of scores and subject demographics indicated

that students who had a higher degree of identity tended to

come from two-parent homes. Although the results of this

study should be generalized only with caution, the findings

indicate that Erikson's theory is useful in characterizing


Manning (1988) applied Erikson's work in a theoretical

consideration of early adolescent development. Early ado-

lescents function in two Eriksonian stages, Industry vs.

Inferiority (6 or 7 years to 11 or 12 years) and Identity

vs. Role Confusion (11 or 12 to 18 years). Resolution of

the Industry vs. Inferiority crisis requires positive self-

perception of competence in academic, physical, and social

tasks. The perceptions of peers, as well as parents and


other adults, are important as measures of success or fail-

ure during this stage. Early adolescents entering the

stage of Identity vs. Role Confusion begin to acquire an

idealistic outlook and to question issues and personal

accomplishments that they previously accepted or ignored.

In beginning to develop a new sense of self, the early

adolescent contrasts the self that he or she perceives, the

self others perceive, and a notion of an ideal self. The

adoption of idols, heroes, and cliques is common early in

this stage. The author grounded these characterizations of

early adolescents in other theoretical works and in obser-

vations made by educators.

Newman and Newman (1988) also applied Erikson's notion

of identity in a theoretical description of early adoles-

cents' role experimentation. Children have been socialized

into the relatively narrow range of roles, values, and

lifestyles of their immediate families. As they enter the

period of early adolescence, they become aware of a wider

variety of roles, values, and lifestyles that they are now

able to explore symbolically. Not only might early adoles-

cents begin to question parental values, they also focus

their energies on contemporary issues that can change

rapidly. This feature of role exploration operates at

cross purposes with adults' exhortations for responsibility

and commitment.


In order to explore societal influences on the devel-

opment of self-concept of early adolescents, Urbansok-Eads

(1981) utilized questionnaires and sociograms with a sample

of 200 eighth graders ranging in age from 12 to 16 years.

Two groups of students, one from mid- to upper-middle class

backgrounds and the other from lower class backgrounds,

were studied separately; results from the two groups were

then compared. Prominent findings common to both groups

included concerns with popularity and preferred activities.

Factors associated with popularity included social compe-

tence, dependability, and personal hygiene. Bases for

rejection included sloppiness, deviations from norms for

acceptable behavior, and lack of social competence. Ath-

letic activities were preferred over all others. Both

groups ranked parents first and peers a close second as the

most influential persons in all aspects of their lives.

Taken together, these studies suggest that self-aware-

ness and self-confidence increase during early adolescence;

that developing social skills play an important part in

defining the self; and that socialization within family and

peer groups makes substantial contributions toward the

acquisition of the notion of self. Such findings as these

have informed middle school practice; they also raise

potentially useful issues for the researcher who intends to

study early adolescents as individuals and as participants

in social groups.

Social Development

In a discussion of the development of social skills,

Newman (1976) emphasized the importance of linguistic

ability. According to this author, as children acquire

language, they use it instrumentally to regulate events in

the environment. As they engage in social interactions,

children's egocentricity begins to diminish: They learn

about others' points of view in their social exchanges.

Older children and early adolescents acquire knowledge of

social norms and realize the importance of bringing their

behavior in line with that of others. These individuals

also learn the importance of and acquire skills for making

compromises in interactions with others. With these

enhanced skills, they are better able to solve problems

without conflict and to engage in a wider range of


In a comprehensive treatment of the nature of early

adolescent friendships, Berndt (1982) noted that these

relationships are of critical importance for personal and

social development. Three general explanations have been

advanced to account for the significance of friendships at

this age: (a) friendships may be formed and maintained in

order to comprehend and cope with the biological changes of

puberty; (b) as early adolescents begin to acquire indepen-

dence from their parents, they form egalitarian relation-

ships with peers; and (c) the advances in cognitive ability


at this age allows early adolescents to take the role of

others, understanding their feelings and the importance of

reciprocity in friendships.

Berndt (1982) also asserted that intimacy between

friends is deeper and more important in early adolescence

than in childhood. Early adolescents frequently state the

importance of sharing intimate feelings and thoughts with

friends, they value friends' advice and support, and they

gain a considerable amount of intimate information about

their friends. Intimacy may be important for developing

self-esteem and social skills, and for reducing early ado-

lescents' anxieties about the physical and emotional

changes they experience.

Berndt (1982) pointed out that mutuality in friend-

ships appears to remain stable from childhood through early

adolescence except in explicitly competitive situations.

Early adolescents may value equality more than younger

children, and view intense competition as potentially

disruptive to friendships.

Early adolescents tend to select friends and maintain

friendships on the bases of certain types of similarity

(Berndt, 1982). Friends are likely to have similar orien-

tations toward school, and they tend to adopt similar

elements of contemporary teen culture and conform to simi-

lar behavioral norms. Occasionally, friendships form on


the basis of a specific interest that partners have in


A comparison of interactions between boys revealed

that a number of distinct verbal and nonverbal behaviors

were more common between friends than between acquaintances

(Newcomb & Brady, 1982). In this study, 60 second-grade

and 60 sixth-grade boys were randomly selected and divided

into mutual friendship pairs and acquaintance pairs. Each

pair was presented with a series of puzzle tasks that

allowed independent manipulation, or required cooperation

or competition. Significant findings were that friends

talked more than acquaintances, discussed more task-related

information, attended more closely to partners' discourse,

issued and complied with more mutually oriented commands,

and exchanged more nonverbal affective expressions. Few

differences between the measures of second-grade and sixth-

grade friendships were found, indicating that these types

of interactions are acquired early and remain fairly stable

over time.

General characteristics of early adolescent and ado-

lescent friendships were examined in a recent study (Ted-

esco & Gaier, 1988). A total of 204 public and parochial

school students in 7th, 9th, and 12th grades responded to a

10-item open-ended questionnaire. Their responses were

classified into three categories of friendship factors,

interpersonal (character traits, intimacy, social conduct),


achievement (academics, athletics, social planning), and

physical appearance. Interpersonal friendship factors

dominated the responses of all students; and across grade

levels, the interpersonal dimension grew steadily in impor-

tance whereas the achievement and appearance factors

declined. These results are consistent with Berndt's

(1982) conclusion about the importance intimacy has in the

friendships of early adolescents.

These studies indicate that although several elements

of friendship appear in childhood and remain stable over

time, other friendship factors become stronger and more

important during early adolescence. Although close friend-

ships seem to be especially meaningful to early adoles-

cents, social interactions of a less intimate nature are

also important. A number of strategies have been put into

practice in middle schools in order to promote socializa-

tion among early adolescent students. The awareness of

these elements of interpersonal development among early

adolescents is essential to any researcher who intends to

examine the social relationships of middle school students.

Awareness of the relationship between language and the

development of social skills is also particularly relevant

for the researcher who plans to study hearing impaired

early adolescents.


Addressing the Needs of Early Adolescents
in the Middle School

The central principle in middle school philosophy has

been to develop schools that are responsive to the diverse

and urgent needs of early adolescents (Alexander & George,

1981; Lipsitz, 1984). The biological changes that occur

during this period of life are greater than at any time

other than infancy (Lipsitz, 1984). Cognitive changes

allow early adolescents to examine with greater intellec-

tual power the changes in their physical growth and puber-

tal development (Lipsitz, 1984); the early adolescent can

contemplate his or her identity in the dimensions of the

actual self, the self as perceived by others, and the ideal

self (Manning, 1988); and as a fuller notion of self as

participant in social groups emerges, early adolescents

begin to evaluate and reevaluate beliefs, values, and

lifestyles of parents and peers (Newman & Newman, 1988).

Over the course of approximately 2 1/2 decades, middle

school leaders have applied numerous educational theories

and alternative instructional models toward the end of

accommodating schooling to the needs of early adolescents.

Some of the innovative practices have flourished, others

have withered, and some traditional practices persist

despite research findings that indicate that they are ques-

tionable or unsound for use with middle school students

(Arnold, 1982; Aromi, Roberts, & Morrow, 1986; George,



Among the purposes of the present study were to deter-

mine which middle school practices were salient for a group

of hearing impaired early adolescents and to explore the

meanings that those practices held for the students. To

this end, knowledge of common middle school practices was

essential to assist the researcher in framing observations

and in selecting and pursuing certain questions for


Meeting Cognitive Needs

Middle school educators have turned a considerable

amount of attention to the nature of cognitive development

during early adolescence. Research in cognitive develop-

ment indicates that (a) early adolescents advance steadily

through certain substages of concrete operational thought,

(b) this development varies in timing and rate across the

population, and (c) comparatively few early adolescents

experience development of formal operational thinking (Mar-

torano, 1977; Shayer et al., 1976). A variety of responses

to this research have been suggested in recent years.

Early adolescents operating at concrete cognitive levels

might profit from discovery learning, creative problem

solving, and interaction with students at higher levels of

cognitive development (Steer, 1980). Brazee (1983) stated

that traditional instructional procedures and many of the

textbooks and other educational materials used with early

adolescents require formal operational thinking. Arnold


(1985) pointed out that less than one percent of all com-

mercial educational materials have been systematically

field tested and revised. Both these authors suggested

that teachers modify instruction so that new information is

presented in a concrete manner and then explored in a

variety of ways accessible to concrete thinkers. Hester

and Hester (1983) called for the use of a variety of holis-

tic and experiential activities that allowed students to

operate at concrete levels of thought. Strahan and Toepfer

(1984) proposed that guided instruction procedures, in

which learning progresses from the concrete to the

abstract, would be appropriately responsive to early ado-

lescents' needs. These authors also cautioned that under-

challenging students might well be as detrimental as over-

challenging them. Strahan (1985) argued that optimum

learning might be achieved by assessing students' readiness

for learning at different cognitive levels and then match-

ing instruction to the ability levels identified for


The quality and quantity of these recommendations that

have been put into practice varies across middle schools

(Aromi et al., 1986). A number of common middle school

practices have been found conducive to meeting early ado-

lescents' cognitive needs. Exploratory programs provide a

wide range of activities that can appeal to the variable

interests of middle school students; students also have


opportunities to apply basic skills in a variety of set-

tings, and to develop the ability to interrelate the knowl-

edge they have acquired (Schneider, 1986). Community

involvement activities also appeal to a wide range of

interests and allow students to apply and generalize their

academic skills; in addition, students gain important

social and pre-vocational skills (Alexander & George, 1981;

Arnold, 1985). Advisor-advisee programs and interdisci-

plinary units provide opportunities for students to develop

and apply a variety of problem-solving skills (Alexander &

George, 1981). All of these practices also allow different

students to work at different cognitive levels, and they

provide opportunities for teachers to assess cognitive

performance informally.

Meeting Physical Needs

Middle school educators have sought to address the

issues of physical growth and development of early

adolescents in a number of ways. Changing the organization

of grade levels is a common practice. Because the onset of

puberty occurs at earlier ages now than previously, most

middle schools include sixth grade, and a number include

fifth grade, in order to achieve more common and appropri-

ate school populations (Lipsitz, 1984; Toepfer, Lounsbury,

Arth, & Johnson, 1986). Some middle schools have extended

this practice to include internal organization, grouping

students according to developmental levels (prepubescent,


pubescent, and adolescent) rather than according to chrono-

logical age (Alexander & George, 1981).

A much more controversial issue in middle school prac-

tice concerns the nature of planned physical activities.

Although research in physical and psychological development

cautions against certain types of strenuous athletic compe-

tition for early adolescents (Redfearn, 1981; Sandusky,

1983), interscholastic competition is still common in

middle schools. Intramural athletics (Romano & Timmers,

1978) and modified physical education curricula (Pangrazi,

Darst, Fedorchek, & Coyle, 1982) have been adopted as

alternatives by a number of middle schools. Such alterna-

tives allow virtually all students to participate in physi-

cal activities designed to develop fitness, skills, and

cooperation; and students are able to develop physical

skills at their own rates.

Meeting Psychological Needs

The establishment of one's identity is critical in

human development, and the early adolescent is placed in a

unique set of circumstances that may have important impli-

cations for the development of self-concept. A number of

middle school practices foster the development of students'

self-esteem. Exploratory programs allow early adolescents

to explore and develop their individual interests and

abilities, and to acquire a more accurate and positive

self-image (Bloomer, 1986; Gatewood, 1975; Schneider,


1986). Intramurals and physical education programs that

offer a wide variety of physical activities allow all

students to participate at their individual ability levels

(Gatewood, 1975); the ensuing increase in physical compe-

tence contributes to the development of a more positive

self-image (Evans & Roberts, 1987; Gatewood, 1975). Sev-

eral of the grouping procedures used in middle schools

foster the growth of positive self-image. The interdisci-

plinary team organization provides students with a familiar

social context of a size conducive to the development of

personal identity, and advisor-advisee groups and multi-age

grouping further enhance the positive effects of familiar-

ity and consistency (Alexander & George, 1981; Beane &

Lipka, 1979).

Meeting Social Needs

Middle schools make a variety of provisions for pro-

moting the development of social skills among early adoles-

cents. The grouping of students who are undergoing similar

developmental changes provides them with a relatively calm

and secure context in which to achieve social development

(Toepfer et al,. 1986). Even greater benefits to social-

ization accrue when such small-group practices as interdis-

ciplinary teaming and advisor-advisee programs are used

effectively (Doda, George, & McEwin, 1987; George, 1980,

1982). These practices allow students to interact consis-

tently with a familiar group of peers and adults. Over


time, students develop a sense of cohesiveness and personal

identity within such groups.

Certain small-group learning strategies have been

shown to promote the development of an array of specific

social skills. Group learning projects promote social

interaction and cooperation (Drinkard, 1986) and greater

concern for the accomplishments of others (Hollifield,

1984). These practices also allow students of different

ability levels to work together comfortably (Padak, 1988)

and assist in developing student role-taking abilities

(Nickolai-Mays & Goetsch, 1986). Peer tutoring and cooper-

ative learning increase participants' positive attitudes

toward school and toward members of other ethnic groups

(Sharan, 1980). These two strategies also foster the

growth of trust and acceptance (Leming, 1985).

Clasen and Brown (1987) investigated five aspects of

peer pressure as perceived by middle school students:

interaction with peers, involvement in school, involvement

with family, conformity to crowd norms, and misconduct.

The findings of particular interest are that (a) all sub-

jects perceived pressure in each of the five areas; (b)

peer pressure was directed toward both socially acceptable

and socially unacceptable behaviors; (c) pressure differed

in strength across grade levels and groups; and (d) groups

alienated from school perceived less pro-social pressure

and more pressure toward misconduct, whereas groups more

closely associated with school perceived more pressure for

school and family involvement. The researchers made sev-

eral recommendations for middle school practitioners.

Understanding the diversity of groups and their norms could

assist educators in planning a variety of school activities

that appeal to a broader range of students. Knowledge of

pressures perceived by alienated groups could be used to

counter the tendencies of those students to drop out of

school. Also, knowledge of the nature and dynamics of peer

pressure could be beneficial in counseling students in

managing peer pressure effectively and in directing pres-

sure toward constructive ends.

Clark and Clark (1987) examined three broad studies of

schools, Goodlad's A Place Called School (1984), the NASSP

National Study of Schools in the Middle (1983), and Lip-

sitz's Successful Schools for Young Adolescents (1984), and

derived from them a list of recommendations for middle

school practice. The authors asserted that along with

academics, diversity and responsiveness are equally impor-

tant elements of middle school education. Among their

recommendations for middle school educators were (a) criti-

cal examination of recommendations for eliminating every-

thing but basic academics; (b) careful study of research in

early adolescent characteristics, especially in the areas

of transition, self-esteem, cognition, and social, emo-

tional, and physical development; (c) dissemination of


information about successful middle school practice; (d)

long-range planning that includes responsiveness to the

needs of early adolescents; and (e) continued education of

parents and teachers in the nature and needs of early


Preparing teachers to work with early adolescents is

another means of meeting students' developmental needs.

Preservice and inservice instruction in the nature and

needs of early adolescents has received varying amounts of

attention (Fielder, 1978; Georgiady & Romano, 1981). There

are indications that adequately informed teachers are

necessary for many middle school practices to be optimally

successful (George, 1983).

Characteristics of Hearing Impaired Early Adolescents

Cognitive Development

The cognitive performance of hearing impaired individ-

uals has been studied for decades. Early in this century,

the entire population was characterized as possessing infe-

rior intelligence; toward the middle of this century, the

hearing impaired were believed to be limited to concrete

levels of cognitive functioning; and current studies indi-

cate that the intellectual functioning of hearing impaired

persons corresponds to the normal range of intelligence in

the hearing population (Moores, 1987). The disparity

across these trends has been attributed to changes in

conditions of test administration, primarily in


communicating directions effectively to subjects, and in

focusing the test content on nonverbal tasks in order to

rule out contamination from delayed acquisition of English

(Moores, 1987). Despite the current optimistic perception

of the cognitive abilities of hearing impaired children,

the academic achievement of the population is substantially

lower than that of hearing children (Moores, 1987; Trybus &

Karchmer, 1977).

A study comparing the performance of deaf and hearing

adolescents on three Piagetian formal operational tasks

indicated that deaf subjects who began acquiring sign lan-

guage during infancy performed as well as their hearing

counterparts (Twilling, 1984). All hearing subjects had

normally hearing parents. Half of the deaf subjects had

hearing parents, and received little exposure to any form

of manual communication before entering school. As a

group, these students performed at lower levels than hear-

ing subjects. Within this group of hearing impaired stu-

dents, those who had superior linguistic skills performed

better on the Piagetian tasks than did the subjects who

functioned at lower linguistic levels. The other half of

the hearing impaired subjects had deaf parents. These

subjects were exposed to American Sign Language from

infancy; their performance was comparable to that of the

hearing subjects. However, relationships between the

hearing impaired subjects' performance on the Piagetian


tasks and their performance on math and reading tests

indicated that they were seriously underachieving in


A study of 352 Israeli children indicated that deaf

children were capable of operating at levels of abstraction

similar to those of hearing children, but that their acqui-

sition of abstract cognitive styles was delayed (Zwiebel &

Mertens, 1985). Subjects in the study included 251 deaf

children aged 6 to 15 years, and 101 hearing children aged

10 to 12 years. All children were given the Snijers-Oomen

Nonverbal Intelligence Test, which employs manipulable

objects and pictures to measure motor-perceptual, memory,

concrete, and abstract thinking skills. Comparisons of the

performance of the 10- to 12-year-old deaf and hearing

subjects indicated that the deaf subjects' abstract think-

ing component was weak or absent, but hearing subjects

exhibited the use of abstract thinking. An abstract think-

ing component similar to that of the hearing subjects was

evidenced by the older (13- to 15-year-old) deaf subjects.

The authors' interpretation of these results was that no

differences existed in the pattern of cognitive development

of deaf and hearing children, but that their rates of

development did differ. The researchers suggested two

possible explanations for this difference. Either the

advanced oral training skills (the only communication

system used with the hearing impaired in Israel) of the


older students contributed to their acquisition of abstract

cognitive skills, or parental restrictions of deaf child-

ren's social and physical experiences caused experiential

deficits that contributed to the lag.

Braden (1985) performed post-hoc statistical analyses

on scores of normative samples on a number of intelligence

tests in order to compare the intellectual functioning of

deaf and hearing subjects. Collectively, these tests were

administered to a total of 5,292 subjects ranging in age

from 6 1/2 to 17 years. Data from both the hearing and

deaf normative samples' performance on the WISC, the

WISC-R, and the HNTLA were analyzed by means of principal

factor analysis. The similarity of first principal factors

extracted from the deaf and hearing samples indicated that

nonverbal intellectual functioning was virtually identical

for deaf and hearing subjects.

Results of a comprehensive series of measures, includ-

ing audiological, intelligence, academic achievement, and

personality testing, suggested that any degree of hearing

loss places children at risk for language and learning

problems (Davis, Elfenbein, Schum, & Bentler, 1986). Sub-

jects for this study were 40 hard of hearing students aged

5 to 18 years. Subjects' performance IQ ranged from 85 to

125; hearing losses for 38 subjects ranged from 15 to 73

dB. Analysis of results showed strong correlations between

hearing loss and verbal measures and between academic


achievement and verbal measures. The sample was small, and

the researchers acknowledged that the generalizability of

the results might be limited. However, their conclusions

are consistent with other current findings.

Taken together, these studies indicate that (a) the

population of hearing impaired children is heterogeneous,

and the effects of hearing loss vary from child to child;

(b) the educational deficits experienced by the average

hearing impaired child are related to delayed development

of verbal skills; and (c) children with any degree of

hearing loss appear to be at risk for delayed language

development and academic achievement. Only one study (Loeb

& Sarigiani, 1986, discussed below, pp. 50-51) allowed

researchers to detect whether hearing impaired students

recognized any of these differences in communicative skills

and academic performance. There is a need for more studies

of this type, and for studies that explore how any

acknowledged differences have meaning for hearing impaired


Physical Development

Among nonhandicapped children, physical competence is

among the factors that influence peer relations, especially

among boys (Evans & Roberts, 1987). It is a reasonable

assumption that if differences in physical performance are

detected among hearing impaired children, they could be

included in the constellation of factors that influence the

general level of social acceptablilty of these children by

their hearing peers. A number of studies of the physical

abilities of hearing impaired children have been conducted.

These studies report a variety of results.

Lindsey and O'Neal (1976) compared the dynamic and

static balance skills of 31 deaf children and 77 hearing

children 8 years of age; the deaf children failed signifi-

cantly more tests of both types of skills. In a study of

motor proficiency of 154 deaf children aged 7 to 14 years,

deaf children's performance on motor skills requiring bal-

ance were generally lower than that of hearing children

(Brunt & Broadhead, 1982). The magnitude of those differ-

ences was substantially less for older deaf children, how-

ever. Similar improvements in performance of older deaf

children were found in two studies of 132 deaf children

aged 3 to 14 years (Butterfield, 1986; Butterfield &

Ersing, 1986). In contrast to these studies, no signifi-

cant differences in motor proficiency of hearing impaired

and hearing children were found by Schmidt (1982), and few

significant differences were found in a comprehensive test

of physical fitness administered to 1,045 hearing impaired

and 686 hearing subjects aged 10 to 17 years (Winnick &

Short, 1986).

Two studies indicated that hearing impaired children

exhibited superior performance in fine-motor skills, as

measured in drawing tasks (Brunt & Broadhead, 1982; Cratty,

Cratty, & Cornell, 1986). Cratty et al. (1986) found that

this difference diminished with age, whereas Brunt and

Broadhead (1982) found that the superior performance of

their hearing impaired subjects was greater for early

adolescents than for younger children.

Collectively, these studies suggest that (a) by the

time hearing impaired children reach early adolescence,

their gross-motor physical competence may not differ sig-

nificantly from that of hearing children; (b) if differ-

ences do exist, they are likely to be of lesser magnitude

than those detected in younger hearing impaired children;

and (c) hearing impaired early adolescents may exhibit

superior fine-motor skills on certain types of tasks.

However, there is no indication that studies have been

conducted to investigate the meanings that hearing impaired

children have for these differences; that is, whether the

differences are detectable by hearing impaired children

themselves, and if detected, how they are interpreted.

Psychological Development

The importance of establishing one's identity is a

fundamental psychological concept; the development of self-

concept and its evaluative component, self-esteem, occurs

within a context of social interaction (Meadow, 1980). A

large majority of hearing impaired children are born to

parents who hear, and many of their social interactions

beyond the family are conducted with hearing people. If


the condition of hearing impairment is devalued by others

in the social context, or if communication between the

hearing impaired child and others is difficult, normal

development of self-concept and self-esteem may be


Loeb and Sarigiani (1986) compared elements of self-

esteem among hearing impaired, visually impaired, and non-

handicapped students. By including visually impaired stu-

dents in the study, the researchers were able to compare

hearing impaired children with children having other sen-

sory impairments as well as with nonimpaired children. For

the hearing impaired students, the variables of severity of

hearing impairment, age of onset, gender, and race were

included. The researchers selected 250 children ranging in

age from 8 to 15 years from metropolitan Detroit public

schools; 64 had hearing impairments, 74 had visual impair-

ments, and 112 had no significant sensory impairments. The

researchers used a modified form of the Nowicki-Strickland

Children's Locus of Control Scale, a Q-sort self-satisfac-

tion measure, the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept

Scale, a tower-building task, and a 5-item sentence comple-

tion task on children's likes and dislikes and their atti-

tudes toward sensory impairments. All measures have been

found suitable for use with hearing impaired children.

ANOVAs and follow-ups were used to analyze data, and a

number of significant differences between the hearing


impaired children and the two other groups were found.

First, within the hearing impaired group, girls had lower

self-esteem and were more anxious than boys, and blacks had

greater internal locus of control than whites. Children

with early onset of hearing impairment expressed a greater

degree of satisfaction with self, yet lower perceptions of

popularity with peers. Among the self-perceived problems

of hearing impaired children as a group were that they had

difficulty making friends, they were not popular, and they

were infrequently chosen as playmates. They perceived

weaknesses in and low expectations for their academic per-

formance; fortunately, most did not report a feeling of

global inability. Also, the hearing impaired children more

frequently reported feeling sad because of being called

names, and they preferred nonsocial activities to being

with family and friends. Despite these somewhat grim

perspectives, the hearing impaired children did not differ

from the other groups on the Q-sort measure of overall


Warren and Hasenstab (1986) conducted an exploratory

study of the self-concept of 49 deaf children and their

parents. The children were aged 5 to 11 years, and all

were students in public schools. Variables included were

age, gender, etiology, age of onset, communication methods,

socioeconomic status, and parents' approach to child-rear-

ing. The Picture Game, a nonverbal indicator of


self-perception, was used with the children; the Maryland

Parent Attitude Survey was used to determine parental

attitudes toward child rearing. Because of the nature of

the study, levels of significance for data analysis were

low (.10 and .20). Among the variables studied, parental

attitudes toward child rearing correlated most highly with

the children's self-concept. Indulgence, protection, and

rejection were associated with low self-concept, and disci-

pline was associated with higher self-concept. The authors

suggested that these findings are consistent with theories

that associate parent-child relationships with development

of self-concept.

In a study of 51 residential hearing impaired students

14 to 18 years of age (Brooks & Ellis, 1982), researchers

explored relationships among self-esteem, social self-con-

cept, age, gender, degree of hearing loss, and labeling.

Students rated themselves and their impressions of others'

perceptions of them on an 11-item Likert-type scale. The

most prominent findings were that the self-esteem of hard

of hearing subjects was more positive than that of deaf

subjects, that hard of hearing students' perceptions of

others' evaluations of them were more positive than those

of the deaf, and that the latter differential perceptions

explained most of the variation in self-esteem. The

researchers cautioned that these differences may be signif-

icant only in similar circumstances in which a negative


ascription is assigned to hearing impairment and when

degrees of impairment are differentiated.

A study of deaf late adolescents revealed a signifi-

cant relationship between parental hearing status and self-

esteem (Yachnik, 1986). Fifty-six deaf university students

and their parents participated in the study; 28 sets of

parents were deaf and the other 28 were hearing. A modi-

fied version of the SDQ III, a self-esteem questionnaire

with 102 Likert-type items, was used. Global self-esteem

and the self-esteem components of academic, parent-child,

physical appearance, physical ability, same sex, and oppo-

site sex self-esteem were measured in this study. Deaf

children of deaf parents had significantly higher scores on

global self-esteem and on the components of same sex and

opposite sex self-esteem. Differences were also found in

parents' ratings of their children: Deaf mothers' ratings

of their children were significantly higher than those of

hearing mothers for global, parent-child, physical appear-

ance, and opposite sex; and deaf fathers' ratings of oppo-

site sex self-esteem was significantly higher than that of

hearing fathers. Besides parental hearing status, other

variables were examined: subject gender, socioeconomic

status, and prior educational setting (residential or

public school). There were no significant differences and

no interaction of group by any of the latter three vari-

ables. Because of the ages and nature of the subjects, it

is risky to generalize the findings of this study to hear-

ing impaired early adolescents. Still, the author's inter-

pretation of the findings may prove useful: A possible

explanation of the results was that social relationships

outside school may be different for the two groups. Deaf

children of hearing parents may experience alienation more

often in their more frequent interactions with hearing

persons and perhaps even at home, as well.

There are indications that hearing impaired children

exhibit lower self-esteem than their hearing peers, and

that there are differences within the hearing impaired

population. The importance of these differences is specu-

lative, and questions remain about the characteristics and

development of hearing impaired children's self-concept.

Still, the existence and nature of these differences extend

the background for the present study and indicate a need

for additional research.

Social Development

Several studies of the socialization of hearing

impaired early adolescents have been conducted. The major-

ity of those studies either compared social skills of hear-

ing and hearing impaired youngsters or examined the social

relationships between members of the two groups. (The

latter strand of research is treated separately below.)

Rachford and Furth (1986) compared ideas of friendship

and knowledge of social rules expressed by hearing impaired


and hearing students. The sample consisted of 120 volun-

teers aged 9-10, 13-14, and 17-18 years. All students were

interviewed individually on two sets of questions, one

concerning the nature of friendship and the other, the

nature of social rules. Generally, the responses of hear-

ing impaired students were similar to those of hearing

students, but showed a developmental lag: Their scores

were lower on both question sets. Differences in some

specific items are of interest. Hearing impaired students

reported that friends talked about nonpersonal matters, and

matters of self-disclosure were reserved for conversations

with parents; the reverse was true for hearing students.

In discussing conflict, hearing impaired students more

often reported avoiding attempts at direct resolution

rather than attempting to compromise. Also, they viewed

themselves less often as rule makers and rule changers.

The lag in early adolescent hearing impaired students'

understanding of friendship disappeared in adolescence;

however, hearing impaired students' lag in understanding

social rules persisted into adolescence.

Macklin and Matson (1985) compared the social behav-

iors of hearing and hearing impaired children aged 8 to 14

years. Thirty hearing impaired children in a residential

school were selected for the study; they were matched with

30 hearing students on the basis of gender and age. Stu-

dents' homeroom teachers rated the subjects' social


behaviors on the Matson Evaluation of Social Skills with

Youngsters, a 57-item Likert-type scale. Findings indi-

cated that hearing impaired students possessed a number of

very positive social behaviors, but that some of those

differed from the positive social behaviors exhibited by

hearing students. Two important differences were that

hearing impaired students were judged to be less assertive

than hearing students and that they were more likely to

think others were picking on them.

In a study of adolescents' social perceptions, several

differences were found between deaf and hearing subjects

(Schiff, 1973). The sample included 113 deaf and 48 hear-

ing students aged 12 to 19 years. Subjects viewed sche-

matic cartoons of facial expressions and then interpreted

the affect they perceived in the faces. Deaf subjects

tended to judge angry facial expressions as less extreme

than hearing subjects; hearing subjects extracted more

information from eye-contact stimuli. The author inter-

preted the latter finding as particularly interesting

because of the importance of eye-contact information in

regulating social behaviors.

A case study of 10 fourth- and fifth-grade hearing

impaired students in a summer school program revealed that

the children consistently engaged in comfortable and plea-

surable social interactions among themselves (Crutchfield,

1988). Two contextual factors were important in these


social interactions: There were no substantial communica-

tion difficulties because all the children possessed fluent

manual communication skills; and because the condition of

hearing impairment was taken for granted, a sense of commu-

nity and inclusion underpinned the interactions.

In a study designed to test the effectiveness of using

sociometric ratings with hearing impaired children, Hagborg

(1987) utilized a verbally simplified version of the How I

Feel Toward Others (HIFTO). The subjects in this study

included 20 elementary, 36 middle grade, and 144 secondary

hearing impaired students in a residential school. Addi-

tional information was collected about the students' IQ,

academic achievement, length of enrollment, social skills,

and behavioral characteristics, and about their parents'

occupations and levels of educational attainment. After

the HIFTO was administered to all subjects, 58 students at

the sociometric extremes ("accepted" and "rejected") were

identified; characteristics of both groups were examined.

Accepted students had been enrolled in the school longer

and were judged to be better behaviorially adjusted; more

females than males appeared in this group. There were no

significant differences associated with student IQ, place-

ment status, parental characteristics, oral communication

skills, or academic achievement. In general, the corre-

lates of sociometric ratings for hearing impaired students

were found to be consistent with those of hearing students.


Taken together, these studies suggest that hearing

impaired children may exhibit some differences from their

hearing peers in their development of social skills, and

that social interactions among hearing impaired children

themselves may be conducted without difficulty. The stud-

ies also indicate that there is a need for additional

research to investigate the nature of social interactions

among hearing impaired students.

Hearing Impaired Students in Public Schools

As the trend away from residential placement for hear-

ing impaired students became apparent, interest increased

in studying the effects of public school educational set-

tings. This research has been concentrated in three areas:

teacher and administrator attitudes and beliefs, academic

performance, and socialization.

Attitudes and Beliefs of Teachers and Administrators

Teachers' knowledge of hearing disorders and their

attitudes toward mainstreamed hard of hearing students were

examined in a study by Martin, Bernstein, Daly, and Cody

(1988). These researchers administered an 84-item ques-

tionnaire to 184 regular and special education teachers.

As a group, teacher attitudes toward teaching hard of

hearing students was slightly positive (a mean of 3.54 on a

5-point Likert-type scale). Neither teacher experience in

working with hard of hearing students nor the amount of

special education background was found to be related to

teacher attitudes. In this sample, the level of knowledge

about hearing disorders was low: On the hearing disorders

subsection of the questionnaire, the group answered 57.4%

of the 17 items correctly. A majority of these teachers

indicated an interest in helping hard of hearing students;

however, most did not have much confidence in their abili-

ties to teach such students. As a group, the respondents

indicated that they would teach hard of hearing students

only if substantial support personnel and in-service train-

ing were available.

Behrens (1979) surveyed 165 principals, resource room

teachers, and regular classroom teachers in order to study

their perceptions of the mainstreaming of hearing impaired

students. Of her findings, these are of particular inter-

est here: All three groups were accepting of mainstream-

ing; although all personnel reported generally positive

attitudes toward mainstreaming, junior high personnel were

less accepting of mainstreaming than elementary personnel;

principals were more accepting than other respondents; and

older respondents were more accepting than younger respon-

dents. These findings suggest that younger teachers who

work with older (junior-high age) hearing impaired students

may be less accepting than others.

Green (1981) utilized a 133-item questionnaire to

examine teacher attitudes toward mainstreamed hearing

impaired students. His sample was composed of 77 regular

education teachers who taught at levels from kindergarten

through eighth grade. Findings suggested that positive

attitudes toward mainstreamed hearing impaired students

were related to a combination of factors including teacher

initiative; level of professional training of the teacher;

administrative support of the teacher; resource specialist

support of the hearing impaired students; and the hearing

impaired child's personal, social, cognitive, and communi-

cative skills.

These studies indicate that both regular and special

education teachers hold a variety of attitudes toward and

beliefs about hearing impaired students. As Loeb and Sari-

giani (1986) found, hearing impaired students perceived and

responded to teacher attitudes toward them. Awareness of

teacher attitudes and their possible influence on students

may be especially important for the researcher who is

studying the social interactions of a group of hearing

impaired students. The teacher attitudes perceived by the

students may appear as prominent elements in the students'

attitudes toward and beliefs about school, and teacher

attitudes that students do not detect or acknowledge might

also have some influence upon the social processes of the

student group.

Academic Performance

Pflaster (1976) surveyed 182 hearing impaired students

in regular schools and their teachers, parents, and admin-

istrators, in order to determine variables significant for

successful integration and academic performance. The mean

age of subjects was 13.0 years, 43% had severe to profound

hearing losses, and there were no other hearing impaired

persons in the subjects' families. Factors related to

students' successful academic achievement and integration

included linguistic competence; speech, lipreading, and

auditory abilities; personality; parental acceptance and

expectations; parental and professional attitudes; and

student self-confidence. Additional findings were also

revealing. Parents expected their children to have hearing

friends, spouses, and children; to acquire intelligible or

normal speech; to graduate from college; and to enter pro-

fessional or skilled occupations. Parents' perceptions of

their children's abilities and potential were generally

higher than teachers' perceptions. Students had strong

self-concepts, but were judged to be less mature than their

hearing peers.

Kindred (1980) presented a similar set of factors in

her description of a public school hearing impaired pro-

gram. Characteristics of successfully mainstreamed teenag-

ers included self-motivation, high academic ability, and

relatively high reading ability; good study habits;


adequate maturity and social skills; independence; and lip-

reading skills. Parents of successfully integrated stu-

dents were described as being supportive, holding appropri-

ate expectations, and refraining from being over-


Reich, Hambleton, and Houldin (1977) examined achieve-

ment, demographics, and social factors of 195 mainstreamed

and nonmainstreamed hearing impaired students in elementary

and secondary schools. Most of the subjects were hard of

hearing, and none had additional handicapping conditions.

Hearing level, intelligence, achievement, self-concept,

speech intelligibility, and social adjustment were mea-

sured, and results were analyzed by means of stepwise

multiple regression analyses. Results indicated that

mainstreamed students performed better academically than

nonmainstreamed students, but that the incidence of per-

sonal and social problems was slightly higher for main-

streamed students. The authors proposed these criteria for

successful mainstreaming: Students should have highly

developed speech skills, at least average intelligence, and

supportive parents. Also, students with greater degrees of

hearing loss would need more intensive support services.

Casey (1981) conducted a descriptive study of the

achievement and demographics of 72 mainstreamed hearing

impaired students aged from 6 to 20 years. Among her find-

ings were that (a) approximately 38% of the subjects had


severe to profound hearing losses; (b) most subjects used

speech, and approximately 25% used sign; (c) 92% of the

students received such special services as resource-room

placement or part-time placement in special education

classes; (d) intellectual functioning was normally distrib-

uted across the sample; (e) students' reading comprehension

was significantly below grade level, and reading achieve-

ment was negatively correlated with severity of hearing

loss; (f) math achievement was low, but generally higher

than reading achievement; and (g) teachers gave students

high ratings for unreflectiveness, inattention, and blam-

ing, and for originality and rapport with teacher.

Allen and Osborn (1984) conducted an extensive

descriptive study of the achievement and demographics of

1,465 mainstreamed and nonmainstreamed hearing impaired

students aged from 8 to 18 years. Demographic factors

included in the study were age, sex, ethnicity, degree of

hearing loss, age of onset of hearing loss, and additional

handicapping conditions. Achievement in reading comprehen-

sion, mathematics concepts, and mathematics computation was

measured with the SAT-HI. The analysis of covariance and

multiple classification analysis were used to analyze data.

Among the researchers' findings were that mainstreamed

hearing impaired students performed better than nonmain-

streamed students; mainstreamed students were less impaired

than nonmainstreamed students; and other factors,


including ethnicity and additional handicapping conditions,

were stronger predictors of achievement than mainstreaming.

Kluwin and Moores (1989) investigated factors influ-

encing hearing impaired adolescents' achievement in mathe-

matics. The researchers utilized questionnaires adminis-

tered to students, parents, and teachers; teacher logs; and

structured observations. Data were analyzed by means of

multiple regressions. The prime determinant of achievement

was found to be the quality of instruction, regardless of

type of placement (mainstreamed or special class). Student

background factors were found to be a primary determinant

of achievement. Mainstreaming with an interpreter did not

have any specific effect on the mathematics achievement of


In these studies, researchers identified several

factors related to the successful mainstreaming of hearing

impaired students and revealed a number of differences

between hearing impaired students who are mainstreamed and

those who are not. Such issues may prove valuable to the

researcher who is studying a group of hearing impaired

students in a public school setting. Questions remain

about how hearing impaired students themselves perceive and

interpret differences in placement and performance. This

issue had some importance in the present study.


A considerable number of studies of the social inter-

actions of hearing impaired students in mainstream settings

have been conducted, especially during the past two

decades. Researchers have used a variety of methods,

including self-report instruments (sociograms and Likert-

type scales), structured observations, participant observa-

tions and interviews, and experimental studies. Virtually

all of these studies have been focused on social settings

in which hearing impaired students and hearing students are

both present and have opportunities to interact.

In an early and often-cited study, Elser (1959) used

sociometric instruments to measure levels of acceptance of

9- to 12-year-old hearing impaired students in regular

education classes. He found that hearing impaired students

overall were not as well accepted as their normally hearing


Miller, Munson, Gargantiel, and Huang (1978) utilized

a 36-item Likert-type scale to measure student and faculty

attitudes toward deaf students mainstreamed into secondary-

level occupational education classes. Results indicated

that attitudes toward the deaf students were generally more

favorable than unfavorable, but that some negative atti-

tudes did exist. Deaf students were perceived as emotion-

ally volatile, defensive, overly dependent, and insecure.

One-third of the hearing students expressed reluctance


toward socializing with deaf students and considered the

presence of a deaf student in a group to be an inconve-

nience. Among the faculty, 50% expressed mild agreement,

and 25% expressed strong agreement with the statement that

the presence of deaf students in class is a hardship on the

instructor. Deaf students were considered to be intellec-

tually inferior by 35% of the students and 25% of the


Glaser (1979) employed four procedures to measure

attitudes of and toward hearing impaired students in grades

one through six. His findings indicated that teachers who

had hearing impaired students mainstreamed into their

classes had significantly more positive attitudes toward

hearing impaired students than did teachers without hearing

impaired students in their classes, that hearing students

in integrated groups had more positive attitudes toward

hearing impaired students than did hearing students in non-

integrated groups, and that hearing impaired students

overall received significantly lower peer popularity scores

than did normally hearing students.

Blood and Blood (1983) investigated the attitudes of

120 fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-grade hearing students

toward three classifications of children: normal, deaf,

and hearing impaired. None of the subjects attended

classes in which hearing impaired students were main-

streamed, but 45 reported that they knew a deaf or hearing


impaired child. The subjects responded to three question-

naires in which they selected 15 out of 48 adjectives to

describe normal, hearing impaired, and deaf children.

Analysis of scores indicated that the mean was signifi-

cantly more positive for normal children than for either

hearing impaired or deaf children; there was no significant

difference between subjects who reported knowing hearing

impaired or deaf children and those who did not.

Fleischer (1984) investigated procedures designed to

foster the acceptance of hearing impaired students by

eighth- and ninth-grade hearing students. Experimental

groups received contact experiences (the presence of a

resource-room program for hearing impaired students) or

cognitive experiences (a materials package designed to

improve attitudes toward hearing impaired students), or

both. Results indicated that both contact and cognitive

experiences were helpful in improving attitudes toward

hearing impaired students, that girls seemed to be more

accepting than boys, and that there were no significant

differences between eighth-grade and ninth-grade students.

Carey (1986) investigated the social-emotional adjust-

ment of 30 hearing impaired fourth through sixth graders;

15 were mainstreamed and 15 were in segregated classes.

Data were obtained from four instruments that utilized

either student or teacher ratings. Results revealed that

mainstreamed students perceived themselves as more


competent in global self-worth and physical and cognitive

competence, and they generally utilized more mature prob-

lem-solving skills than the segregated students. Main-

streamed students perceived themselves as less socially

competent, however, and were significantly more internal

than segregated children.

McCauley, Bruininks, and Kennedy (1976) utilized a

structured observation method to investigate the social

behaviors of 14 hearing impaired and 14 nonhandicapped

elementary students. Students were observed in continuous

30-second intervals for two half-hour observation sessions;

nine behavioral categories were utilized. Results revealed

no significant differences in the behaviors of hearing

impaired and hearing students in the number of positive and

negative interactions or in the use of verbal and nonverbal

acts. However, hearing impaired students tended to inter-

act more often with their teachers, whereas hearing stu-

dents interacted more frequently with peers.

Antia (1982) utilized a structured observation proce-

dure to investigate the social interactions of partially

mainstreamed hearing impaired students. Her sample was

composed of 32 hearing impaired and 84 hearing children in

grades one through six. Each student was observed in fixed

intervals (10 seconds every 3 minutes) for four half-hour

observations. Hearing impaired students were observed in

mainstreamed and self-contained classes. Behaviors were


recorded in four categories: physical placement, interac-

tion, mode of communication, and unusual positive or nega-

tive behaviors. Significant differences were found in the

categories of interactions and mode of communication. In

regular classes, hearing impaired students interacted more

often with teachers than did hearing students; and in

special classes, hearing impaired students increased the

number of interactions with teachers. The frequency of

interactions between hearing impaired students and peers

remained the same in both settings. The author offered two

possible explanations for this difference: Either the

class environment of the special classes may have discour-

aged student interactions, or the students may have lacked

certain conversational skills. In integrated classes,

hearing impaired students used more nonverbal and less oral

(speech) communication than hearing students; in special

classes, hearing impaired students increased their use of

speech and decreased their use of nonverbal communication


Ladd, Munson, and Miller (1984) utilized three

research procedures in a longitudinal study of the communi-

cative behaviors of hearing impaired high school students

and the attitudes of hearing high school students toward

their hearing impaired classmates. Results of an observa-

tional procedure revealed that the frequency of interaction

between hearing impaired and hearing students increased


significantly over time; the number of interactions initi-

ated by hearing impaired students decreased significantly,

however. Results from a peer-rating study showed that

hearing students' ratings of hearing impaired students in

the dimension of considerateness increased significantly

over time. No significant differences were found in rat-

ings of disruptive-attention-seeking, motivation-maturity,

or social ability. During interviews, a majority of par-

ents reported improved peer relations, attitudinal changes,

and greater interest in schoolwork in their hearing

impaired children. A majority of the instructors reported

awareness of friendships between hearing impaired and

hearing students. A large majority of the hearing impaired

students reported having hearing friends; a large majority

of the hearing students reported having hearing impaired

friends. The authors concluded that the mainstream program

proved to be an effective social environment for main-

streamed hearing impaired students, as evidenced by the

improvement in attitudes and frequency of social interac-

tions over time.

Saur et al. (1986) utilized participant observation

and interviews in a study of classroom experiences as they

were perceived by eight hearing impaired college students.

Three salient patterns emerged from data analysis: partic-

ipation, relationships, and feelings. The researchers

concluded that class participation for hearing impaired


students was inhibited temporally by the time lag of signed

interpretation, and spatially by students' seating near the

interpreter. Relationships between hearing impaired and

hearing students depended on students becoming comfortable

in each others' presence, and on sharing experiences in the

social context of the classroom. Students' feelings about

mainstreaming were positive when they felt they could

participate fully in the class and when their needs for

support services could be met without setting them apart

from their classmates.

Libbey and Pronovost (1980) presented an extensive

description of communication practice and attitudes

reported by hearing impaired students in public schools.

The researchers compiled data from questionnaires completed

by 557 mainstreamed hearing impaired students 11-21 years

of age; students in 32 programs in 18 states participated

in the survey. The authors cautioned that the data were

based on self-reports, and are therefore subject to varied

interpretations; still, the general descriptive results are

informative. Nearly half (48.5%) of the students reported

that they spent time with both hearing impaired and hearing

students; 35.8% spent most or all their time with hearing

students; and 13.6% interacted most often with other hear-

ing impaired students. Students used manual communication

most often when communicating with their hearing impaired

friends. In conversations with hearing people, they used


spoken language most often; they also used interpreters and

writing to a lesser extent. The students reported using a

number of strategies to clarify misunderstandings in con-

versations with hearing people. A majority of respondents

(79.5%) believed that hearing people wanted to converse

with hearing impaired people, 56.5% thought hearing people

had strange ideas about hearing impairment, and 45.6%

believed that hearing people got upset when they didn't

understand hearing impaired people. Of the difficulties

students experienced in school, the most frequently

reported were following a class discussion (38.2%), com-

pleting schoolwork (34.5%), making friends (25.5%), and

being embarrassed about their speech (23.2%). In general,

the students reported that they felt reasonably successful

in using spoken communication with hearing people, in part

because they had learned to switch communication modes

and to employ other strategies in order to interact


Raimondo and Maxwell (1987) examined the communicative

acts of 20 hearing impaired junior high and high school

students through a combination of qualitative and quantita-

tive research procedures. The subjects were observed for a

total of 4 hours each as they participated in mainstream

classes. Findings revealed that these students used speech

most often when they communicated with teachers and hearing


classmates, and speech, gesture, and sign in interactions

with hearing impaired classmates. These data matched

results of a previous study in which similar subjects

responded to a questionnaire focused on communication

modes. Combined results of the two studies indicated that

speech was the most commonly used communicative mode among

these hearing impaired students in their mainstream

classes. The observational study revealed additional

information that the researchers found disturbing. When a

student was the only hearing impaired person in the class-

room, 5 of the 20 avoided communicating with teachers and

hearing classmates altogether, and 7 others were reticent,

engaging only in brief, impersonal exchanges with hearing

classmates and teachers. When two or more hearing impaired

students were in the same class, they tended to sit

together and interact with each other more often, more

freely, and with greater comfort than they did with their

hearing classmates. Referring to the latter findings, the

authors stated:

More than half of the hearing impaired students
appeared to be loners in their own classrooms
....for these 20 junior and senior high school
hearing-impaired students, interaction with
normal hearing students was rare and neither
social nor voluntary. (Raimondo & Maxwell,
1987, p.271)

Mertens (1989) surveyed hearing impaired college stu-

dents to investigate the quality of their social experi-

ences in high school. The sample included students who had


attended residential schools and students who had experi-

enced a variety of mainstream settings. The author

acknowledged two important limitations of the study, the

small size of the sample (49 students) and the fact that

the study involved college juniors and seniors reporting on

reflections of high school experiences. Although general-

ization of the results might be limited, the findings offer

revealing insights into issues of the socialization of

hearing impaired adolescents in school. Three findings

were most relevant to the present study. First, main-

streamed students who reported positive social experiences

had attended school with other hearing impaired students;

those reporting negative experiences were the only hearing

impaired students in their school or grade level. Second,

although only 4 of the 22 residential students reported

having hearing friends, all mainstreamed students reported

having friendships with hearing students. However, the

depth of those friendships varied according to the hearing

impaired students' level of communication skill and the

hearing students' willingness to assist in overcoming

communication difficulties. Third, residential and main-

streamed students who had supportive educational environ-

ments (interpreters, understanding teachers, and hearing

classmates who facilitated communication) reported having

positive attitudes toward their teachers. Mainstreamed


students without a supportive environment reported negative

attitudes toward teachers.

Foster (1989) conducted in-depth open-ended interviews

with 25 hearing impaired adults concerning their experi-

ences in school. Hearing impaired informants who had

attended regular public schools were generally approving of

the quality of their academic achievement and generally

negative about the quality of their social experiences.

Exceptions to the latter finding were expressed by infor-

mants who had attended school with other hearing impaired

students: "In these cases, the deaf students offered each

other support and the pleasure of easy communication."

(Foster, 1989, p. 46) The informants reported a range of

difficulties they experienced in their interactions with

hearing classmates: In addition to obstacles to easy

communication, informants also frequently reported that

their social relationships with hearing students had been


Collectively, these studies provide a number of

revealing characteristics of the social interactions of

hearing impaired students in the public school context.

Hearing impaired students experience lower levels of accep-

tance by hearing students; however, increased contact

between hearing and hearing impaired students over time

leads to increased levels of acceptance and interaction.

Hearing impaired students use a variety of communication


modes, preferring speech when communicating with hearing

students, and manual communication in conversations with

hearing impaired peers. Hearing impaired students tend to

prefer interactions with teachers and other hearing

impaired students over interactions with hearing students.

Hearing impaired students in mainstreamed settings may be

less socially adroit than those in segregated classes.

Finally, hearing impaired students who have opportunities

to interact with other hearing impaired students express

greater satisfaction about their social experiences.

Although Antia (1982) and Carey (1986) included direct

examination of the interactions among hearing impaired

students in segregated settings, none of the studies had

this social context as its primary focus. The findings

that hearing impaired students communicated more readily

and comfortably with each other, and that they did so in a

different communication mode, indicate that there is a need

for more intensive study of the nature and purposes of the

social interactions of hearing impaired students among


Hearing Impaired Students in Middle Schools

It is clear that the integration of exceptional stu-

dents is a current priority among leaders in middle school

education. Recognizing that exceptional students are "par-

ticularly vulnerable and self-conscious young adolescents

needing} inclusion and involvement in all facets of school


life" ("National Middle School Association," 1989, p. 20),

the National Middle School Association recently resolved

that serving exceptional students would be one of its 10

educational priorities.

A number of researchers have addressed organizational,

programming, and instructional issues relating to the

education of exceptional early adolescents in middle

schools. Wiener (1978) identified two extremes in main-

streaming exceptional students: one procedure randomly

assigned exceptional students to classes, leaving them to

succeed or fail on their own; and the other segregated

exceptional students into a special wing, keeping them

apart from other students in all school activities except

physical education and lunch. The author recommended a

comprehensive plan through which exceptional children would

be mainstreamed effectively with appropriate attention

given to their academic, social, and individual needs.

Morrill (1979) described an organizational procedure that

she contended was highly conducive to effective mainstream-

ing. The essential features of the plan were team organi-

zation, heterogeneous grouping of students, and the place-

ment of a resource teacher in each team. Kerble (1988)

also recommended the inclusion of special education teach-

ers in interdisciplinary teams. In this structure, special

education teachers would be able to monitor their students'

progress more efficiently and also develop a sense of


collegiality with regular education teachers. Doda (1980)

recommended the interdisciplinary team approach as support-

ive for the personal and social development of mainstreamed

students. In addition, she advocated providing exceptional

students with a special school advisor and home base, but

recommended against placing all exceptional children on a

single team or in just a few advisors' classrooms. She

found peer support and extra teacher attention to be bene-

ficial, as well.

Acknowledging negative attitudes toward mainstreaming

held by many regular education teachers, Archibald (1981)

recommended that middle schools utilize inservice training

to prepare teachers for mainstreaming. He also proposed

the use of a selection procedure that included regular and

special education teachers in committees to determine the

readiness and placement of exceptional students in regular


In discussing the purposes of middle schools to meet

students' academic, personal, physical, and social needs,

McEwin and Thomason (1982) stated that early adolescence

was a difficult time for students without handicaps, and a

crucial time for exceptional students. When differences

between students can be devastating, potential exists for

stress and uncertainty. To meet the needs of exceptional

students, these authors recommended that middle schools

provide diversity in instructional strategies,


individualized instruction, support for concrete opera-

tional abilities, and opportunities to develop personal and

social skills. Citing research that revealed that non-

handicapped students often held negative attitudes toward

handicapped students, Manning (1982) advocated using child-

ren's literature as one means of improving students atti-

tudes. The author presented a sample list of instructional

activities, criteria for selecting appropriate reading

materials, and an annotated list of children's books about

children with handicaps.

Results of two research projects focused on main-

streaming have also been reported. Brady, Swank, Taylor,

and Freiberg (1988) tested a training procedure designed to

improve the effectiveness of regular education teachers who

taught mainstreamed students. Results showed that immedi-

ately after intervention, teachers in the experimental

group demonstrated a significant increase in the use of

academic questioning and academic reinforcement. Results

of follow-up measures indicated that these effects were

maintained over time, and that students in experimental

groups later increased their use of academic materials.

The researchers concluded that the effectiveness training

procedure produced important changes in teacher and student

behavior. Truesdell (1988) conducted a qualitative study

of the effects on mainstreaming produced by the culture and

organizational structure of an urban middle school. She


found that there were academic, behavioral, and bureau-

cratic factors that limited handicapped students' access to

mainstreaming. Among the academic factors were homogeneous

grouping of students, an ineffective system for selecting

students for mainstreaming, and poor communication between

regular and special education teachers. The value placed

on orderliness by the administration and faculty restricted

mainstreaming to students who were well behaved, thus

foreclosing mainstreaming to emotionally handicapped stu-

dents. Three bureaucratic factors appeared to inhibit

mainstreaming. First, large classes and the administrative

practice of asking teacher permission before adding handi-

capped students to classes limited the number of classes

into which students could be mainstreamed. Second, a

number of factors led to handicapped students' being main-

streamed after the beginning of the school year. Third,

perceptions of handicapped students as an outside group

limited their access to practical arts and music classes

and to some of the school facilities. The author concluded

that the culture and organizational structure of the school

exerted a powerful negative influence on the mainstreaming

of handicapped students.

Two articles contained specific information about

mainstreaming hearing impaired students into middle

schools. Ironically, the earlier of these predates the

enactment of PL 94-142 by five years. Fahrney (1972)


discussed the characteristics and needs of hearing impaired

students and recommended criteria for integrating them into

regular classes. Hearing impaired students were character-

ized as having normal intelligence, low test scores, some

difficulty in conceptualizing information, mild to severe

language and reading problems, delayed vocabulary develop-

ment, but no differences in physical ability. They also

exhibited delays in moving from dependence on parents, and

some abandonment by peers. The author remarked that the

deaf child "has to cope with the doubly persisting overlap-

ping situations of transitional status as a child-adult and

being deaf" (Fahrney, p. 24). The hard of hearing child

"may find adjustment problems more difficult than does the

deaf child since he is caught more in the overlapping world

of the hearing" (Fahrney, 1972, p. 24). Deaf children as a

group were the only exceptional child group specifically

excluded from the recommendations for integration:

It was the opinion of this committee that the
child who was operating at the "deaf" level,
irrespective of audiogram readings, would not
function well in an open middle school complex.
This was believed because these children are
usually 2 1/2 or more years delayed in language
development. Therefore they need a more lim-
ited environment wherein concentration on this
problem is possible. (Fahrney, 1972, p. 71)

Brady, Dickson, and Dickson (1983) pilot tested an

interactive computer game with pairs of hearing and hearing

impaired middle and high school students. The game


required one member of the pair to describe a specific

figure presented in a set of similar figures on the screen.

The second student was to determine which figure was

described either by selecting it or by asking for addi-

tional information. Hearing and hearing impaired students

assumed both roles in a 45-minute game session. The

authors determined that the game had academic and social

benefits for all but one pair of the 20 subjects. They

stated further that such an activity would provide social

benefits to similar hearing impaired students who otherwise

had few opportunities for sustained communication with

hearing peers.

Researchers and practitioners have treated a number of

issues relating to the implementation of PL 94-142 in the

middle school. Most of these pieces provide general infor-

mation to assist middle school educators in serving excep-

tional students. However, little attention has been

devoted specifically to the education of hearing impaired

students in middle school settings.

Constructivist Theory in Related Research

Berger and Luckman's (1967) theory of the social con-

struction of reality has been extended to a variety of

studies of adolescence and into research in educational

contexts. Because the substance of the findings cited

below is not central to the present study, it will not be

elaborated fully. Rather, the works are presented to


demonstrate the applicability of the theory to research in

school settings and its suitability for formulating expla-

nations of early adolescents' social behavior.

Berger and Luckman's (1967) theory has been applied

widely in studies of adolescents. Lindsey (1975) included

Berger and Luckman's (1967) discussion of therapy (one

means of maintaining the accepted social reality) in his

recommendations for educating adolescent mental patients so

that they could "understand the social forces involved in

the social construction of a mental patient career" (Lind-

sey, 1975. p. 226) and engage in activity that would lead

away from confinement in a mental hospital. Baker (1982)

included the theory among several she used to develop the

proposition that adolescents are engaged in practical theo-

rizing as they make sense out of their selves, their social

contexts, and the world. Later, she utilized the theory in

an extension of her research with adolescents, proposing

that the research interview itself is a social encounter in

which adolescent informants have access to adult defini-

tions of reality and make use of them in formulating and

ordering their responses (Baker, 1983). Berger and Luck-

man's (1967) theory is central to the argument that adoles-

cents incorporate televised images into their apprehension

of social reality by mediating the images through the

objectivated approval or disapproval of peers (Peterson &

Peters, 1983).


Berger and Luckman's (1967) theory has also been

applied in a variety of educational studies. In his exami-

nation of social class distinctions that were maintained in

a kindergarten class, Rist (1972) utilized as one of his

arguments Berger and Luckman's (1967) proposition that

language is central to human socialization. Taylor (1980)

utilized Berger and Luckman's (1967) work as her primary

theoretical basis in examining the relationships between

student perspectives and schooling in an Australian second-

ary school. She found that once students had selected an

instructional track, social processes among the students

operated to maintain group identity and to justify and

reinforce the choices students made about the courses they

were taking and the careers to which these courses would

lead. Simpson (1981) and Rosenholtz and Simpson (1984)

relied extensively on Berger and Luckman's (1967) theory in

developing their propositions about students' perceptions

of ability. These authors argued that through observations

and informal conversations, students in traditionally

structured classrooms could participate in formulating the

notion that intellectual ability is stable, widely dis-

persed across individuals, and capable of predicting suc-

cess in a range of nonacademic activities. Freebody and

Baker (1985) incorporated Berger and Luckman's (1967)

theory into their interpretation of children's induction

into literacy: Reading itself is a socially sanctioned


skill, and children's reading materials transmit salient

features of adult reality to young readers. In framing her

examination of the cultural differences between deaf par-

ents of deaf students and the students' hearing teachers,

Erting (1985) included an investigation of the perspectives

of hearing parents of deaf children. In interpreting the

hearing parents' views, the author incorporated Berger and

Luckman's (1967) proposition that language is the essential

instrument of socialization. In their ethnographic study

of the culture of deaf adults, Nash and Nash (1981) uti-

lized Berger and Luckman's (1967) propositions about

resocialization to characterize the obstacles deaf adults

encounter when they attempt to participate fully in the

society of hearing people. Evans and Falk (1986) relied

extensively on Berger and Luckman's (1967) theory in fram-

ing their ethnographic study of a residential school for

the deaf. These researchers applied the constructivist

theory generally throughout their work, and made frequent

use of the proposition that language is the principal

instrument of socialization.

It is clear that Berger and Luckman's (1967) work can

be applied effectively as a theoretical basis for examining

and explaining social phenomena located in a middle school

context. Early adolescents are quite capable of partici-

pating in the construction of the partial reality of school

through their physical activity and conversations.



Early adolescents constitute a distinct stratum of the

school population, with prominent characteristics and

developmental needs in cognitive, physical, psychological,

and social dimensions. For approximately 2 1/2 decades,

middle school educators have been developing and refining

practices to support early adolescents not only in their

academic achievement, but also in their ongoing physical,

psychological, and social maturation. Early adolescents

who are hearing impaired experience certain academic,

psychological, and social developmental challenges in addi-

tion to those experienced by nonhandicapped early adoles-

cents. During the past 2 decades, the implementation of PL

94-142 has resulted in increasing numbers of hearing

impaired students being placed in regular public schools.

This educational context has generally fostered comparative

success in academic achievement, but questions remain con-

cerning the social development of hearing impaired students

in public schools. Little information is available about

the socialization of hearing impaired early adolescents

among themselves; likewise, little is known about the

educational experience of hearing impaired students in

middle schools. The purposes of the present study were to

describe and explain the social processes and cultural

themes within a group of hearing impaired early adolescents

and to examine the meaning that a middle school context had


for these students. This constructivist approach is con-

sistent with Berger and Luckman's (1967) theory of the

social construction of reality. This theory has been

extended into a number of other educational contexts; it

was valuable in the present study as a means of assisting

in the organization and explanation of the data.


The Research Perspective

The purposes of this study were to describe and

explain the social processes and cultural themes within a

group of hearing impaired early adolescents and to examine

the meaning that a middle school context had for these

students. There is presently available an abundance of

literature on the general education of hearing impaired

students. Since the implementation of PL 94-142, a consid-

erable amount of research has been conducted to describe

the socialization of hearing impaired students in public

school settings. Virtually all of this research has been

focused on the social interactions between hearing impaired

students and their hearing peers. The review of the liter-

ature indicated that research on the social interactions

among hearing impaired students themselves was practically

nonexistent, and there were no substantial studies that

specifically addressed the social interactions within a

group of hearing impaired students in the middle school


Qualitative methods are recognized as particularly

valuable for studying areas in which little research has

been undertaken previously (Lutz & Ramsey, 1974). Becker



(1958) discusses the suitability of qualitative research

when the interest of the researcher is in studying a social

organization rather than seeking to explain relationships

among discrete, abstract variables. When the intent of the

researcher is to conduct a broad and deep examination of a

distinct social context, ethnographic procedures are par-

ticularly valuable (Vidich, 1955; Wilson, 1977; Wolcott,

1975). An assumption fundamental to ethnographic research

is that individuals in social groups engage in complex

behaviors and possess knowledge about how to interpret

those behaviors (Magoon, 1977). Ethnographic methods allow

the researcher to explore patterns of nonverbal behavior

and the development of social relationships over time

(Metz, 1983); and meanings and perspectives that are

tacit, as well as those that are explicit, become accessi-

ble (Spradley, 1979, 1980). When the focus of an ethno-

graphic study is a distinct group of individuals and when

the study involves the collection and analysis of an exten-

sive amount of linguistic data in order to explain the

social phenomena, ethnographic methods in the tradition of

cultural anthropology are best suited to the researcher's

needs (Jacob, 1987). After considering the nature of the

research question, this researcher concluded that ethno-

graphic methods in this tradition were most appropriate for

this study.



Late in the fall of the year preceding the study, the

researcher began investigating a number of sites that might

meet the needs of this project. By the following January,

he had narrowed the field of possible sites to two. In

discussing his proposed study with Elizabeth Brooks, a

teacher at Edison Middle School, he determined that the

Edison site offered the most promise for the study. (All

proper names have been changed in this paper to protect the

identity of informants.) First, Mrs. Brooks, an experi-

enced teacher of the hearing impaired, taught a class of

hearing impaired sixth, seventh, and eighth graders who

were partially mainstreamed into regular classes. Second,

the researcher recognized Edison as having a fine reputa-

tion for putting recommended middle school principles into

practice. Third, Mrs. Brooks indicated an interest in the

proposed study and a willingness to participate. Even

though the city of Charlesberg is located some 75 miles

from the researcher's home, he decided to pursue it as his

first choice for the study site.

The following spring, the researcher secured permis-

sion from the necessary personnel at the Charlesberg Board

of Education. He then met again with Mrs. Brooks to

describe the study to her in more detail and to confirm

that she was still willing to participate. The researcher

then obtained permission from the principal at Edison and


began making initial preparations for beginning the field-

work. The researcher remains grateful for the interest in

the study and the cooperation and support he received

during this entire preparatory phase.

The study began on the students' first day of school.

At an opportune moment, Mrs. Brooks introduced the

researcher to the students and he described the study and

its purposes to them. He then asked if they had any ques-

tions about the study. There were none, possibly because

of the excitement they felt on the first day of school.

During subsequent visits, students asked questions occa-

sionally, and the researcher responded to them openly.

In keeping with ethical practice in qualitative

research and with the requirements of the University of

Florida Institutional Review Board, the researcher obtained

the informed consent of parents before interviewing stu-

dents. Before the interview phase of the study, the

researcher explained the purpose and process of the inter-

views to the students and answered their questions. He

then explained the purpose of parental consent, and asked

that students who were willing to be interviewed sign two

copies of the informed consent form. All the students were

willing to participate and signed the form. The researcher

then mailed letters and the consent forms with return

envelopes to all the students' parents. Within 2 weeks,

four sets of parents had responded, and the researcher sent


a second letter and forms to the remaining parents. Five

additional forms were returned after this mailing. The

researcher then telephoned one set of parents, explained

the study to them, and secured their written permission

later that week. Parents of the 11th student had no tele-

phone, so the researcher sent them a third letter. Shortly

after that mailing, the student informed the researcher

that her parents did not wish for her to be interviewed.

The interview phase of the study was con-ducted with 10 of

the 11 students.

The Setting

Four specific features of the setting indicate its

appropriateness for the purposes of this study:

1. The informants consisted of a group of 11 hearing

impaired early adolescents attending a public middle

school, their teacher, her aide, and the students' inter-

preter. At the beginning of the school year, 8 students

were enrolled in the special class for the hearing

impaired. Two were eighth graders, 2 were seventh graders,

and 4 were in the sixth grade. During the year, 3 new

sixth graders entered the group.

2. The students had regular opportunities to spend

time together in direct interaction. They attended special

and mainstream classes together daily, and engaged in a

wide variety of social exchanges.


3. It has been firmly established that the school

selected for the study adheres to recommended middle school


4. The researcher was able to observe the students in

their routine activities and to interview students without

distraction and without disrupting their schoolwork


Research Methods and Procedures

Collection of Data

Conducting ethnographic research entails the utiliza-

tion of a number of mechanical procedures and ethical

safeguards. In collecting data, the researcher acts as the

primary instrument (Metz, 1983; Wilson, 1977). A variety

of conventional procedures may be employed; among these,

participant observation and interviewing are the mainstays,

and the use of unobtrusive measures may also be valuable.

(Wolcott, 1975).

Participant observation

The term participant observation implies any of a

variety of roles that the researcher may assume in the

setting under study. In this study, the researcher began

as a passive participant observer (Spradley, 1980). That

is, the researcher acted primarily as a spectator, locating

himself so that he was outside the main areas of activity,

but close enough to them so that events were visible and

audible. As the study progressed, the level of the

researcher's participation in the social interactions

gradually increased. Informal conversations with adult

members of the group began on the first day of fieldwork

and continued throughout the study. Brief exchanges with

student members occurred early in the study, and by the

time the interview phase was initiated, the researcher was

engaging regularly in short, casual conversations with

student informants.

The researcher observed actions, informal conversa-

tions, and formal academic discourse and recorded data in

the form of handwritten field notes. In order to ensure

that this observational record was as complete as possible,

the field notes were expanded during the observation

period, as time allowed, and also immediately afterward.

Protocols, fully expanded accounts of the observation, were

typed as soon as possible after each observation, in accor-

dance with recommended practice (Bogdan & Biklen, 1982;

Lofland & Lofland, 1984). All observation protocols were

prepared within 24 hours of leaving the field, and with

four exceptions, these were done on the same afternoon or

evening of the observation day.

In conducting previous qualitative studies of hearing

impaired students, the researcher found it valuable to

record the form of the conversation as well as the content.

To this end, the researcher utilized a coding system to

indicate whether messages were conveyed in speech, sign, or


both. Because this procedure required a considerable

amount of concentration, it was used judiciously so as to

provide as much information about the communication form as

possible while still allowing the researcher to observe

without experiencing fatigue. These data proved to be

quite informative in the present study. Findings about the

informants' communication modes are discussed extensively

in Chapter IV, and the potential value of the procedure for

future research is discussed in Chapter V.

In addition to the mechanics of participant observa-

tion, the researcher must be aware of his influence on the

setting. By entering a social scene, even as spectator,

the researcher becomes a part of the context. Vidich

(1955) points out that as informants come to realize the

regularity of the researcher's entry into the scene, they

attempt to place him or her in an understandable role.

Becker (1958) emphasizes the need to monitor the inform-

ants' perspectives of the researcher. This researcher was

conscientious in recording and analyzing what informants

said about his presence and activity.

Because of his age and size, the researcher realized

that he would not be able to pass as a student. Instead,

he endeavored to maintain the role of a friendly and inter-

ested adult. He avoided any action or statement that

might have given students the impression that he was asso-

ciated with the lines of authority at Edison. This