School-Based Interventions to Enhance the Self-Concept of Students with Learning Disabilities

NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 18 describes the following:

Title| School-Based Interventions to Enhance the Self-Concept of Students with Learning Disabilities: A Meta-Analysis

Author | Elbaum, B., & Vaughn, S.

Source Elementary School Journal, 101(3), 303-329.

Year Published | 2001


Details meta-analysis of 64 intervention studies measuring the effect of school-based interventions for students with learning disabilities. Discusses findings that middle school students benefited most from interventions and that the type of interventions that were most effective differed by grade levels. Presents results of a meta-analysis of studies of 64 interventions published during the period 1975-1997 concerning the effects of school-based interventions on self-concept of students with learning disabilities (LD). Results show that middle school students generally benefited more from interventions than did elementary or high school students. The type of intervention that was most effective differed for students at different grade levels. Whereas counseling interventions were more effective than other types of interventions for middle and high school students with LD, the most effective interventions for elementary students with LD were those dealing with students’ academic skills. Interventions exerted more effects on students’ academic self-concept than on other dimensions of self-concept.

Children and adolescents benefit from having a positive self-image, and yet most struggle with issues of self-concept at some point during their school years. Students with Learning Disabilities (LD) tend to be especially vulnerable to low self-image. Students with LD are more likely to report low self-concept than their regular education peers. The self-concept of students with LD is often negatively impacted by the academic challenges they face. Research has shown that students’ self-concepts are related to their academic achievement. Students with positive perceptions of their academic abilities have higher levels of academic achievement than students who rate themselves as poor learners.

Research Questions

  1. To what extent can school-based interventions enhance the self-concept of students with LD?
  2. Are certain types of interventions more helpful than others in enhancing self-concept?
  3. How do the duration of the intervention, the area of self-concept assessed, and student age affect the self-concept outcome?

Research Design

  • Number of Studies Included | 64
  • Number of Subjects | N/A
  • Years Spanned | 1975-1997

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Research Subjects
Participants in these studies were primarily students with learning disabilities who had IQ scores above 85.

Age/Grade of Subjects
Students ranged from elementary to high school. The majority of students were in elementary school.

Specified Disability
Learning Disabilities (LD)

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The research on classroom interventions for improving the self-concept of students with LD was divided into two approaches in this meta-analysis:

  • Self-enhancement approach, which focuses on changing students’ self-perceptions using techniques such as cognitive therapy. This approach also focuses on teaching students to eliminate self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that are believed to interfere with academic success.
  • Skill development approach, which focuses on building a child’s skills in a particular academic area. Those who support the use of skill development interventions believe that improving a student’s academic ability in an area such as reading will not only improve the student’s self-perceptions in that subject area, but also will give the student an expectation of future academic success.

Duration of Intervention
Interventions typically lasted less than 12 weeks with sessions held 2 to 3 times per week.

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  • School-based interventions did, in fact, lead to beneficial changes in the self-perceptions of students with LD.
  • Interventions using both skill development and self-enhancement approaches succeeded in improving the self-concepts of students with LD.
  • Interventions that used group counseling techniques produced favorable outcomes for students of varying ages. Academic interventions seemed particularly beneficial to middle school students.
  • One effective intervention that was included in the meta-analysis targeted parents of students with LD, rather than the students themselves. Children whose parents participated in a parent effectiveness training course, in which the parents were taught to respond more affirmatively to their children, showed improvement in their self-concept compared to children whose parents did not receive the training.
  • The length of time an intervention was implemented did not appear to alter the effectiveness of an intervention.

Combined Effects Size

  1. The 82 interventions that were examined had a average weighted effect size of 0.19. The test homogeneity was significant, indicating greater variation in effect sizes than would be expected by chance.
  2. Grade-level effects: Elementary students (ES = 0.12); middle school students (ES = 0.42); high school students (ES = 0.17).
  3. Type of intervention within grade level: For elementary school students, only academic interventions had an effect size that, though small, was reliably different from 0 (ES = 0.17); for high-school students, only counseling interventions had an effect size that was reliably different from 0 (ES = 0.32). For middle school students, counseling interventions yielded relatively substantial effects (ES = 0.61).

The findings of the research synthesis indicate that school-based interventions can lead to beneficial changes in the self-perceptions of students with LD. However, they do not point to a single, most effective technique for improving students’ self-concept. Interventions using both skill development and self-enhancement approaches succeeded in improving the self-concepts of students with LD. Middle and high school students seemed to benefit most from counseling interventions, while elementary school students benefited more from academic interventions. The researchers suggest that one way for teachers to have a positive impact on students’ self-concept would be to incorporate critical aspects of effective self-concept interventions into ongoing academic instruction.

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