Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Laurence J. Coleman

Committee Members

Charles H. Hargis, Michael H. Logan, Kathleen P. Bennett, Susan Benner


This ethnographic study examined the social interaction of mainstreamed and nondisabled learners at McArthur High School. The researcher studied the relationship between social interaction and context and the meanings held by McArthur students and teachers. Participant observation, structured and unstructured interviews, and artifact collection were the methods used to obtain these descriptions. The study was divided into three phases, each focused on a specific component of social interaction: peer interaction, reported standards which shape interaction, and standards negotiated in action, "standards in action." For each of the phases, descriptions were provided and comparisons were made between mainstreamed and nondisabled learners.

In Phase One (Peer Interaction), various types of peer interaction were identified. Mainstreamed and nondisabled learners were found to be similarly engaged in noninteraction, entertainment, ridicule, criticism, and praise. Some differences were noted. More mainstreamed learners were involved in helping with schoolwork and sharing possessions. A comparison was made of the peer interaction of target mainstreamed learners in regular and resource class settings. Target students tended to be more outgoing and talkative in resource settings. Since peer interaction was embedded in context, salient contextual variables were explicated.

In Phase Two, the standards students reported they used in judging social interaction were examined. Findings demonstrated that both groups of learners were similar in their reported standards. Standards were categorized as Idealized "Do's, Negotiable "Do's and Don't's," and Unconditional "Don't's." Most of the reported standards belonged in the "negotiable" category.

In Phase Three, "Standards in Action," the reported standards were verified with observations. Elements essential to the negotiation of standards were identified. Comparisons of "standards in action" between mainstreamed and nondisabled learners yielded more similarities than differences. "Similarities" consisted of aggressive acts and threats, "getting on" someone's case, acting goofy, bragging, mixing with people from other groups, acting twofaced, and acting snobby. "Differences" involved a higher percentage of mainstreamed learners who joked about social taboos and offensive topics; more mainstreamed students were also criticized for acting goody-goody.

In conclusion, few differences were found between the interaction and standards of mainstreamed and nondisabled learners. The findings contradict the notion that mainstreamed students are socially deficient.

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