04 SES 17 A, Learning Form Research – Systematic Reviews Tackling Various Factors Fostering Students’ Inclusion
The ‘Circle of Friends’ (CoF) intervention is a systemic approach which involves the formulation of a network of social support for socially neglected students so that the latter are enabled to feel genuinely accepted by their peers (Shotton, 1998). The CoF program is based on the recognition of the powerful impact peers can have on an individual’s behavior (Newton, Taylor & Wilson, 1996). As such, it involves peers in helping a child change their behavior while, at the same time, has the potential to change peers’ behavior and attitude towards the child experiencing social difficulties. The CoF approach has been used in many countries with socially neglected children of varying ages and with a range of special educational needs (SEN), including children with moderate learning difficulties (Frederickson, Warren & Turner, 2005; Miller et al, 2003), children on the autistic spectrum (Kalyva & Avramidis, 2005; O’ Connor, 2016), and children with emotional and behavioral difficulties (Frederickson & Turner, 2003; Newton, Taylor & Wilson, 1996). This research synthesis investigates the results of studies that evaluated a widely used intervention program, the Circle of Friends (CoF). The aim of the review is two-fold; first, to identify the program’s variant applications and, second, to record what evidence-based outcomes have been reported. A systematic literature search including seven databases (Scopus, PsychInfo, ERIC, Proquest, JSTOR, Web of Science as well as Taylor and Francis) was conducted. Only articles reporting on the effects of the CoF at the student level were included. Based on several inclusion and exclusion criteria, a total of ten articles were identified. The primary outcomes indicated only a low to moderate effect on students’ social participation and the development of social skills of ‘focus children’ and circle members. The CoF was mainly used with younger students (primary education) and only rarely in secondary schools. Recommendations for further research on the CoF include the utilization of more rigorous (i.e., experimental) and more rounded research designs (e.g., adding external perspectives) and also proper trialing of the CoF. Critical issues surrounding the implementation of the CoF are also outlined.
Frederickson, N., & Turner, J. (2003). Utilizing the classroom peer group to address children's social needs: An evaluation of the Circle of Friends intervention approach. The Journal of Special Education, 36(4), 234-245. Frederickson, N., Warren, L., & Turner, J. (2005). “Circle of Friends” - An Exploration of Impact Over Time. Educational Psychology in Practice, 21(3), 197-217 Kalyva, E., & Avramidis, E. (2005). Improving Communication Between Children with Autism and Their Peers Through the ‘Circle of Friends’: A Small‐scale Intervention Study. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 18(3), 253-261 Miller, M. C., Cooke, N. L., Test, D. W., & White, R. (2003). Effects of friendship circles on the social interactions of elementary age students with mild disabilities. Journal of Behavioral Education, 12(3), 167-184. Newton, C., Taylor, G., & Wilson, D. (1996). Circles of friends: an inclusive approach to meeting emotional and behavioural needs. Educational Psychology in Practice, 11(4), 41-48. O'Connor, E. (2016). The use of ‘Circle of Friends’ strategy to improve social interactions and social acceptance: a case study of a child with Asperger's Syndrome and other associated needs. Support for Learning, 31(2), 138-147. Shotton, G. (1998). A circles of friends approach with socially neglected children. Educational Psychology in Practice, 14(1), 22-25.
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