Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Suha Tamim


This paper describes a problem of practice that evolves from a shift in curriculum from a more traditional direct instruction format to that of a progressive, student centered project based learning model. This shift in instructional practices seeks to increase student engagement within the high school and reduce a number of negative factors that stem from low levels of student engagement. In order to adequately meet the needs of students with disabilities within this new model, a systematic review of the use of peer mediated instructional strategies led to the following research question: what impact can the peer mediated instructional strategies of peer initiation and peer tutoring have on student engagement? The research study employed a convergent mixed methods research design to collect both qualitative and quantitative data within a project based learning opportunity to examine the effectiveness of those peer support strategies on student engagement across the cognitive, emotional and behavioral domains. In the research process there were four behaviors that were identified through the SSIS Rating Scales to which the interventions of peer tutoring and peer initiation were applied while the students participated in four separate project-based learning opportunities within an inclusive Psychology classroom. Along with this data, the grades and emotional responses of the students were examined throughout the four projects. The data collected across all projects demonstrated a significant increase in social behaviors along with an increase in student grades for those with autism, while all students developed an understanding of the unique strengths found in all learners as the peer mediated instructional strategies of peer tutoring and peer initiation were applied. The results were then used to inform an action plan designed to share the findings with the professional learning communities, administration, and board members as well as to develop training modules that would train others to implement peer mediated instructional strategies across other content areas within inclusive, project-based learning environments.