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Co-teaching Definitions 

Co-Teaching is defined as two teachers (teacher candidate and cooperating teacher) working together with groups of students; sharing the planning, organization, delivery, and assessment of instruction, as well as the physical space.

Various initiatives have resulted in the emergence of numerous definitions and multiple interpretations of co­ teaching. Most definitions have five common elements: general and special education teacher involvement, co­ planning,  co-instruction,  heterogeneous groups, and shared physical space. For example, Cook and Friend (1995) defined co-teaching as Mtwo or more professionals jointly deliver substantive instruction to a diverse  or  blended  group  of  students  in  a  single physical  space·.  While  co-teaching  definitions generally run along similar lines, lack of specificity for implementation of co-teaching elements leaves room for multiple interpretations and “what is out there in the name of co-teaching” suggests most models are in the early stages of development.

Traditional student teaching models often identify a designated period of time for the student teachers to “solo” while the new co-teaching model for student teaching uses the idea of becoming a “lead• teacher instead. Both ideas have merit for different reasons.

Co-Taught Classrooms:Teacher Roles

The rationale for co-teaching is based on the premise that the general educator and  the special educator combine lndMdual expertise to  benefit all stlJclents. Ideally,sklled specialand general educators bring not only an extra pair of hande, but alao highly tpecialized instructionaltechniques to co-teaching relationships.

The  special education teacher provides additional support in the ciBIM)Om and supplements the content &A:Ia knowledge of the general education teacher with knowtedge and expartlaa related to !&aching 91:udents wtth  disabilities. This  expertise Includes an understanding  of  how disabilities  Impact academic perfonnance as  well  as   knowledge of   specific instructional  practicea,  ac:commodations and enhancements  to increase 8CCEI$$  to the  general education cuntculum for 91:udents with disabilities.

ldeally, the special education leachBf has expllfllse In learning   st)ies, teaming stratagles, behavior modification, diagnostic/prescriptive   teaching,  and acc:ommodations, and the general education teacher ha8 expertise  in content &A:Ia, scope and sequence of cuntcutum, pr&SE ntallon  of  cumcutum, large group management strategies, and an  objective view of academic and social development. The dellvety of coordinated and  substantive Instruction by   both teachers is rvc:ognized as the hallmadt of true co­ teaching. Joint and  8imue direct provision of instruction is   the  most diStinctive  feature of   the cooperative teaching modal.

Co-Teaching Formate

Variations In co-teaching arrangements are based on co-teaching definitions as well as internaland extemal factor$. Bauwent   at  at. (1969)   described three cooperative teaching options: complamentary Instruction (general educator Is  responsible for teaching subject matter) whle special8Wcator assists stlJdents with academic survival skills;team teaching (;oint planning and  delivery of instruction by  epecial and  I)Eineral educator); and   supportive teaming activities (supplements designed  by  the  special aducetor to enhance content delivery by th& general educetor). Cook and Friend (1995) further delineated these roles lclenllf)1ng five commonly Implemented co­ teaching struc:Wres: one teach, one assist, station teaclllng, pwallel IHch. altema11W teaclllng, and wam wadllng.

Negative attitudes toward inclusion have been identified as barriers to successful implementation of co-teaching models. Loveland, McLeskey, Swanson, & Waldron (2001)   found   teachers  with  experience   in positive, successful inclusive school programs showed significantly   more   positive   perspectives   regarding inclusion than teachers who had not been in inclusive programs. Non-inclusion teachers expressed concerns about the preparation of their schoolfor inclusion, their possible roles and functions in an inclusive program and the influence on students without disabilities.

Efficacy of Co-Teaching Models

Teacher centered evaluations have been the primary focus of co-teaching research. Researchers have studied how teachers develop collaborative relationships, restructure and adapt curriculum and instruction, and share responsibilities for planning, instruction,  and   evaluation  for   the   benefit  of   all students,   both  with   and   without   disabilities.  The findings of various researches highlight the need for more student centered evaluations and in particular investigations  of  learning  outcomes  to  provide empirical support for co-teaching as a service delivery modelfor students with disabilities.

Teacher  perceptions  of   co-teaching  efficacy  have provided   insight   into   benefrts  of   the   model.   A comprehensive evaluation of the literature revealed, in general, that what is known about co-teaching is that teacher attitudes toward shared responsibility in the inclusion of students with disabilities are improving and attitudes and satisfaction with various forms of teaming are favorable.  Identified  teacher  benefits  include increased   professional  satisfaction  and  opportunities for  professional  growth,  personal  support,  and increased   opportunities   for  collaboration. Generally, teachers perceived  instructional adaptations  desirable, but practical only in the context of a skilled,compatible co-teaching team.

The  Benefits of  Co-Teaching   for   Students with Special Needs

According  to Walther-Thomas (1997),  benefits  of  co­ teaching   for   students   with   disabilities   reported   by teachers and principals included positive feelings about themselves as capable  learners, enhanced  academic performance, improved socialskills, and stronger peer relationships. In addition, co-teaching  benefits reported for   students   without   disabilities    included   improved academic  performance,  more  time and attention  from teachers,  increased  emphasis  on  cognitive  strategies and study  skills, increased emphasis  on social skills, and improved classroom communities.

Research  studies have shown that co-teaching  can be very    effective    for    students    with    special    needs, especially    those   with   milder   disabilities    such   as learning  disabilities. When  implemented  correctly, co­ teaching  can  be  a very  successful  way  to  teach  all students  in a classroom  setting.  On  the  other  hand, uninformed teachers  can poorly  implement  this model which will not yield positive results for students.Some of the benefits are listed below:

  1. Students with disabilities are provided access to the general education curriculum and general education setting.
  2. Students with disabilities will still receive specialized instruction
  3. Students will have the opportunity to be taught in an intense, individualized manner
  4. Greater instructional intensity and differentiated instruction
  5. Teachers will learn from each other’s expertise and expand the scope of their teaching capacity
  6. Reduces negative stigma associated with pull-out programs

Limitations of the Research on Co-Teaching

Many researchers withhold judgment on co-teaching based  on  observations   of  the  often-limited   role  of special education teacher and the predominance of traditional   whole   class   instruction.   Findings demonstrate “the full capacities  of the co-teaching modelare not being realized”



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