FUTURE PRACTICES IN INCLUSIVE SCHOOLING: A FOCUS ON CO-TEACHING
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.
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:
- Students with disabilities are provided access to the general education curriculum and general education setting.
- Students with disabilities will still receive specialized instruction
- Students will have the opportunity to be taught in an intense, individualized manner
- Greater instructional intensity and differentiated instruction
- Teachers will learn from each other’s expertise and expand the scope of their teaching capacity
- 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”