04 SES 09 E, Is Inclusive Education Making a Difference? Evidences from Research
Inclusive education maintains that all students have the right to attend the mainstream school alongside their peers (Dev & Haynes, 2015), receive quality education (Fullan, 2003), and achieve academically, socially, and emotionally (Obiakor, Harris, Mutua, Rotatori & Algozzine, 2012). Although inclusive education is supported by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations, 2006), the European Union (European Commision, 2010) and academics all over the world (Barton & Armstrong, 2001; Rioux, 2002; Booth, Ainscow, Black- Hawkins, Vaughan & Shaw, 2000; Liasidou, 2012), its implementation is still a challenging process. Co-teaching is considered an approach that promotes quality teaching and learning in inclusive settings (Murawski & Hughes, 2009; Prizeman, 2015; Dev & Haynes, 2015; Scruggs, Mastropieri, & McDuffie, 2007). The research reported in this paper examines how team teaching, a form of co-teaching, can be a “tool” for teachers’ professional development, and at the same time have positive impact on learners’ academic and social achievement.
According to the literature, there are five basic models of co-teaching (Isherwood & Barger-Anderson, 2008; Tzivinikou, 2015; Obiakor et al., 2012): one teaches/one assists (one teacher has the lead role and the other teacher provides assistance); station teaching (co-teachers divide the classroom into two or three groups, according to their level, and each plans instruction or teaches separately); parallel teaching (teachers jointly plan the instruction, but each delivers it to a heterogeneous group); alternative teaching (one teacher delivers instruction to the majority of students, while the other teacher pre-teaches or re-teaches material to a smaller group of students); team teaching (both teachers are responsible for planning, teaching and evaluating all students). Team teaching is reported as the most difficult model to implement, but at the same time, it is the most rewarding.
Co-teaching is recognized as a critical enabler of inclusive practice (Beamish, Bryer & Davies, 2006), which can be reinforced by differentiated instruction (Murawski & Hughes, 2009). According to the literature, co-teachers can reach all students in their class through differentiated instruction (Gately & Gately, 2001). According to Tomlinson (2000), differentiating instruction entails differentiating the content, the process, the product, and the learning environment, and considering students’ readiness, interests, and learning profiles. Co-teaching and differentiated instruction are interrelated and can facilitate inclusion (Murawski & Hughes, 2009; Santamaria & Thousand, 2004 in Prizeman, 2015).
The present study was conducted in Cyprus, and it aimed to explore how team teaching between a general and a special educator can contribute to the improvement of the academic performance and the social interaction of all students. In addition, it aimed to understand how the teachers’ interaction can enrich their knowledge, attitudes and skills, contributing to their professional development. Finally, the study explored to what extend team teaching can respond to the principles of differentiated instruction.
We consider this research important in a number of ways. First, if co-teaching between general and special educators is proved to be effective both for teachers and learners, it could be a promising way to move from a system of integration to an inclusive education system. Second, using the findings to develop a model for team teaching, could reinforce further research on the topic. According to the literature, research on the development of co-teaching as a means to inclusive education is very limited (Strogilos & Stefanidis, 2015; Hang & Rabren, 2009) and remains at a theoretical level (Giakoumi & Theofilidis, 2012).
A qualitative research methodology was followed to examine the development and implementation of team teaching between a general and a special educator in a primary school class in Cyprus. A number of scholars suggest that qualitative research is the most suitable way to investigate co-teaching and inclusion (Brantlinger, Jimenez, Klingner, Pugach, & Richardson, 2005; Pugach, 2001; Scruggs et al., 2007), because it provides researchers with an understanding of each unique case of co-teaching, as it is occurred naturally and then leads them inductively to the development of their ideal co-teaching model (Isherwood & Barger-Anderson, 2008). The two educators were involved in curriculum development in language, and they designed twelve differentiated lessons. They engaged in team teaching in a primary school class with 21 students (11 boys and 10 girls), aged between 7-8 years old. Both the teachers and students were a convenience sample. In particular, one of the researchers (and authors of this paper) works in the chosen school. She is a primary school teacher with a postgraduate degree in “Special and Inclusive Education” and has nine years of experience in teaching. She agreed to collaborate with a general educator who works in the same school. The general educator has fourteen years of experience in teaching, but no background on differentiated instruction. All the participants and the students’ parents gave their consent to participate in the study. Data was collected both from the two teachers and the students. Date from teachers entailed all the lesson plans, recorded conversations (during planning and feedback), research diaries, and completion of self-reflection lists at the end of the program. Data from students involved observation, video recorded snapshots, and focus group interviews. Data on the academic and social achievement was collected at the beginning, in the middle, and in the end of the study, through a test on language competence and sociograms that recorded social interactions. A content analysis of the data is now in process (Mayring, 2000). Specifically, chronological narratives were written and after a thorough reading, they are encoded with note cards to identify recurring themes, or points that are related to the research questions, such as students’ academic knowledge (tests) and social interaction (sociogram), or educators’ knowledge, attitudes and skills in relation to co-teaching, differentiated instruction and inclusion. Then, the codes are organized into common categories, while a more deductive mode of thinking will follow, in order to reach to conclusions.
In general, it seems that team teaching has positive impact on students and educators. The findings will be finalised shortly, when the data analysis is completed. First, it is expected that team teaching will have positive academic and social impact to students, with or without disability, although it is expected that impact will vary among students. According to the literature, the benefits for students are better when co-teaching and differentiated instruction occur at the same time (Strogilos & Stefanidis, 2015• Solis, Vaughn, Swanson, & Mcculley 2012• Prizeman, 2015). Despite the fact that, some researches show that students’ without disabilities achievement is not positively affected in co-taught classes, it is not shown to be negatively impacted as well (Parker, 2010; Prizeman, 2015). On the contrary, it is proved that all students, with or without disabilities, develop better social skills (Prizeman, 2015; Parker, 2010; Strogilos & Stefanidis, 2015; Strogilos & Tragoulia, 2013; Hang & Rabren, 2009; Solis et al., 2012). The findings of the study will shed light to all these issues and record the complexities around them. Second, the study is expected to demonstrate how the collaboration between general and special educators in planning, instruction and evaluation in co-taught classes, enhances their knowledge, attitudes and skills, in order to successfully implement team-teaching, differentiated instruction and inclusive education. In particular, the study will provide evidence to suggest how general and special educators can enhance their knowledge in different ways, and how their differing background contributed to their mutual professional development (Scruggs et al., 2007).
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