04 SES 02 C, Co-Teaching And Teachers' Cooperation: A New Look
In this study, we want to find out how teachers see co-teaching as a method and could co-teaching promote inclusion. In most western countries today, inclusion is seen as the leading educational policy. Inclusion is defined already in 1994 in Salamanca statement: Those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within a child-centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs.” (Salamanca Statement, article 2.4, Unesco, 1994). However, we see inclusion also as Hausstätter (2014), as a process, which is an unfinished one and remains unfinished. In addition we also see inclusion as merged to the Education for all-strategy, as is also claimed by Kiuppis (2014). However, how to make inclusive education work, how to give support without exclusion? According to several research, (Pancsofar, N. & Petroff , 2016; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2017), co-teaching supports inclusion.
Co-teaching is defined as a form of teaching where two teachers teach together, sharing planning, instruction and evaluation (Friend & Cook, 2014). These teachers can be primary school teachers, special education teachers or subject teachers, in various combinations. A common combination in Finnish schools is a primary school teacher and a special teacher: instead of taking those pupils with special needs away from the big class, the special teacher comes to the class to collaborate with the class teacher. This has been successful in many ways; the wellbeing of teachers’ increases, they can share e.g. evaluation, difficult situations and contacts to parents. Pupils can stay in class and usually the level of instruction is higher and the class is more peaceful with two adults. However, the main complaint is the lack of planning time, lack of suitable facilities and finding a suitable partner to co-teach with (Shin, Lee, & McKenna, 2016; Sirkko et. al., 2018; Takala & Uusitalo-Malmivaara, 2012).
The four core values of inclusion can be listed as following: supporting all learners, valuing learner diversity, working with others and personal professional development (European Agency, 2011; Watkins & Donnelly, 2014). Co-teaching is working with others and the idea is to support all learners. Teachers have told that working together like in co-teaching, develops their professional skills (Takala & Uusitalo-Malmivaara, 2012). We wonder are these values represented in teachers experiences.
Aim of this research The main aims of this research were to study, can co-teaching promote inclusion and how teachers experience co-teaching. Setting This study was done in various parts of Finland, having together seven focus groups interviews. Teachers were interviewed in small groups, either at the university or at their school after lessons. One group was interviewed in a seminar outside regular facilities. All participants were volunteers and a snowball effect was used. That means that the information of this interview was delivered via contacts received in the project Supporting together (see https://tuetaan.wordpress.com/) financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland. Teachers involved asked other teachers from the school to join the group. In addition, all participating teachers had to have some years teaching experience and at least some co-teaching experience. Together seven focus group (FG) discussion were held in 2018 and together 26 experts in education participated, from eight different schools. Staff from one school was involved three times, with partly same and some new staff members participating. In order not to reveal the identity of the teachers or schools, locations are not told. The groups were different in size, from 2 to 11 participants. Focus group discussion The themes for the discussion were given by the researcher and she also told that she won’t interfere in the discussion. The themes for the first discussion were: What do you think is co-teaching? Tell about co-teaching? Tell about challenges and areas of development? Themes for the staff members with whom we had more than one FG-discussion were: What is open communication? What is giving and receiving feedback in co-teaching? Other thoughts about the theme co-teaching? The participants were informed in advance that there is coffee and tea available and the interview will be recorded and it will last about one hour. Analysis: The data has been analyzed using content analysis and preliminary results are opened here.
Findings General Co-teaching was discussed mostly positively. The main benefits were sharing the workload, evaluation and meeting with parents. Those who did not do much co-teaching talked about barriers: about structural barriers, lack of facilities and lack of training as well as about shortage of time for planning. Others told that planning was done in many ways: using digital facilities like e-mail, what’s up and school intra-systems as well as face-to-face planning. The role of teachers Different roles and power relations could be detected. The special educator used a metaphor of a gel when talking about going into class. She tries to be flexible, listens to the atmosphere and observes the situation carefully. The class teacher often tells that “help those” or the subject teachers gives similar tasks as the teaching assistant has, often the role of a discipline-keeper. However, class and special teachers told that at the beginning of the term this can be reasonable, while the group is not ready to work together. When the class starts to function, the teacher take other roles. Using co-teaching is a process, depending on the situation of the class as well as on the relationship between the teachers. The longer they have co-taught, the more and varied roles were available for both. When a subject teacher had given the special teacher the whole floor (the power) and she just observed, she said: “It was so interesting, the tempo was slower and so clear instructions and I had never thought that the issue could be broken in so small pieces.” Inclusion was mentioned and all core values were represented in teachers- experiences. Teachers stories need to be heard and teachers education needs to be developed also according to the needs in the field.
Friend, M. & Cook, L. 2014. Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education (2011). Teacher Education for Inclusion Across Europe– Challenges and Opportunities. Odense, Denmark: European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education. https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/te4i-synthesis-report-en.pdf . Guest, G.; Namey, E.; Taylor, J.; Eley, N. & McKenna, K. (2017). Comparing Focus Groups and Individual Interviews: Findings from a Randomized Study. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 20(6), 693-708. Hausstätter, R.S. 2014. In support of unfinished inclusion. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 58(4), 424–434. Kiuppis, F. (2014). Why (not) associate the principle of inclusion with disability? Tracing connections from the start of the ‘Salamanca Process’. International Journal of Inclusive Education,18(7), 746–761. doi: 10.1080/13603116.2013.826289 Pancsofar, N. & Petroff, J. G. (2016). Teachers' Experiences with Co-Teaching as a Model for Inclusive Education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20(10), 1043-1053. Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2017). Making inclusion work with co-teaching. Teaching Exceptional Children, 49(4), 284–293. doi:10.1177/0040059916685065 Shin, M., Lee, H., & McKenna, J. W. (2016). Special education and general education preservice teachers' co-teaching experiences: A comparative synthesis of qualitative research. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 20(1), 91–107. doi:10.1080/13603116.2015.1074732 Sirkko, R. and Takala, M and Wickman, K. 2018. Co-Teaching in Northern Rural Finnish Schools Education in the North, 25(1-2), 217-237. Takala, M., & Uusitalo-Malmivaara, L. 2012. A one-year study of the development of co-teaching in four finnish schools. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 27(3), 373-390. Watkins, A. & Donnelly, V. 2016. Core Values as the Basis for Teacher Education for Inclusion. Global Education Review, 1(1), 76-92.
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