04 SES 01 B, Improving Instruction In The Inclusive Classroom
This paper focuses on co-teaching as a collaborative arrangement in inclusive classrooms (Solis et al., 2012). Co-teaching is defined as “the partnering of a general education teacher and a special education teacher or another specialist for the purpose of jointly delivering instruction to a diverse group of students, including those with disabilities or other special needs […]” (Friend et al., 2010, p. 11). It is assumed that a school’s capacity to welcome diversity is dependent upon the way co-teaching professionals assume their instructional responsibilities. The author adopts a broader understanding of instructional responsibilities which encompasses both class-time and non-class-time responsibilities and activities (Stefanidis & Strogilos, 2015).
The case study aims at providing insight into how both general respectively regular teachers and special education teachers in Germany – each being part of a co-teaching relationship – perceive their own and their respective partner’s instructional responsibilities at two school types in secondary education: traditional secondary schools and newly created community schools. These school types differ in their learning strategies and in the way they organize inclusive education. At secondary schools, inclusion is usually implemented in a ‚cooperative‘ form, i.e., a group of pupils with special needs, coming from a special education school, is commonly taught within one class in selected subjects. At community schools, inclusion is usually implemented in an ‚inclusive‘ form of inclusion, i.e., pupils with special needs are, in a legal sense, pupils of the community school they attend.
The purpose of the paper is to show that due to the complexity of co-teaching relationships, there is a need to secure and anchor them structurally within a school’s concept of enhancing individual learning and progress.
The overarching research question ‚How are professional co-teaching relationships between regular and special education teachers perceived in inclusive classrooms in secondary education?‘ is explored from two perspectives: a) those of regular teachers, b) those of special education teachers, because both experience forms of co-teaching arrangements in their daily work. The research questions are as follows:
1. How do regular teachers perceive their own and their co-teacher’s instructional responsibilities?
2. How do special education teachers perceive their own and their co-teacher’s instructional responsibilities?
3. How do the perceptions differ?
Although there seems to be consensus regarding providing effective education to all pupils through collaborative forms of teaching (Robinson, 2017), the coordination of different forms of expertise and instructional responsibilities amongst two partners remains an unresolved issue (Jurkowski & Müller, 2018). Co-teaching is not restricted to one single pattern (Scruggs, Mastropieri, & McDuffie, 2007; Solis et al., 2012) and special education teachers do not always have sufficient methods and techniques to use and apply their expertise in co-teaching situations (Weiss & Llyod, 2002).
Implications of the study for other countries can be identified with regard to the question of how school-type-specific characteristics in secondary education, e.g. learning strategies, coaching of pupils, determining goals with pupils and parents, giving advice etc. may provide a conceptual basis for establishing and allocating instructional responsibilities among co-teaching partners. The German organizational mode of an ‚inclusive form‘ of inclusive education at community schools seems to foster learning communities in which heterogeneity in class is not even valued, but also dealt with more productively (Cases 3 and 4) than at traditional secondary schools (Cases 1 and 2). For a European dialogue, this raises questions about reflecting upon structural elements of inclusive school systems which correspond to the guidelines of the United Nations (2006). From this view, co-teaching is not just an arrangement between two professionals, but the reflection of educational practices which cater for the needs of diverse pupils.
A purposive sample consisting of schools offering inclusive education and working collaboratively formed the basis for recruiting participants in one German federal state. Each participant was contacted by telephone to determine his or her eligibility. All participants selected (n=14, four male, ten female) meet the following criteria: (1) teaching experience of at least one school-year in inclusive education; (2) currently employed in an inclusive classroom in secondary education; (3) specified or specialised knowledge of their own and their co-teacher’s instructional responsibilities (Littig, Bogner, & Menz, 2018). In this paper – a substudy of the project – the focus is on eight (four male, four female) out of 14 participants. These interviewees are partners in sustained tandem relationships. The four tandems each comprise a regular and a special education teacher. Each tandem is considered as a ‘case’ as it represents a school-specific constellation of structural aspects associated with co-teaching practice, e.g. school type, subjects involved and special needs of pupils (Lamnek, 2010). Cases 1 and 2 are located at secondary schools with a ‚cooperative‘ form of inclusion. Cases 3 and 4 are located at community schools with an ‚inclusive‘ form of inclusion. To allow the participants flexibility in unfolding their individual perspectives, a semi-structured interview guide was developed. It comprises high-level themes and subordinate themes. Each participant was interviewed on his/her own, to avoid any interference effects caused by a co-teacher. Data collection took place in 2018/2019. The paper applies a structuring technique of qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2015), carried out by using the software MAXQDA Analytics Pro 12: (1) All content-specific relevant passages (phrases or longer sequences) within the transcripts were identified by considering whether they contribute to the research questions or not. Each passage identified as relevant was given a code. The code system was divided up into two main codes: ‘perceptions of regular teachers’ and ‘perceptions of special education teachers’. Each of the two main codes included two sub-codes: ‘one’s own instructional responsibilities’ and ‘one’s partner’s instructional responsibilities’. (2) The codings of each interviewee, which encompass the codings of two sub-codes, were looked at separately. This means that the author read through each coding, paraphrased it, and compressed its meaning by attributing key words. The key words and its arguments were compared within one interview and throughout the corresponding partner’s interview in order to detect a ‘content structure’ concerning the perceived instructional responsibilities.
There are no inconsistencies between perceptions of the respective tandem partners with regard to their reported responsibilities, but the study shows that the co-teachers do not always place their focus on identical instructional intents, e.g. in Cases 1 and 2, the regular teachers are concerned with the curricular standards and the need to assess their pupils‘ academic performance, whereas their co-teachers are oriented toward the individual meaning of a teaching subject for their pupils‘ lives. With Cases 3 and 4, the tandem partners seem to emphasize commonly the need to deal with heterogeneity in class, e.g. by providing pupils with all necessary tools for learning success and by giving priority to self-organized learning opportunities (Lindacher, 2020). Each of the special education teachers interviewed is involved in some element of regular instruction as well. Thus, not only pupils with special needs, but also other students benefit substantially from special education expertise, for instance from step-by-step instructions and clear explanations. Instructional questions are dealt with by reflecting individually or jointly about teaching practice, e.g., by establishing peer supervision and by making use of classroom council lessons where problems can be discussed. Although the number of participants is too small to enable empirical generalization, the results indicate that a strict orientation toward curricular standards and competence levels may hinder the creation of learning communities where diversity is valued. The understanding in this paper of inclusive classrooms underlines the “honouring of subjugated knowledge and valuing diversity” (Göransson & Nilholm, 2014, p. 270) as characteristics of communities as a whole. Instructional responsibilities are associated with a number of aspects, e.g. school type, curricular standards, school-type-specific learning methods, subjects and composition of learning groups.
Friend, M., Cook, L., Hurley-Chamberlain, D., & Shamberger, C. (2010). Co-teaching: An illustration of the complexity of collaboration in special education. Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, 20(1), 9-27. Göransson, K., & Nilholm, C. (2014). Conceptual diversities and empirical shortcomings – a critical analysis of research on inclusive education. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 29, 265-280. Jurkowski, S., & Müller, B. (2018). Co-teaching in inclusive classes: The development of multi-professional cooperation in teaching dyads. Teaching and Teacher Education, 75, 224-231. Lamnek, S. (2010). Qualitative Sozialforschung [Qualitative social research]. Weinheim, Basel, Germany: Beltz Verlag. Lindacher, T. (2020). Perceptions of regular and special education teachers of their own and their co-teacher's instructional responsibilities in inclusive education: A case study. Improving Schools, 23(2), 140-158. Littig, B., Bogner, A., & Menz, W. (2018). Generating qualitative data with experts and elites. In U. Flick (Ed.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative data collection (pp. 652-667). London, UK: Sage. Mayring, P. (2015). Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Grundlagen und Techniken [Qualitative content analysis: Foundations and techniques]. 12th ed. Weinheim, Germany: Beltz UTB. Robinson, D. (2017). Effective inclusive teacher education for special educational needs and disabilities: Some more thoughts on the way forward. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 164-178. Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & McDuffie, K. A. (2007). Co-teaching in inclusive classrooms: A metasynthesis of qualitative research. Exceptional Children, 73, 392-416. Solis, M., Vaughn, S., Swanson, E., & McCulley, L. (2012). Collaborative models of instruction: The empirical foundations of inclusion and co-teaching. Psychology in the Schools, 49, 498-510. Stefanidis, A., & Strogilos, V. (2015). Union gives strength: Mainstream and special education teachers’ responsibilities in inclusive co-taught classrooms. Educational Studies, 41, 393–413. United Nations. (2006). Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and optional protocol. http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf Weiss, M. P., & Lloyd, J. W. (2002). Congruence between roles and actions of secondary special educators in co-taught and special education settings. Journal of Special Education, 36(2), 58-68.
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