INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATIONVol.32, No.3, 2017A Study of Co-Teaching Identifying Effective Implementation StrategiesJoanna Brendle,([email protected]),Robert Lock,Texas Tech University, PO Box 41071,Lubbock, TX 79409Kate Piazza,Texas Tech University, 26722 Crossroads Trail,Huffman, TX, 77336AbstractCo-teaching models have been established in research as an instructional deliverymethod to provide instruction to diverse students in an inclusive general educationsetting. Research of inclusive classrooms where general education and special educationteachers co-instruct indicates learning for students with learning disabilities (LD) isimproved (Cramer, Liston, Nevin & Thousand, 2010). Co-teaching models have beenaddressed in the literature, however, responsibilities of general and special educationteachers regarding co-planning, co-instruction and co-assessing to implement coteaching effectively requires further investigation (Mastropieri et al., 2005). Thisqualitative study investigated two co-taught elementary classrooms. The case studyexamined information from teachers in reading and math co-taught classrooms todocument method of implementation and to gain insight into participants’ knowledge andperceptions of co-teaching. Information was gathered from two elementary generaleducation and two elementary special education teachers concerning co-teaching roles,collaborative, instruction, and assessment. Data were gathered utilizing interviews,538

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATIONVol.32, No.3, 2017rating scales, and classroom observations. The experience of elementary co-teachers inco-taught classrooms provided descriptive data allowing examination and analysis of coteachers’ knowledge, perceptions and implementation of co-teaching. Results indicateteachers lack expertise in implementing collaborative co-planning, co-instructing and coassessing to effectively implement co-teaching. The study identified recommendations foradministrative support and teacher training.Keywords: co-teaching, students with learning disabilitiesIntroductionThe Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (2004) mandated that studentswith disabilities be given access to, be involved in, and make progress in the general educationcurriculum. In addition, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) supported thecharge of ensuring students with disabilities access to the general education curriculumthrough advocating for research-based strategies and accountability (Cramer, Liston, Nevin, &Thousand, 2010). Co-teaching was not required as a method of instruction by this legislation,however, growing accountability for teachers to increase the performance of students in theclassroom, to produce students prepared for postsecondary placement, and to provideinstruction to diverse students elevated co-teaching as a strategy to assist in meeting thesegoals. Requiring teachers to cover the core curriculum and to guarantee students are acquiringthe content has led to implementing strategies such as co-teaching in general educationclassrooms (Vaughn & Bos, 2015). Research in secondary schools supports co-instruction asan effective method for teachers to provide a diversified classroom with engaging anddifferentiated instruction (Murawski & Lochner, 2010), however, there are a limited numberof co-teaching research studies that focused on elementary schools (Tremblay, 2013). Thisarticle describes a study of an elementary school’s implementation of co-teaching based onteacher rating scales, interviews and classroom observations.In 2015, the U.S. Department of Education reported 63 percent of students receivingspecial education services spent 80 percent of the school day in general education classes,versus 58 percent in 2009 (Wu, 2012; Digest of Education Statistics, 2015). According to theAnnual Disability Statistics Compendium report (2015), 86.4% of special educationstudents in Texas ages 6 to 21 were served more than 40 percent of the instructional day in ageneral education setting. As students’ with disabilities placement in the general educationclassrooms increase, effective instructional practices require teachers to support all studentneeds for positive achievement results (McLeskey, Landers, Hoppey & Williamson, 2011).Placing students with disabilities in general education classrooms where teachers are expectedto cover the core curriculum and ensure all students are acquiring the content has resulted inschools turning to the current research to implement supportive instructional strategies such asco-teaching in general education classrooms (Vaughn & Bos, 2015). Co-teaching research hasidentified successful methods of implementing co-teaching within their classrooms (Friend,Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010; Kim, Woodruff, Klein, & Vaughn, 2006;Kohler-Evans, 2006; Mastropieri, Scruggs, Graetz, Norland, Gardizi, & McDuffie, 2005;Murawski & Lochner, 2010; Ploessl, Rock, Schoenfield, & Blanks, 2010; Rea & Connell,2005; Thousand, Villa, & Nevin, 2006). Consequently, co-teaching has been met withconsiderable support from schools as a successful instructional method incorporatingpartnerships among general and special educators to meet the needs of special educationstudents (Murawski & Lochner, 2010).539

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATIONVol.32, No.3, 2017The high level of expectation for students with disabilities to be served in the leastrestrictive environment in a general education setting has resulted in public schoolsimplementing co-teaching strategies based on the research indicating positive results of the coteach model as a key component to enhance success for all students in general educationclassrooms (Cramer et al., 2010; Murawski & Lochner, 2010). Co-teaching embraces studentindividuality allowing students with different learning styles and needs to receive instructionin a general education classroom. All students benefit from additional instructional supportfrom two teachers in addition to increased involvement and enrichment of students withdisabilities in the general education classroom (Mastropieri et al., 2005).Co-TeachingCo-teaching models have been widely discussed in the literature, however, exactresponsibilities of general and special education teachers in a co-teaching setting and theappropriate way to measure effective co-teaching require further investigation (Mastropieri etal., 2005). Friend (2008) defines co-teaching as a general education teacher and specialeducation teacher providing instruction to general and special education students in a generaleducation classroom. Research supports findings that instruction has improved with generaleducation and special education teachers educating students in one classroom andsupplementing with aids and services to students with disabilities (Cramer et al., 2010).Research describes the following co-teaching methods, noting that one approach is notmore appropriate than the other, instead teachers should determine the instructional modeldependent upon the content to be taught (Friend, 2008; Thousand et al., 2006). BothThousand et al. (2006) and Friend (2008) identified co-teaching models with similarstrategies, however, for this study, this school attempted to implemented the Friend & Bursuck(2009) model based on some limited prior teacher training.Friend and Bursuck (2009) defined the research-based co-teaching models. Thesemodels include: 1) one teach, one observe involves one of the co-teachers leading large-groupinstruction while the other teacher gathers academic, behavioral, or social data on specificstudents or the class group; 2) station teaching involves dividing students into three groupsand rotating the groups from station to station taught by the co-teachers at two stations andworking independently at the third; 3) parallel teaching requires each of the co-teachers toinstruct half of the students presenting the same lesson in order to provide instructionaldifferentiation and increased student participation; 4) alternative teaching involves one teacherproviding instruction to the majority of students while the other teacher works with a smallgroup for remediation, enrichment or assessment; 5) teaming requires the co- teachers leadlarge-group instruction by both lecturing, representing different viewpoints and multiplemethods of solving problems; and 6) one teach, one assist, also identified as supportiveteaching, involves one co-teacher leading instruction while the other teacher circulates amongthe students providing individual assistance (Friend & Bursuck, 2009). Supportive teachingand parallel teaching were identified as the most widely used co-teaching models because theyrequire less organization and collaboration (Friend & Bursuck, 2009; Thousand,Villa, &Nevin, 2006). Scruggs et al. (2007) reported the one teacher, one assist model was mostfrequently implemented in elementary classrooms.In order to experience positive results implementing models of co-teaching, researchthere are crucial steps within the models requiring effective collaboration utilizing both thegeneral and special education teacher strengths (Rea & Connell, 2005). Research suggests,540

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATIONVol.32, No.3, 2017teachers not only require expert knowledge of the co-teach models, the co-teachers mustobtain skills in the ability to collaborate to implement the research-based co-teaching modelsthrough effective co-planning, co-instructing, and co-assessing (Murawski &Lochner, 2010).Co-planning requires teachers to create lesson plans together and determine the appropriateaccommodations and modifications for special education students. Co-instructing requiresteachers to implement the best delivery model for co-teaching the content. Co-assessingrequires teachers to work together to provide appropriate assessments to monitor progress ofboth the general and special education students.Co-planning is the initial step to effective co-teaching and is essential to ensure coteachers delineate their roles and method of co-teaching instruction to best meet the lessongoals. (Murawski &Lochner, 2010; Ploessl et al., 2010). To accomplish this in a busyschedule, teachers may plan via technology tools such as Skype or other meeting media outletsutilizing an agenda to ensure an efficient use of time. Most importantly, lesson plans shouldbe designed by co-teachers to determine the delivery model (Ploessl et al., 2010). Coplanning assures both teachers understand their roles and responsibilities regarding eachlesson prior to co-instructing in the classroom. Co-instructing involves teachers providing theinstruction based on the most appropriate co-teaching model that aligns with the curriculumrequirements and student needs. Co-instruction is the responsibility of both teachers and canonly be accomplished after careful co-planning to establish a clear understanding of theinstructional goal and appropriate co-teach model. Formative and summative assessment mustbe included in the co-planning and co-instructing steps to determine student progress. Thegeneral and special education teacher both assess student progress routinely regardless of theplanned method of co-instruction. During the planning step, the method of assessment isdetermined to monitor student progress. Implementing these components in co-teachingprovides a supportive and engaging learning environment for both general and specialeducation students (Ploessl et al., 2010).Current research reflects the best practices for models of co-teaching and eventhough extensive research has led to the use of co-teaching in classrooms, an understanding ofhow co-teachers are implementing the strategies in the classroom is relevant to providingimproved teacher and student support (Mastropieri et al., 2005). This study of co-teachers andtheir strategies utilized to implement co-teaching will facilitate efforts to better understand andimprove co-teaching practices This study and data analysis provides further insight into thecollaborative effort of co-teachers and the extent co-planning, co-instructing and co-assessingare integrated into the co-teaching models utilized in elementary classrooms.MethodThis qualitative descriptive case study investigated two co-taught elementaryclassrooms. The case study examined information from teachers in reading and mathclassrooms to gain insight into participants’ knowledge and perceptions of co-teaching.Information was gathered from two elementary general education and two elementary specialeducation teachers concerning co-teaching roles and collaborative planning, instruction andassessment using interviews, a rating scale, and classroom observations. The experience ofelementary co-teachers in co-teach classrooms provided descriptive data allowing examinationand analysis of co-teachers’ knowledge, perceptions and implementation of co-teaching toaddress the following questions: 1) How do co-teachers implement research-based co-teachmodels and collaborative strategies? 2) How are teacher roles reflected in the co-teaching541

INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATIONVol.32, No.3, 2017partnership? 3) How does administrative support for implementing co-teaching impact coteachers?A rating scale, interview, and classroom observation of the participants were the datasources. The qualitative rating scale survey was used to glean practical and relevantinformation instead of a quantitative rating scale due to the small sample size (Jensen, 2010;Kelley, Clark, Brown, & Sitzia, 2003). Semi-structured interviews allowed for the researcherto gain in-depth knowledge of teacher perceptions of co-teaching from the open-endedquestions asked (DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree, 2006; Hoepfl, 1997). The observation viewedparticipants delivering instruction in a co-teach classroom (Hopefl, 1997). Themes andsubthemes were identified from the rating scales, interviews and observations to determine