Co-Teaching and Inclusive Education

Inclusive Education is an educational philosophy that brings all types of students together to create a class or school environment that is based on acceptance, belonging and a respect for human diversity. Inclusive education is about ensuring the rights to education of the disabled learners, who are often the most marginalised within education systems and within society in general. Traditionally, they have experienced exclusion, discrimination and segregation from the mainstream and from their peers.

Children who have impairments experience difficulties in the education system. They may find difficult to understand a part of a curriculum, to assess an oral or written instruction, or to access school buildings. Instead, it is the weakness of the education system, such as, badly-designed curricula, poorly-trained teachers, inappropriate medium of instruction, inaccessible buildings or whatever - that are creating ‘barriers to learning’ for these children.

Agencies and representatives from all over the world gathered to review and analyze their efforts towards the goal of “Education for All”. Consequently, Inclusive education is regarded as the only means to achieve the goal of “Education for All”.

The NPE, 1986 envisaged some measures for integrating children with physical and mental handicap with the general community as equal partners, preparing them for their normal growth and development and enabling them to face life with courage and confidence.

The earlier scheme of ‘Integrated Education for the Disabled Children (IEDC)’ was introduced in the 1970’s. It covered children with disabilities at all levels of school education. Again it was revised in 2009 as ‘Inclusive Education of the Disabled at the Secondary Stage' (IEDSS). The proposed scheme by the Central Government for IEDSS is envisaged to enable children and young persons with disabilities to access secondary education and to improve their enrolment, retention and achievement in the general education system.

Current Challenges & Issues for Inclusive Education

Major challenges and issues in the education of CWSN at secondary level in the country with respect to education of children with special needs in respect of states are as follows:

• Lack of Resource Teachers and therapists

• Lack of trained teachers on all disabilities

• Gap between the students passing out of elementary classes and enrolling in Secondary schools

• Child Tracking System needs to be developed

• Low enrolment of CWSN Girls

• Lack of proper and systematic supervision and monitoring system

• Lack of specialists and Therapists in the states

• Slow development of Inclusive Model schools in states

• Barrier free environment are not appropriate and as per the norms

• Non representation of CWSN parents and Special Teacher in SMDC

• Lack of sufficient well equipped Resource Rooms

Co-teaching

Co-teaching is when two educators work together to plan, organize, instruct and make assessments on the same group of students, sharing the same classroom. This approach can be seen in several ways. Teacher candidates who are learning to become teachers are asked to co-teach with experienced associate teachers, whereby the classroom responsibilities are shared, and the teacher candidate can learn from the associate teacher. Regular classroom teachers and special education teachers can be paired in co-teaching relationships to benefit inclusion of students with special needs.

Dieker and Murawski (2003) discussed co-teaching at the secondary level. They emphasized the importance of teacher preparation, sufficient planning time, mastery of content by special education teachers, and pointed to large class sizes and high-stakes testing as particular challenges to co-teaching success. They recommended proactive communication, varied instructional practices (e.g., class wide peer tutoring), teacher training, use of a variety of co-teaching models, voluntary participation, common planning periods, and flexibility.

Keefe, Moore, and Duff (2004) recommended that secondary co-teachers develop awareness of themselves, co-teacher, students, as well as relevant content and strategies. They reported that research to date revealed that secondary teachers lacked training and skills and have more negative attitudes about co-teaching.

Gately and Gately (2001) focused on important components of the co-teaching relationship, including communication, content knowledge, planning, classroom management and assessment.

There are several models of co-teaching:

1. One Teach, One Support

One teacher leads instruction, while the other provides support to students who need additional help or enrichment, gathers observation data, or provides classroom management.

2. Parallel Teaching

Each teacher, or teacher and student teacher, plan jointly but each teaches the same information to different halves of the classroom at the same time.

3. Alternative Teaching

One teacher manages most of the class while the other teacher works with a small group inside or outside of the classroom. The small group does not have to integrate with the current lesson.

4. Station Teaching

Both teachers divide the instructional content, and each takes responsibility for planning and teaching part of it. In station teaching, the classroom is divided into various teaching centers. The teacher and student teacher are at particular stations; the other stations are run independently by the students or by a teacher’s aide.

5. Team Teaching

Both teachers are responsible for planning and share the instruction of all students. The lessons are taught by both teachers who actively engage in conversation, not lecture, to encourage discussion by students. Both teachers are actively involved in the management of the lesson and discipline.

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.

The following six steps are important to prepare for a co-teaching experience:

1. Establish rapport:

The regular classroom teacher and the special education teacher establish a relationship even before the students enter the building. Get to know each other on a personal level. When the two teachers have a comfortable relationship and rapport with each other, the children feel more comfortable in the classroom. Students can sense tension as well as harmony within the learning environment. A positive relationship will help minimize misunderstandings and motivate to resolve problems before they escalate.

2. Identify the teaching styles and use them to create a cohesive classroom:
Instructional and discipline styles are just two factors needed to be examined so that teachers can combine the best of both of their styles to create a cohesive classroom. Both the teachers need to find a balance that makes everyone comfortable. In lesson plan both can use their two styles to complement one another and thus enhance the lessons and the delivery of instruction.

3. Discuss strengths and weaknesses:
Teachers should make a list of strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Then take the lists and compare them and highlight the strengths that are dominant for one teacher and allow that person to be the lead teacher in those areas.

4. Discuss Individualized Education Plans (IEP) and regular education goals:
To create Individualized Education Plans, the special educator needs to involve the regular educator in the special education process. Students in special education belong to both educators, so the general educator must be informed about the IEP for each child. Otherwise, the teachers cannot effectively execute the plans.

It is important to discuss the modifications and accommodations as well as the goals and objectives to ensure student success in the classroom. The special and regular education teacher can then work together in meeting the student’s goals and ensuring adequate progress. In the same way, the regular education teacher should discuss with the special education teacher his or her goals for the regular students, as the regular education students belong to the special education teacher as well. Both educators should be addressing the goals, objectives, and mandatory curriculum for that grade level.

5. Formulate a plan of action and act as a unified team:

Formulate a plan of action in the beginning of the year, disruptions will be minimal. The following items are important in plan of action:

  • Scheduling
  • Expected classroom behaviours
  • Classroom procedures, such as class work and homework policies, turning in work
  • Consequences of not following rules and procedures
  • Grading
  • Communication between home and school

6. Take risks and grow

A wonderful aspect of co-teaching is that it allows both teachers to take risks, learn from each other, and grow as professionals. Co-teaching provides a safety net when teachers take risks in classroom instruction.

Benefits of Co-teaching:

  1. Students with disabilities are provided access to the general education curriculum and general education setting
  2. Students with disabilities will still receive specialized instruction
  3. Students will have the opportunity to be taught in an intense, individualized manner
  4. Greater instructional intensity and differentiated instruction
  5. Teachers will learn from each other’s expertise and expand the scope of their teaching capacity
  6. Reduces negative stigma associated with pull-out programs
  7. Students with disabilities may feel more connected with their peer group

Conclusion

General education teachers generally consider co-teaching to be contributing positively to their professional development: Special education co-teachers feel an increase in their content knowledge, and general education co-teachers agree with the the benefits to their skill in classroom management and curriculum adaptation.

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