Instruction for students with disabilities in the general education classroom: special educators’ perceptions of co-teaching and quality of instructional practices
Redash, Amanda Laura
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In schools across the United States, co-teaching is a commonly used model for providing instruction for students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms. Co-teaching is an instructional arrangement in which a general education teacher and special education teacher work collaboratively to provide instruction to students with and without disabilities in the general education classroom. While the use of co- teaching is reported to be widespread, there is little empirical evidence that it is an effective means of providing instruction for students with disabilities. Further information is needed about the instructional practices educators use in co-taught classrooms as well as the factors that influence this instruction. This mixed-methods, multiple case study analyzed the instructional actions of eight special education teachers to examine the extent to which they implement instructional practices recognized in the field of special education as evidence-based in co-taught English Language Arts and mathematics classrooms at the middle school level. In order to more fully understand the instructional practices observed in these classrooms, this study also explored special education teachers’ perceptions of the factors that influence their roles and the instructional practices used in these settings. Data were collected through teacher surveys, individual semi-structured interviews, and video recorded lesson observations. Teacher surveys and interview responses were analyzed thematically using an inductive process to identify themes related to teachers’ perceptions of their instructional roles and the instruction in co-taught classrooms, as well as factors that influence their roles and the instruction they provide for students. Lesson observations were scored using a standardized instrument to determine the extent to which evidence-based practices in special education were actually being implemented in these teachers’ co-taught classes. Findings indicated that the majority of special education teachers in this study took on limited roles related to planning, curriculum development, and instructional delivery in their co-taught classes. These special educators identified a number of factors that shaped their instructional roles in the co-taught classroom, with a significant factor being the general education teacher with whom they were paired. General educators were also identified to be an important factor impacting the types of instruction offered in co-taught settings. These findings suggested a clear power differential between general education and special education teachers in co-taught classrooms, with general educators assuming control over the division of responsibilities and instruction in co-taught English Language Arts and mathematics classes. Results of lesson analysis indicated that instruction in the majority of co-taught classrooms observed for the purpose of this study was rated in the low to medium quality range. Exceptions to these findings are noted. Based on these results, implications for practice in schools and teacher preparation are considered. Recommendations are also made for future research.