In 1975, the federal government implemented the Public Law 94-142 requiring all school systems to integrate children with disabilities into the regular school classroom and provide equal educational opportunity to all. (Protigal (Comp.), 1999) Since that time, teachers and administrators have been faced with the challenge of creating an appropriate environment for children with disabilities. Though many methods have been implemented, one model has shown promise – Cooperative Teaching. The Cooperative teaching model consists of five methods are 1) One teach, One Support; 2) Parallel Teaching; 3) Alternative Teaching; 4) Station Teaching; 5) Team Teaching. (Education Support Center, 2006) The following will provide a detailed description of the classroom, methods imposed as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each.
- One Teach, One Support: With this particular model one teacher is primarily responsible for the lesson plan, as well as providing the classroom instruction. The other teacher is free to move about the classroom providing one on one instruction, as well observing behaviors exhibited by students. (University Of Kansas, 2005) Students can work quietly side by side as well as participate in active exercises.
Classroom arrangement: Desks are placed in a grouping that faces the teacher presenting the lesson plan and the co-teacher is standing beside or behind the group so that she is able to observe all activity. Children with disabilities are placed in the least constrictive area depending on the level of assistance needed. For example, if a student requires more support than others he or she may be placed near the co-teacher for the purpose of immediate assistance.
Advantages to this model consist of students receive individual assistance in a timely fashion, teachers are able to keep the students on task, the observer is able to identify specific behaviors not visible to the teacher leading the lesson, as well as the teachers are able to observe one another “modeling good teaching practices.” (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 14) This setting is appropriate for activities such as reading instruction and other academic subjects as it is flexible. Students with disabilities benefit because they can rely on extra assistance if needed.
Disadvantages to this model consist of the fact that students are distracted by the supporting teacher’s movement throughout the group, as well as students may be of the belief that one teacher has more control than the other. (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 14)
An example of One Teach, One Support: John presents with the multiple-diagnosis of ADHD as well as autism. He is high functioning compared to others with this diagnosis, however he presents with a short attention span, as well as moments where his behavior is inappropriate in a social setting. During a One Teach, One Support session John becomes restless and others students slowly begin to notice John’s behavior. The co-teachers preparation addressed this possibility and John was seated to the side of the group for the purpose of immediate intervention if needed. As a result of the One Teach, One Support model, the supporting teacher is able recognize the onset of John’s behavior and is free to immediately provide additional assistance. The task of focusing his attention back to the group activity, as well as diverting other students’ attention back to the task at hand attracts very little attention to John’s differences. John benefits from the experience of the inclusionary classroom and the teaching model because he’s able to participate with the group, as well as receive immediate assistance without attracting attention to his differences.
- Parallel teaching: teachers combine efforts and construct the lesson plans for the children and each may deliver it to “half the class or small groups.” (University Of Kansas, 2005) This model requires “joint planning time” to ensure that the teachers are providing the content to the children in the same fashion – without variance. (University Of Kansas, 2005) The classroom set up consists of two groups, with one teacher per group teaching the same lesson simultaneously. (Meyer (Comp.), 2003)
Classroom Arrangement: The tables or desks are divided into two groups and the groups are arranged so that the children are not distracted easily and can pay attention to their assigned teacher. The group arrangement consists of the group sitting around a table in a circular fashion with the teacher presenting the lesson at the head of the table or to the side, whichever is more visible to the students. Children with disabilities that present social and behavioral issues are seated near the teacher so that if assistance is required immediately, she is able to provide it. Children with physical disabilities causing little disruption are seated again in the least restrictive area.
Advantages of this program consist of the fact that pre-planning tends to provide a much better teaching environment for younger students, the teachers are allowed to work with smaller groups making it easier to direct their attention to each student, and each teacher is comfortable working independently teaching the same lesson. (Meyer (Comp.), 2003) As the previous model, this setting is appropriate for academic subjects and can encompass quiet participation as well as group activities. Students with disabilities benefit from this layout because it allows more supervision from the teacher and they have more opportunity to respond.
Disadvantages of this format with younger children is that the noise level must be controlled so that the children can focus, space can become an issue in smaller classrooms, and the lesson must be equally paced so that all students complete the lesson simultaneously. (Meyer (Comp.), 2003)
An Example of Parallel Teaching: A classroom of children ages 7 to 8 with three students with varied disabilities. Austin, age 7 presents with acute Asperger’s Syndrome, Janice age 8 presents with mild ADHD, and Brock presents with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. The classroom is divided into two groups, with no set order of division – students of all levels and abilities are mixed within one group setting. As the division is random, chance has it that Janice and Austin end up in the same group and Brock is the only student with IEP guidelines in the second group – these students require different approaches.
Janice, requiring less supervision is seated within four seats of the teacher if immediate assistance is needed. Austin is seated near the teacher due to the fact that he requires more supervision and absorbs information when presented directly. The teachers are free to design her lesson plan exercises to fit the needs of her students; the only requirement is that the groups must finish simultaneously. The teacher’s observations over time have shown that these three students, though differing in diagnosis, show positive progress when tasks are broken down into smaller steps and a sense of immediate accomplishment is perceived. As this teaching model requires co-planning between the professionals, the teachers are able to work together to design a detailed lesson plan that maintains the inclusive environment, as well as addresses the needs of the students with disabilities.
- Alternative Teaching: one teacher manages the majority of the class while the other works with a smaller group “inside or outside of the classroom.” (Education Support Center, 2006) To give an example – some groups may need more direction with reading or math; therefore, the smaller group does not have to integrate with the larger which offers a less challenging environment where the child is free to learn at his or her own pace. In the case of a child with a disability, the smaller group could also be for “assessment purposes or tow teach social skills,” again providing a less restricted environment. (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 14)
Classroom arrangement: Desks are arranged similar to the parallel teaching model, if students remain in the same room – placed in a fashion where children are not easily distracted. Again, students with disabilities are seated appropriate to their actions and in the least restrictive area.
Advantages are the fact that smaller groups meet the “personal needs of students” when speaking of certain behavior and social issues and both teachers are able to remain in the classroom with one informally observing the other, again “modeling good teaching.” (Meyer (Comp.), 2003) Courses best served by this teaching model are mathematics, reading and English. These core subjects prove difficult for many students with or without a disability and the special focus placed upon extra attention benefits students. Students with disabilities benefit within this model because of the smaller group and the specialized attention.
Disadvantages to alternative teaching are that groups may show variance with “purpose and composition,” as well as the students may become labeled as more intelligent than the others, and the noise level may once again distract students. (Meyer (Comp.), 2003)
An example of Alternative Teaching: Sarah presents with an emotional disorder, where she exhibits hyperactivity, aggression and anti-social behavior when her surroundings become stressful. The teachers have identified that Sarah becomes stressed when certain academic activities become difficult, math being the most traumatic. Sarah being prone to hyperactivity and aggression when stressed is placed next to the teacher while in the group. This allows the teacher to ward off any frustration as Sarah placed in close proximity. As other students in the classroom struggle with progressing with the majority in math as well, a smaller group of students is formed so that each may receive additional instructions and advance at his or her own pace. The smaller group of students is taken aside and alternate methods are used to instruct the students. This model of co-teaching allows Sarah to remain an inclusive group participant, receive personalized assistance to learn mathematics, as well as removes the stress that is root of her disruptive behavior.
- Station Teaching: both teachers divide the lesson place and each has the responsibility of planning and teaching a part of it. With this model, the classroom is divided into stations, where the student and the teacher are at specific stations – the other stations are operated independently by other students or a teacher’s classroom aide. (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 14)
Classroom arrangement: The stations managed directly by teachers are small, which enables movement throughout the group; therefore, children with disabilities causing aggressive or anti-social behavior are easily observed. The student monitored station, however is arranged so that the students with disabilities requiring immediate attention are easily accessed. Desks are arranged into three stations, the number of desks or seats at each station depends upon how many children are allowed in each group. The stations are arranged again in a fashion that will not easily distract students while learning.
Advantages of this model is the fact that each teacher is able to assume an individual responsibility to providing quality lesson content, teachers are able to cover more material in less time, again students are able to benefit with working in smaller groups and fewer problems seem to occur that require discipline procedures. (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 14-15) This setting best serves subjects of all areas, as the stations allow for one on one instruction. Students with disabilities are able to receive one on one instruction geared their personality and ability to absorb information.
Disadvantages of this model consist of the length of time it takes to plan and gather materials, one or more groups must work independently without a teacher’s presence, and all stations must be equally paced so that the children finish tasks simultaneously. (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 15)
An example of Station Teaching: A classroom of 20 4th graders that includes 2 students with disabilities, Alex and Allen. Alex presents with a learning disability that makes it difficult to read text and Allen presents with a rare diagnosis of Child Disintegrative Disorder, which limits his ability to speak clearly and his motor skills are delayed compared to the rest of the group. As Alex works his way through the stations with his small group, the teachers are able to focus more attention on each student, identify any difficulty Alex might experience, as well as offer suggestions that will assist Alex when he reaches the independent station. Allen’s disability limits his speech and affects his motor skills, which makes holding a book and using a pencil more difficult than the other students – however his cognitive abilities allow him to focus independently when there is very little distraction.
As Allen works his way through the stations with his group, the teachers are again able to provide personalized verbal instructions that allow Allen to absorb information, as well as focus on inclusive instruction methods that will allow Allen to work towards improving verbal and motor skills within the classroom setting. Allen benefits from the group inclusion, as well as the personalized instruction from the teacher that will carry over when Allen reaches the independent work station and is able to utilize his cognitive abilities in a quiet non-distracting atmosphere. Once Allen and Allen reach the student monitored station, they are seated in an area that allows teachers or teacher’s aides to immediately assist him if needed. The co-teachers planning process prior to the group session, allowed the teachers to incorporate specific methods into the lesson plan that not only addressed the needs of the group, but the needs of the students with disabilities.
- Team Teaching: In this setting both teachers are responsible for the lesson planning, instruction of all students in the group, as well as engaging in active conversation, rather than a formal lecture. This environment requires a collective awareness of the lesson content, identical teaching philosophies and an equal commitment to the student’s integration into the classroom setting. (University Of Kansas, 2005)
Classroom Arrangement: This particular model is extremely flexible. Students can be taught in a regular classroom setting where they are seated at individual desks and the teachers present at the front of the room. Other options are sitting in a group in a reading area or around a large table with the teachers again presenting where the students can see them. Children with disabilities are placed within close proximity of the teachers if the disability causes aggressive or anti-social behavior.
- Advantages to this model is the encouragement of both teachers taking an active role in the teaching process, the students are given the impression that both teachers are equal, as well as allows the teachers to take an alternative approach to teaching the students, or risk taking – an approach they would not normally take when teaching alone. (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 14-15) The subjects best served by team teaching are reading or storytelling subjects, social studies and English. Students with disabilities benefit from this particular model due to the layout, as it promotes true inclusion. The lesson plans are unique and the teachers are allowed to freely express their style of teaching.
Disadvantages to this model consist of the time required to plan prior to teaching students, as well as the fact that the teacher’s roles must be “clearly defined for shared responsibility.” (Education Support Center, 2006, p. 14-15)
An example of Team Teaching: Ryan and Sandy both 10 years present with ADHD that is controlled by medication. Ryan is very self-conscious and shy because he is aware of his differences; therefore, he avoids group participation. Sandy, on the other hand occasionally acts out at inappropriate moments due to the fact that holding her attention during traditional academic lectures is impossible as it does not catch her focus. After careful planning and assessing the needs of each student, including Ryan and Sandy, the teachers are able to present a lesson where the class maintains focus, is excited about the material and the presentation encourages group participation.
In Sandy’s specific situation, the alternate teaching methods where the teachers are free to choose alternate presentation methods allows her to focus on the activity without becoming stagnant and prone to unacceptable behavior. Ryan is encouraged to participate freely, as the teachers present the material his interest is peaked and his focus is no longer centered on his inhibitions. Both students are seated close to the front of the class, but located close to the outer edge of the group to offer easy access if needed. The co-teachers are providing instruction by example, as the equal participation between the two illustrates two different personalities working together as one and the class is exposed to different personalities being treated equally in a group setting.
The goal of co-operative teaching is to provide “intense and individualized instruction”, as well as an inclusive environment for diverse classrooms based upon the collaboration of multiple educational professionals. (Meyer (Comp.), 2003) The most effective teaching model in my opinion would be the Team Teaching model as all students are given the opportunity to work together with two supporting teachers sharing equal responsibility. The inclusive classroom needs to promote an environment that allows the children with disabilities to participate at whatever level they’re able. Separating them from the group to provide any level of extra instruction again makes them feel separated and different. In order to improve the Team Teaching model, educational institutions should ensure that there is a teacher’s assistant available. If the number of students with disabilities or students requiring extra attention is higher than normal, extra teaching assistants need to be provided so that these assistants can provide extra assistance and manage behavior without calling attention to one individual student.
Dieker, L. (Comp.). (2005). Special Connections: An Introduction to Cooperative Teaching. Retrieved from http://www.specialconnections.ku.edu/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/specconn/main.php?cat=collaboration§ion=main&subsection=coteaching/main
Education Support Center. (2006). James Madison University: Co-Teaching. Retrieved from http://coe.jmu.edu/esc/Consortium_Co-Teaching.shtml
Meyer, M. (Comp.). (2003, September 29). SERC: Teaching & Learning Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.ctserc.org/initiatives/teachandlearn/coteach.shtml
Perl, M., Maughmer, B., & McQueen, C. (2000). CO-TEACHING: A DIFFERENT APPROACH (Rep.). Manhattan/Ogden, Virginia: Association of Teacher Educators.
Protigal, S. (Comp.). (1999). Seattle Community Network. Retrieved from http://www.scn.org/~bk269/94-142.html
University Of Kansas. (2005). Special Connections: TYPES OF CO-TEACHING. Retrieved from http://www.specialconnections.ku.edu/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/specconn/main.php?cat=collaboration§ion=main&subsection=coteaching/types#ques2