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What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 1

What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table:

Collaboration Between Professions

Danielle Saltrick

SERP 597e
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 2

Abstract

When discussing co-teaching, it can involve the special education teacher and general education

teacher in the general education classroom. Both partners have to be aware of the other and

collaborate as a team to understand the role of each professional when in the classroom. This is a

team effort, where one teacher cannot feel more superior than the other as they are both working

to ensure the students academic success in the classroom. Both general education teachers and

special education teachers have different roles within their job descriptions, but when co-teaching

as a pair, they need to come together to determine what role each will play when teaching a lesson.

Such as having one teach and the other assist. The roles of each professional will be seen when

coming together to collaborate about the needs of the student. By providing more preparation when

going to school to become a teacher may help incoming teachers to feel more prepared and ready

to participate in co-teaching. Otherwise, professional developments are essential to teachers when

learning more strategies and methods to implement in their classroom and with fellow teachers.
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 3

Introduction
Within this article, it will examine co-teaching between general education teachers and

special education teachers. Co-teaching is defined by Journal for Educational Research Online,

“This method includes a general teacher and a special education teacher: Both teachers plan,

teach and take responsibility of the class together” (Gebhardt, Schwab, Krammer, &

Gegenfurtner, 2015). By understanding the definition of what co-teaching means, it can better

determine how the professionals involved will implement it in the school. Both teachers need to

work together and collaborate with each other in order to understand what best fits the students

needs. This may come new to more traditional teachers, as they have more experience in

teaching just one subject on their own. General education teachers and special education teachers

both bring their own skills to the table when coming together to determine what services a

student needs and one could not work without the other. When co-teaching happens,

collaboration between the two teachers is a given, it would not be considered co-teaching if one

teacher was just following the other teacher without talking strategies and methods to best teach

the class or student.

Review of the Literature

Before diving into how teachers can start understanding the various roles of co-teaching

or collaboration, it is important to understand just how co-teaching came to be and how

collaboration is incorporated within it. In the beginning of the 1980s, the idea of special

education and related services could be offered in general education settings and where co-

teaching started to emerge. In the article, Co-teaching by Friend, Cook, Chamberlain, and

Shamberger, they discovered, “Until the past decade, however, co-teaching generally was

justified in terms of beliefs about the best ways to ensure that students with disabilities interacted
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 4

with peers” (Friend, Cook, Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010). This can relate to how teachers

need to take into consideration on placing the students with disabilities in the least restrictive

environment (LRE) to best benefit their academic learning. While finding the LRE for each

student, whether it may be mostly in the general education setting, or in a more intensive

classroom, it is best to collaborate with not just the general education teacher or special

education teacher, but also with the school psychologist, occupational therapist, or speech

therapist. Co-teaching can be beneficial for students with disabilities to access the general

curriculum while staying in the general education setting by receiving specialized instructional

strategies that are necessary to increase their learning. Every educational professional needs to be

better prepared for the implementation of co-teaching as stated in the article by Friend, Cook,

Chamberlain, and Shamberger, “First, special educators must understand how their knowledge

and skills facilitate learning in co-teaching. In addition, they must have the other collaboration

skills that enable them to negotiate roles and responsibilities in the co-taught class and to provide

the necessary instructional supports for students with disabilities. Without both sets of skills, it is

more likely that they will remain classroom assistants than become instructional partners”

(Friend, Cook, Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010). Some general education teachers may feel

reluctant to share their classroom with another qualified professional, but in time, they may see it

as being extremely beneficial.

Co-teaching and collaboration can come in several ways. This can consist of six different

teaching methods that both the general education teacher and special education teacher can

implement in their classroom. Included are; One Teach/One Observe, Station Teaching, Parallel

Teaching, Alternative Teaching, Teaming, One Teach/One Assist. Each method is required to

have collaboration with the partnering teacher. Having a collaborative relationship among other
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 5

educational professionals that involve regular communication about the student’s progress is

incredibly beneficial for both educators and the student. Collaboration is not limited to just the

school, reaching out to others at different schools can serve as a beneficial tool. In the article

Teachers’ Views it states, “Furthermore, the special educator in a co-teaching role explained that

she has been able to serve as a resource for other special educators from around the district to

learn about co-teaching” (Zagona, Kurth, & MacFarland, 2017). It is highly recommended to

reach out to others to collaborate about a certain method or strategy. In the article, Teachers’

Views of Their Preparation for Inclusive Education and Collaboration, a survey was conducted

between special education teachers and general education teachers and what skills associated

with each during collaboration, “The survey results revealed a significant relationship between

whether the teacher was a special or general educator and three skills associated with

collaboration: participating in IEP teams, sharing responsibility for decision making, and

working with other professionals to plan for the implementation of IEP goals and objectives”

(Zagona, Kurth, & MacFarland, 2017). While keeping in mind the different methods of co-

teaching, the teachers also have to keep in mind the student’s individualized education program

(IEP) and their goals and objectives while also matching the learning needs of the other students

in the classroom. The professional roles of collaboration, when teachers identified what

described their practices, was the importance of teacher compatibility. There was also a part

where educators discussed the roles and responsibilities of the teachers, indicating that special

educators tended to take on the role of the assistance rather than co-teacher because of limited

knowledge of the content. Finally, teachers reported that outcomes for students generally were

positive and included less stigma for students with disabilities and more individualized attention

for other students.


What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 6

When teachers decide to implement co-teaching in the general education classroom

setting, then collaboration is a must. In the article, General and special education teachers’

perceptions of teamwork in inclusive classrooms at elementary and secondary schools, a study

was conducted about the teamwork of both the general education teachers and special education

teachers, “The present study was designed to examine the teamwork in inclusive settings

between special education teachers and general teachers. The concern was that teachers worked

in an inclusive setting but had a traditional teacher model. If this were the case, then the special

education teachers would rate the teamwork lower than the general teachers” (Gebhardt, Schwab,

Krammer, & Gegenfurtner, 2015). By implementing co-teaching between the general education

teacher and special education teacher, students with disabilities have the opportunity to learn

alongside their peers in the general education classroom while also receiving the needed supports

from team members who collaborate to plan for the student. This could be considered the LRE

for the student as he/she is able to learn the similar concepts as their peers and being able to

participate in the same activities as their typically developing peers. By having students with

disabilities included into the general education classroom, it will allow them to get the base

learning of what their peers are learning and what they should be learning at their grade level. An

example of the roles of both the general education teacher and the special education teacher

when collaborating would be how they plan instruction and use data-based decision making and

how they will progress monitor students.

When general education teachers and special education teachers find out that they will

have to work together, both positions may have a sense of anxiety when starting off. If a teacher

has more of a traditional teaching method where they are used to not having students with

disabilities in their classroom, as there might have been a separate classroom for them, then they
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 7

may feel overwhelmed and anxious from thinking of teaching students with intellectual and/or

physical disabilities. In the article on Teachers’ Views, challenges that came up were making

sure to include students with health needs or other varying disabilities to be a part of the class

activity and modifying the way the activity was taught or completed so that the student was able

to complete it independently. A common challenge that may come up between the two

educational professionals is if a special education teacher is in the classroom, then the general

education teacher may not interact with the student who has a disability because they may feel

that that is the role of the special education teacher and they understand the student better. That is

why collaboration is so critical, so when general education teachers have a student with

disabilities in their classroom, they will know how to interact with them. After asking a few

special education teachers from the article on Teachers’ Views on what challenges they may

face, a few shared, “you have to pick and choose when it’s the right time to work on something

totally different and when it’s the right time to just have them do whatever everyone else is

doing.” Another special educator described challenges associated with inclusive education when

students have complex health needs: “some students . . . have seizures that can happen at any

time” (Zagona, Kurth, & MacFarland, 2017). This can be understandable as to why some general

education teacher may feel anxious when being introduced to students with disabilities in their

classroom and co-teaching.

Being accurately prepared can also be beneficial for incoming teachers who are going to

be working with either a general education teacher or special education teacher under co-

teaching. General education teachers may not be prepared to teach a student with disabilities due

to lack of training or preparation as stated from the article Teachers’ Views, “The teachers’

nervousness about their lack of preparation for inclusive education led them to doubt the
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 8

potential for the student to experience success in their classroom” (Zagona, Kurth, &

MacFarland, 2017). This cannot be a thought in the mind of a teacher with any student. If a

teacher is unsure about the success of a student, then the student will get that sense and feel

unsure about their own success. Teacher preparation does not stop once out of school, it

continues on throughout their career through professional development where they can continue

to learn and practice new instructional and collaborative strategies. These developments and

programs should work together to ensure that the general education teachers have the

opportunity to learn about the role of special education teachers. General education teachers may

not be fully prepared for understanding an IEP or attending an IEP meeting. In the article,

Teachers’ Views, “The special education teachers and general education teacher described

similar areas in which they felt prepared and successful, including communicating with other

teachers and parents and supporting the students with disabilities to become true members of

their classroom community” (Zagona, Kurth, & MacFarland, 2017). Communicating and

collaborating seemed to be a strength for most general education teachers and special education

teachers between each other, but for the areas of co-teaching and sharing methods and strategies

it seems to be in need of improvement.

Summary

For both general education teachers and special education teachers, it is important to

understand successful co-teaching within the classroom and how both educational professionals

can effectively collaborate with each other to ensure the success of all of their students. Whether

challenges come up for both professions, or if they feel like they are adequately prepared when

entering the teaching field, collaboration between each other can ensure that both are on the same

page when co-teaching in the general education classroom with the inclusion of students with
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 9

disabilities. Each teacher can strategize on what methods and implementations work best for not

just the entirety of the class, but for those students that need more specialized instruction.
What Special Education Teachers and General Education Teachers Bring to the Table 10

References
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. doi:

10.1080/10474410903535380

Gebhardt, M., Schwab, S., Krammer, M., & Gegenfurtner, A. (2015). General and special

education teachers’ perceptions of teamwork in inclusive classrooms at elementary and

secondary schools. Journal for Educational Research Online, 7(2), 129-146.

Zagona, A. L., Kurth, J. A., & MacFarland, S. Z. (2017). Teachers’ views of their preparation for

inclusive education and collaboration. SAGE Journals, 40(3), 163-178. doi:

10.1177/0888406417692969