One of the most effective service delivery models is co-teaching, but what does that really mean? The first step to establishing effective co-teaching relationships is to begin with a common language. There seems to be some confusion that stems from a misuse of the word “inclusion”, so let’s start there. The word “inclusion” does not show up anywhere in IDEA PL-142, and the Department of Education has not defined the term. Individual states have been charged with interpreting the language about least restrictive environment that states “to the maximum extent appropriate, handicapped children, including children in public and private institutions or other facilities, are educated with children who are not handicapped”. The term inclusion has been used to describe everything from the philosophy about providing education in the least restrictive environment to the placement of students to the service delivery model that Special Education teachers use to teach Special Education students in the regular classroom. With all of these definitions floating around, it’s no wonder educators are confused.
What is inclusion?
According to the Texas Education Association, inclusion is “a belief system that values diversity and fosters a shared responsibility to help all students to reach their potential.” It is a philosophy, not a service delivery model.
What is inclusion support?
Inclusion support is a model for providing Special Education students a level of individual support in the general education classroom. Inclusion support is not co-teaching. Inclusion support seems to have been established early in the inclusive process before co-teaching was understood as an effective model for delivery Special Education services in the general classroom.
What is co-teaching?
Co-teaching is a learning environment in which two or more certified professionals share the responsibility of lesson planning, delivery of instruction, and progress monitoring for all students assigned to their classroom. As a team, these professionals share the same physical classroom space, collaboratively make instructional decisions, and share the responsibility of student accountability (Friend, 2008, p. 4)
Common Misconceptions about Co-teaching
- Co-teaching takes too much time. There are several different models of co-teaching. Some requirement a significant level of co-planning, but some can be implemented with minimal planning and are still effective.
- Co-teaching takes away from Special Education minutes. Effective co-teaching uses data-based teaching strategies to provide a high level of instruction to all students. Many co-teaching models effectively reduce the student/teacher ratio, therefore increasing the contact time between special education teacher and special education students.
- Special Education teachers can’t provide services regular education students. IDEA states that non-disabled students may receive services from Special Education teachers if those services are “incidental” as a result of the service that they are providing to disabled students.