Academic journal article Education

Putting Principles into Practice: Parent Perceptions of a Co-Taught Inclusive Classroom

Academic journal article Education

Putting Principles into Practice: Parent Perceptions of a Co-Taught Inclusive Classroom

Article excerpt

In the past few decades, the integration of children with disabilities into general education classrooms has become an accepted principle. Parents who were once told that a segregated program would provide the "best setting" for their children with disabilities are now being asked to place their children in modified general classrooms (Bradley & Fisher, 1995). Further, growing numbers of parents of children with mild disabilities (learning disabilities, behavior disorders and mild mental handicaps) are advocating inclusive settings for their children (Frantini, 1992; Buswell & Schaffiner, 1990). However, while the principle of inclusion is now widely accepted, the practice of inclusion has only recently taken center stage as a research issue.

Few studies have examined what regular education parents think about inclusive settings--the literature generally reflects the attitudes of parents of children with learning disabilities rather than parents of regular education students (McCoy, 1995). In this paper, we examine the practice of inclusion by describing a unique inclusion model featuring a team teaching approach. We also present the perceptions of parents of children with disabilities and parents of regular education students.

Generally, parents of children with disabilities are in favor of inclusion. However, there are some concerns among these parents. For example, some parents feel the self-esteem of their children is negatively affected. Studies have also shown that these parents feel the self-esteem of their children is negatively affected. Studies have also shown that these parents sometimes feel general educators lacked understanding of learning disabilities (Waggoner & Wilgosh, 1990; Mackey, 1989). Another study which examined the views of parents of children with abilities ranging from gifted/talented to regular with learning problems indicated that parents feel inclusion is detrimental in meeting the needs of all students (Shipley, 1995). Parental concerns center around the following: 1) gifted students are bored by the pace and not challenged; 2) average children receive a "watered" down curriculum and resent adaptations made for students with disabilities; 3) regular education students are frustrated by seeing other children doing less work and receiving the same or better grades; and 4) teachers spend "too much time" on disciplining and managing students with behavior problems or working with slower students (Shipley, 1995). Finally, a national study on inclusion states that "some general education parents report the positive social and academic benefits for their children due to involvement with persons with disabilities and the increase in instructional supports in the classroom" (NCERI, 1995, page 5).

One approach to providing instruction more closely matched to individual student's needs is through team teaching. Proponents argue that teachers in co-teaching settings are able to provide instruction in their areas of expertise as well as share teaching responsibilities and learning from each other (Dettmer, Thurston, & Dyck, 1993). While co-teaching is generally discussed in the context of strictly regular education classrooms or strictly special education classrooms, the concept is rarely applied to inclusive classrooms.

The Classroom

The classroom in this study is a co-taught, inclusive fourth/fifth grade second year of implementation. The classroom is in a public school in a Central Florida town with a population of approximately 20,000. The class has 42 students (12 identified exceptional students and 30 general education students). Twenty-one students are in this classroom for the second year. This class is taught by a general education teacher with 18 years experience and a special educator with 22 years experience.

This classroom uses a constructivist co-teaching approach to teaching. This approach differs radically from the compartmentalized curriculum in which discrete subjects are studied at designated times during the day is so prevalent in exceptional student as well as some general education classes. …

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