Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Collaborative Teaming to Support Students at Risk and Students with Severe Disabilities in General Education Classrooms

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Collaborative Teaming to Support Students at Risk and Students with Severe Disabilities in General Education Classrooms

Article excerpt

A growing body of research documents that students with significant disabilities can be educated in their neighborhood school along with their typical peers. Inclusive education is postulated upon the following beliefs: (a) All children can learn; (b) all children have the right to be educated with their peers in age-appropriate heterogeneous classrooms within their neighborhood schools; and (c) it is the responsibility of the school community to meet the diverse educational needs of all its students regardless of their ability levels, national origin, and linguistic, cultural and family background (see Thousand & Villa, 1992).

It is well documented that inclusive education can yield positive outcomes for all of those involved, including the focus students, typical peers, classroom teacher, and school community at large (e.g., Hunt, Doering, Hirose-Hatae, Maier, & Goetz, 2001; Soto, Muller, Hunt, & Goetz, 2001). Among the outcomes for students with severe disabilities, we find (a) increased social participation and access to general education curriculum (Fryxell & Kennedy, 1995; Hunt, Alwell, Farron-Davis, & Goetz, 1996; Staub, Schwartz, Galluci, & Peck, 1994); (b) learning and generalization of new social, sensory, motor, and communication behaviors (e.g., Gee, Graham, Sailor, & Goetz, 1995; Hunt, Staub, Alwell, & Goetz, 1994); and (c) improvement of the overall quality of individualized education program (IEP) objectives (Hunt & Farron-Davis, 1992; Hunt, Farron-Davis, Beckstead, Curtis, & Goetz, 1994). Significant benefits of inclusion have also been reported for class members without disabilities including increased sensitivity, empathy, and acceptance of human differences, as well as increased access to cooperative learning opportunities and assistive technology (Giangreco, Dennis, Cloninger, Edelman, & Schattman, 1993; Peck, Donaldson, & Pezzoli, 1990). More recently, benefits have been identified for the overall classroom program through the use of innovations and instructional strategies that benefited all children (Soto et al.).

Despite these positive outcomes, a considerable body of literature establishes that effective inclusive education for students with significant disabilities requires substantive changes in the structure of the classroom, a different conceptualization of professional roles, and a continuous need for collaborative teaming (e.g., Gee et al., 1995; Giangreco, 2000; Giangreco et al., 1993; Giangreco, Prelock, Reid, Dennis, & Edelman, 1999; Hunt et al. 2001; Rainforth & York-Barr, 1997; Thousand & Villa, 1992; York-Barr, Schultz, Doyle, Kronberg, & Crossett, 1996). Other variables that have emerged as essential to the success of inclusive schooling for students with severe disabilities include the design and implementation of educational supports for diverse learners, parental involvement, support for the development of positive social supports and friendships, implementation of positive behavioral supports for students with challenging behaviors, and a shared inclusionary philosophy by all key stakeholders (Giangreco, 2000; Hunt, Hirose-Hatae, Doering, Karasoff, & Goetz, 2000; Nevin, Thousand, Paolucci-Whitcomb, & Villa, 1990).

The ability of a local school to serve students with disabilities in the general education classroom appears to be related to the ability of that school to provide effective quality education for a heterogeneous student body, wherein planning for the education of general as well as special populations is a shared responsibility of the total professional and administrative staff (Hunt et al., 2000; Hunt et al., 2001; Sailor, 1991). When all students are being educated at their local inclusive school, then all educational resources could be used to provide a more individualized and more effective education for everyone. As the student population changes due to changing demographic variables, there is an increased focus on finding ways to improve the performance of students at risk (Sailor). …

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