Academic journal article College Student Journal

Building the Foundations of Inclusive Education through Collaborative Teacher Preparation: A University-School Partnership

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Building the Foundations of Inclusive Education through Collaborative Teacher Preparation: A University-School Partnership

Article excerpt

The purpose of this project was to provide a one-year opportunity for university students, school-based special educators and general educators to work together on behalf of 20 elementary education students with special needs. Twenty general education and ten special education university students provided services to students identified with special needs or at risk, supervised by on-site general and special education teachers. Weekly seminars provided opportunities for all participants to work collaboratively, sharing teaching methods and strategies. Evidence accumulated from student portfolios, dialogue journals, informal discussions, and surveys documented the benefits and challenges of collaboration for the participants. The current study served as a pilot for future integration of coursework and field experience in the context of University-School Partnerships.

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Over ten years ago, Allington and McGill-Franzen (1989) wrote of the need to transform the current method of educational service delivery. They suggested proceeding toward a more integrated educational system eliminating the need for separate special education classrooms. Arguing against two separate educational systems, general and special education, the authors joined others in their call for integrated classrooms (Biklin, 1985; Gartner & Lipsky, 1987; Stainback & Stainback, 1984) in the belief that students with exceptionalities differ in degree, not kind, from typically developing students.

In the wake of P.L. 94-142 in 1975, and later in the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA, federal legislation requires that students with exceptionalities receive their education in the least restrictive environment (LRE) requiring that students with disabilities be educated with their typically developing peers to the greatest extent possible, and that removal to more specialized or restrictive settings should occur only when it is not possible, even with the provision of supplementary aids and supports, to serve a student with a disability in the general education setting (Raymond, 2000).

Allington and McGill-Franzen's (1989) proposed merger of all instructional efforts for "low-achieving" students requires general education and support teachers to work collaboratively on the design and delivery of instruction, ultimately developing the "shared knowledge" necessary to create coherent instructional opportunities across school settings. They envisioned teachers working as intact teams addressing the instructional needs of an intact set of children.

In order for collaboration in the field and the "sharing of responsibility" for instruction and achievement to occur, the field of education has been forced to make some very fundamental changes. Such changes assume that teachers are prepared to play a part in the change process or take on the role of change agent in addition to other critical roles and responsibilities. It has been incumbent on higher education to abandon traditional approaches to teacher preparation and move to one that includes and reinforces the concept of educational partnerships (Welch & Hardman, 1991).

Leaders in teacher education began calling for unitary systems of personnel preparation so that all teachers are able to provide education based on the unique needs of individual students. Collaborative preparation for both special and general education preservice teachers allows for the development of collaborative partnerships and an opportunity to resolve role ambiguity so that once in the field, teachers' effectiveness will not be hindered by role confusion.

As the vision of an integrated educational system became more and more of a reality, schools and teacher preparation programs have been forced/challenged to adapt to the changing needs of integrated classrooms. As one might deduce, the impact on teacher training programs has been colossal. A special education teacher must be prepared to assume a variety of roles, be it intervention specialist, itinerant teacher, or resource room teacher. …

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