Improving Pre-Service Middle School Teachers' Confidence, Competence, and Commitment to Co-Teaching in Inclusive Classrooms

By Strieker, Toni; Gillis, Bryan et al. | Teacher Education Quarterly, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Improving Pre-Service Middle School Teachers' Confidence, Competence, and Commitment to Co-Teaching in Inclusive Classrooms


Strieker, Toni, Gillis, Bryan, Zong, Guichun, Teacher Education Quarterly


Introduction

The ability of university based teacher education programs in the United States to produce competent educators who are ready to meet the challenges of 21st century schooling has been closely scrutinized and hotly debated in recent years (Lewin, 2011). Teacher education currently faces an urgent responsibility to transform its curriculum, pedagogy, structure, and delivery to better prepare pre-service teachers to negotiate the changing landscape in educational policies and practices that influence K-12 classrooms (Boyle-Baise & McIntyre, 2008; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Fullerton & Ruben, 2011; Grossman & McDonald, 2008). According to Hulett (2009), one of the major changes has been the redefining of both general educators' and special educators' roles as a result of legislative mandates such as The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). To effectively teach large numbers of students with disabilities in inclusive classrooms, content teachers and special education teachers must face the reality and challenge of developing effective partnerships that provide equitable instruction and increase the performance outcomes for all students.

According to Grant and Gillette (2006) and Shamberger (2010), classroom teachers often lack the necessary knowledge and skills to deliver instruction effectively to a diverse group, particularly when faced with teaching students with disabilities in the general education classroom and curriculum. One of the skills that classroom teachers often lack is the ability to collaborate. In 2008, Paulsen reported that classroom teachers do not have the collaborative skills necessary to improve learning for diverse students through interaction with their professional colleagues, families, and community members. To address this obvious disconnect between teacher preparation and the reality of teaching in P-12 schools, scholars in teacher education have recommended co-teaching as a viable solution because it partners teachers who possess content knowledge with those with expertise in special education (Bauwens, Hourcade, & Friend, 1989). As early as 1995, Cook and Friend defined co-teaching as two or more certified professionals delivering instruction to a heterogeneous group of students in a single classroom or space. According to Friend (2011), co-teaching generally extends to co-planning, co-assessment and co-instruction. In terms of co-instruction, Friend describes six different models: one-teach/one assist, one teach/one observe, station teaching, parallel teaching, alternative teaching and team teaching.

Since its inception, co-teaching has evolved into one of the most widely used approaches for providing students with disabilities with access to the state-approved curriculum in the general education classroom.

With the implementation of NCLB in 2001 and IDEA in 2004, the expectation for general classroom and special education teachers to co-teach has increased substantially (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2008). However, the increased popularity has not led to increased understanding and effective execution of the practice. In 2008, Friend reported that even when teachers are highly experienced, co-teaching is more difficult than it appears. Thus, it is not surprising that these difficulties are compounded when pre-service teachers are required to co-teach as they simultaneously develop the basic pedagogical skills requisite to effectively plan, deliver, and evaluate content area lessons effectively. Pre-service teachers obviously need systematic preparation in order to understand the theory and practice of co-teaching.

In response to this need, teacher educators have begun to explore creative ways to model collaboration and integrate co-teaching into their undergraduate programs. An emerging body of professional literature documents various efforts to restructure teacher preparation programs, curriculum, and pedagogy to prepare pre-service teachers in general education and special education with the knowledge, skills and dispositions to assume the responsibilities of co-teaching (Alverez-McHatton & Daniels, 2008; Arndt & Liles, 2010; Fullerton & Ruben, 2011; Parker, Alverez-McHatton, Allen & Rosa, 2010). …

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