An Examination of Two Coteaching Classrooms

By Luckner, John L. | American Annals of the Deaf, March 1999 | Go to article overview

An Examination of Two Coteaching Classrooms


Luckner, John L., American Annals of the Deaf


he present study presents data on two classrooms that used a coteaching approach to provide services to students who were deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing. The author conducted extensive observations, as well as interviews with teachers, students, administrators, and parents. The resulting qualitative data supported coteaching's effectiveness as a service delivery model. However, the research also identified important and specific challenges. Seven subthemes about coteaching are presented, and quotes from various stakeholders are provided to support and illustrate the information reported. Suggestions for future research are provided. The author makes recommendations on how to establish coteaching teams and describes issues surrounding communication, staff development, and family involvement.

A variety of professionals in deaf education have raised questions and expressed concerns about the quality of the education being provided to students who are deaf or hard of hearing (e.g., Commission on Education of the Deaf, 1988; Lytle & Rovins, 1997; Moores, 1996). Much of this concern has focused on what is being taught-the school curriculum-and how it is being taught-the teacher's knowledge and ability to teach the curriculum. One question in particular is being asked: If the curriculum goals, strategies, and materials being used with students who are deaf or hard of hearing are not equivalent to those used with hearing students, how can we expect similar outcomes to exist when students complete their educational programs? This point is well illustrated by Lytle and Rovins: It is clear that unless deaf and hard of hearing children are receiving the same subjects, at the same level of complexity and skillfulness as their hearing peers, then we cannot expect to see comparable achievement test scores regardless of the language of instruction, the quality of the teacher's communication skills, or how high the teacher's expectations are. Without diminishing the importance of how to teach deaf and hard of hearing children, we must remember that we need to address the critical issue of what we will teach them. (pp. 14-15)

Outside the field of deaf education, education professionals, along with parents, community members, and policymakers, are calling for higher educational standards and greater accountability for all students in America's schools. As a result, across the country, school systems are reorganizing their educational programs in an attempt to achieve better results for increasingly diverse students. In many places, the restructuring plan includes providing greater opportunities for teachers to work and plan together in teams, more time for student learning, and more personalized relationships among teachers, students, and families (National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, 1996). Driving these changes is the desire to improve student performance and school climate by creating a community in which (a) each student is encouraged to learn and achieve as much as possible, (b) differences are cherished for the richness they bring, and (c) adults learn from adults (Council for Exceptional Children, 1994).

One staffing pattern change that is being used to restructure schools to support student and teacher learning is the creation of interdisciplinary teams of teachers. Coteaching, sometimes called team teaching, coenrollment, collaborative teaching, or cooperative teaching, occurs when two or more professionals jointly plan, coordinate, and deliver instruction to a diverse group of students in a single physical space (Friend & Cook, 1996). This does not mean that they always work with students in large groups, but it does mean that they share decision making about instruction, and that each professional takes an active role in planning, teaching, and evaluating student performance, as well as in providing evaluation and feedback to each other. Coteaching arrangements that involve pairing a general education teacher and a special education teacher have been viewed as a valuable way to address the needs of diverse learners (Bauwens & Hourcade, 1995). …

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