Practices and Perceptions of Regular and Special Educators Co-Teaching in the Middle and Secondary Inclusion Classrooms
The requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Act changed the expectation for teaching and learning for educators in a dramatic way. Charged with the responsibility of teaching all students regardless of disability in a regular classroom setting, teachers often feel overwhelmed and underqualified. Inclusion classrooms facilitated by a regular education teacher and an exceptional children’s teacher working as co-teachers have become the most commonly accepted practice for inclusion classrooms in middle and secondary schools throughout the nation, but is it working? Researchers have conducted studies of co-taught classrooms over the years with both positive and negative outcomes. Regardless of the research, inclusion is a federally mandated practice warranting further investigation on what can be done to make it successful.
This study was used to analyze the co-teaching practices and teacher perceptions in a small rural district in North Carolina. The research was conducted to determine how co-teaching is being implemented in inclusion classrooms, how co-teachers perceive the success of co-teaching in their classrooms, and what guidance co-teaching teams can provide administrators hoping to provide supportive environments. Teachers were surveyed using the tool “Are We Really Co-Teachers”, created by Villa, Thousand, and Nevin (2004). The researcher observed 10 co-taught classrooms at the middle and high school levels. Teachers observed in the study were asked to participate in a focus group to further analyze perceptions. Information gained in this study is intended to contribute a deeper understanding of teacher perceptions concerning co-teaching in order to identify conditions affecting a successful co-taught classroom. It is expected to be useful by all school personnel in instructional leadership positions hoping to overcome barriers to student achievement in inclusion settings.