Benefits of Collaboration Between General & Special Education Teachers

Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Why go at something alone when you could have another person supporting you? This type of idea is exactly what cooperative teaching entails. Read on to learn about the benefits of collaboration between general education and special education teachers.

One Is the Loneliest Number

If you had the option to teach with someone else, would you? Sometimes the idea of another person in our classrooms can be an unnerving feeling, but looking at the data and research, it seems having another teacher in the room can increase student success and teacher productivity.

Let's take a look at the concept of cooperative teaching and the benefits of having two teachers in one classroom.

Cooperative Teaching

Cooperative teaching takes place when a general education teacher and special education teacher collaborate and teach in the same room together. As partners, both are responsible for teaching all students and ensuring a positive learning experience. Typically in cooperative teaching, the special education teacher will be responsible for special needs students' educational plans and advocate for their needs and required services to the general education teacher. The general education teacher focuses on teaching the curriculum enforced by the school and/or state standards.

Teacher Roles

While both teachers work together to create curriculum, instruct, and assess, they play different roles in the partnership. The general education teacher usually focuses on the curriculum and instruction while the special education teacher helps adapt and modify both. However, both teachers work together to create daily routines, promote lesson flow, and manage the students in the classroom.

As in any educational situation, each teacher will have his or her own set of strengths, skill sets, and content knowledge base that can be utilized in the pairing. The cooperative teaching approach can look like a well-practiced ballroom dance when there is time for preparation and planning.

Benefits of Collaboration

Let's take a look at some of the ways in which cooperative teaching benefits the students and the school.

Instructional Mobility

One of the most beneficial aspects of the co-teaching model is the time and attention each student receives. With two teachers in the room, one person can be instructing and the other can be walking around, keeping students focused and on task. This means there is a decrease in distractions and more time for questions while the lead teacher is lecturing and modeling. The second teacher can also ensure students are organized and following the instructions of the lecturing teacher.

Lower Teacher-Student Ratio

Having a second teacher in the room reduces the number of students seeking one teacher's attention. For example, most classrooms average 18-25 students. With two teachers, you can cut those numbers in half. This means each teacher can spend more time with each student, instead of having one teacher try to attend to the needs of 20 students.

The co-teaching model can also reduce grading time. Teachers can split the work when it comes to creating assignments, grading, and providing feedback to parents.

After School and Individual Assistance

Two teachers in the classroom allow for far more moments of one-on-one instructional time. If one teacher is busy, a student can go to the other adult in the room for assistance. This applies to after school help as well. Teachers can stay after school on alternate days to provide students with extra time for tests, projects, or other assignments.

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