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School-Wide Collaboration in Special Education

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Linda Winfree

Linda has taught English at grades 6-12 and holds graduate degrees in curriculum and teacher leadership.

School-wide collaboration in special education settings ensures a cohesive administrative body and a comprehensive program. Learn how teachers in special education work together using transition instructors, collaborative learning, and interdisciplinary units. Updated: 01/20/2022

Collaboration in Special Education

Collaboration among teachers, administrators, and school staff benefits all students, but special education students in particular are best served when a school has an effective collaborative culture. This includes having special education and general education teachers work together, as well as implementing cooperation among grade level teachers and between teachers and administrators. These levels of collaboration create a comprehensive special education program, one which strives to meet the needs of all students with special needs.

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  • 0:04 Collaboration in…
  • 0:35 Collaborating for IEPs
  • 1:39 Collaborating for Instruction
  • 2:59 Collaborating for Other Needs
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Collaborating for IEPs

One key collaborative effort you may engage in as either a special education or general education teacher is the creation of an Individualized Education Program (IEP), the document that describes a student's need for special education services and outlines the services the child will receive. In this process, once the student's areas of exceptionality are identified, the special education and general education teachers discuss goals for the student, as well as accommodations and modifications the student needs in order to be successful with those goals.

For example, Janet is a special education teacher who provides inclusion services for several middle school students. Janet's students share the same set of general education teachers. When updating each student's IEP, Janet consults with their classroom teachers in an IEP meeting, also attended by the student's parents, to discuss the student's existing goals and accommodations. The team examines the student's progress and together sets new goals for the year. They also discuss whether accommodations should remain or be changed or if new accommodations are needed.

Collaborating for Instruction

Another important collaboration involves designing and delivering instruction. In this instance, collaboration might be between grade level educators who teach the same subject area, along with the special education teacher. Collaborating for instruction might also be among members of a grade level team, with members planning interdisciplinary instructional units and including their special education colleagues so as to best serve students with special needs.

Janet collaborates with general education peers in both of these situations. Depending on the needs of her students, Janet meets with the grade level subject area teachers as they examine data from common formative assessments and plan upcoming instruction. As a group, the educators discuss various levels of proficiency and what information and practice students need to move forward. Janet is able to offer suggestions for her special education students, but also insights into other instructional strategies for students who are not on her inclusion caseload.

When her inclusion team plans their interdisciplinary units, in which students encounter information from various subject areas in one instructional unit, Janet again offers feedback on how her students can be most successful within the unit. The different subject area teachers can explain how the pieces of the unit fit together and what skills and knowledge students need in each class. Each teacher brings their knowledge of research-based instructional strategies to the planning process.

Collaborating for Other Needs

Successfully implementing a special education program involves collaboration among teachers and other staff to meet various needs of special education students.

Janet teaches a student diagnosed with a seizure disorder. This student takes various medications and must be removed from the building before each scheduled fire drill, as the strobe lights can trigger a seizure. As part of the IEP process, Janet works with the school nurse to plan for the student's access to medications. They also devise a plan to ensure the child is not exposed to the noise and flashing lights of the fire alarms. If the student's medications change throughout the year after various medical checkups, Janet and the nurse consult to update the student's school medication plan.

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