What is it about co-teaching that makes it a viable option in the classroom?
As mentioned in the Introduction to Co-Teaching, the changing demographics of students in the general education system contribute largely to an increased interest in co-teaching models (Murawski, 2010; Murawski & Spencer, 2011; US Department of Education, 2002). However, what is it specifically that makes co-teaching a good way in which to deliver a quality education to students? The benefits of co-teaching are different for both students and teachers, and, as such, will be presented independently.
Benefits to teachers:
- Co –teaching has been associated with opportunities for growth and professional development as teachers begin to learn from one another in a co-taught classroom. In particular, general educators can see first hand how to incorporate strategies for students of all ability levels thanks to the input of a special educator, while a special educator learns the ins and outs of a general education classroom. (Friend & Cook, 2007; Murawski, 2010; Salend et al., 1997; Walther-Thomas, 1997).
- Co-teaching provides educators support and assistance in planning lessons, managing classroom behavior, and successfully diffusing classroom problems that may appear during a lesson or school day (Adams & Cessna, 1993; Dieker & Murawski, 2003; Murawski, 2010; Weichel, 2001).
- Co-teachers have more room for flexibility, creativity, and experimentation in their lesson plans thanks to the presence of two educators in the classroom (Adams & Cessna, 1993; Cross & Walker-Knight, 1997; Giangreco, Baumgart, & Doyle, 1995; Murawski, 2010).
Benefits to students:
- Students are provided with more individualized attention and differentiated instruction when two educators are present in a classroom. (Murawski, 2010; Murawski & Dieker, 2004; Walther-Thomas, 1997; Walsh & Snyder, 1997; Weichel, 2001; Zigmond, Magiera, & Matta, 2003 as cited in Murawski, 2010)
- Students with disabilities are able to learn in the least restrictive environment and have access to peer interaction and peer learning, as well as the ability to interact with general education peers to improve social and behavioral outcomes. (Dieker, 1998; Hunt, Allwell, Farron-Davis & Goetz, 1996; Jones & Carlier, 1995; Murawski, 2010; Pugach & Wesson, 1995; Salend et al., 1997; Walther- Thomas, 1997)
- Students are exposed to different teaching styles that may complement their preferred learning styles in different ways (Beninghof, 2012).
Though many benefits are listed above, most of the results are qualitative reports of co-teaching. The quantitative data related to student outcomes, both academic and social, is limited at best according to Murawski and Swanson’s review from 2001. However, from this data it would seem that co-teaching, particularly in relation to theories of educational psychology, has the potential to take huge strides related to how students are educated. It is necessary for more research, particularly quantitative research, to explore the application of such methods on academic, social and behavioral outcomes for both students and teachers.