Perhaps the 2014-15 school year is a great time to revisit inclusive practices and ensure strong co-teaching practices throughout our district. Access to knowledge, skills and values is the beginning. But how can we go further for our students with disabilities? I think one way is to broaden our thinking of co-teaching to specifically talk about co-assessment, co-planning and co-instruction. Professional partners, each bringing a separate skill set to the table, to ensure that every student (with or without disabilities) receives strong instruction in a way that he/she understands and can demonstrate his/her understanding. In her new book, Co-Teach! Building and Sustaining Effective Classroom Partnerships in Inclusive Schools, Dr. Friend provides us with some ideas that will allow us to begin this discussion within our schools.
This is the practice of GE and EC Teachers working together to provide and analyze formative and summative assessments which inform instruction. How are you working with your co-teaching partner to gather and analyze data on a daily basis? Universal Design for Learning suggests that we design lessons, with potential barriers in mind and ensuring multiple means of expression. Do you students have multiple options to demonstrate their understanding?
Co-planning means GE and EC teachers intentionally plan together to facilitate meaningful lessons. Envision a triangle with the bottom section- electronic planning, the middle section- face to face planning and the top section- on the spot planning. With increased technology, why not consider using Google Calendar or other platforms to virtually plan between face-to-face big picture planning. Calendars can be made with your co-teaching partner and lesson plans, resources and assessments can be uploaded for each teacher to review and edit. Protocols are also available that can help you use your limited planning time efficiently.
Although there are 6 co-teaching approaches, station, parallel and alternate teaching will provide the most targeted and small group instruction for students. Regardless of the approach used, each teacher should be actively involved in teaching students and each teacher brings a unique skill set to the classroom. The GE teacher is the curriculum/content expert and has a knowledge of typical students and pacing, while the EC teacher brings a keen knowledge of process of learning and individualization. The EC teacher is also required to provide Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) as outlined in the students’ Individual Education Program (IEP). SDI means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of an eligible child under this part, the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction—(i) To address the unique needs of the child that result from the child’s disability; and (ii) To ensure access of the child to the general curriculum, so that the child can meet the educational standards within the jurisdiction of the public agency that apply to all children.
Hopefully you’re thinking...hmmm...”How can I make a difference?” Consider starting this conversation at your school. Numerous co-teaching walk-through examples are available online or by contacting our EC Instructional Help Desk (firstname.lastname@example.org) that can provide you with a baseline to facilitate the discussion and determine next steps. Schools may also request professional development in Co-Teaching through the EC Customized PD Request link on the EC Website. Together, let’s move past access... to success!
Every Child. Every Day. For a Better Tomorrow.
Ann Jolly is the Exceptional Children Elementary Program Specialist for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Special Education and is currently enrolled in the Department of Educational Leadership at University of North Carolina Wilmington. Ann has twenty years of teaching experience in various settings, including private separate to public resource in grades PreK to five. Follow Ann on Twitter @Annjolly2.