Inclusionary classrooms

Theories on cooperative teaching have been discussed for several decades. The use of these methods, however, is not particularly widespread. There has been evidence that these methods are successful, particularly for students with disabilities In New Models of Cooperative Teaching (2004), James Walsh states: Students with disabilities in co-taught classrooms reported that they enjoyed school more, learned more, and felt better about themselves in the general education classroom setting. (p. 19, par. 1) If used with careful planning there are a number of methods that can promote involvement and inclusion.

One Teach, One Support This method of cooperative teaching involves having one lead teacher with a paraprofessional assistant to provide the extra attention students with disabilities may need. This is a general education classroom with some special education students as members. The special education students are “mainstreamed as much as possible, though they may receive additional instruction to build basic skills. The teaching assistant assesses students’ skill levels and responses during the lesson.

This method is particularly appropriate with larger high school level classes or in classes where one or more students need higher amounts of attention. The support teacher can teach components of the lesson with smaller groups of students. Station Teaching Station teaching uses the students’ individual achievement level interests and skills to create a unique learning environment. Students are divided into small groups and receive “mini-lessons”. Lessons are crafted in such a way to maximize team building skills. The flexibility of this method allows for a wide range of participants.

It also allows for-self-assessment by the students. Roles for each individual member may be predetermined by the students. The shorter lessons demand a shorter attention span, potentially making this a good method for elementary kids. The flexibility of station teaching would allow for a mixed class of special and general education students. Parallel Teaching Parallel teaching also has the advantage of smaller group learning. The students are divided among the lead teacher and a support teacher. The same lesson is given simultaneously to both groups of students.

This method may allow for more intensive collaboration between teacher and student. It also has the side benefit of allowing the teachers to share their experiences and give each other feedback about the lesson. Other cooperative learning methods can be used as an offshoot of parallel teaching, because each teacher has fewer students to manage. This can be part of creating a more inclusive environment for both special and general education students. This method tends to be closer to the traditional teaching method, making it appropriate for older students functioning at a high level.

Modifications can be made to the method, however, to accommodate individual differences. Alternative Teaching Alternative teaching is a planned strategy to alter the standard format of giving lessons to better incorporate the needs of the students. It is flexible, but not unplanned. These methods may include altering lesson times, including visual or physical stimuli, or communicating in different ways. The students are carefully consulted about their needs, and their recommendations are included in the lesson planning process. The classroom set-up may employ any or all of the methods listed in this paper.

Alternative teaching can be used in any grade level, with any group of students. It would be particularly appropriate with special and general students who are not being reached with traditional teaching methods. Team Teaching This method uses one general education teacher and one special education teacher within the same classroom. Teaching duties are equally divided. As with One Teach, One Support, the special education students are integrated into the general education class as much as possible. The special education students are graded according to their own individual goals and level of progress.

An upper level class conducting a thematic unit would benefit especially from team teaching. Having two teachers assessing the students and constantly reinforcing the theme makes this a powerful method. Having two teachers in the class can also ensure inclusion for all the students. The Drawbacks The beneficial effects of these methods can be profound. In the real world of limited budgets, however, they can be difficult to implement. Hiring enough special education teachers to employ methods such as team teaching may be impossible for some school districts.

Using paraprofessional teaching assistants is cheaper, but finding qualified candidates and retaining them may be problematic. Retraining of the current workforce is also a substantial burden. Many teachers have been exposed to these and other inclusionary methods, but do not have experience putting them into practice. Some methods such as station teaching can be hard to implement with energetic students and a multitude of different tasks going on at the same time. Managing the classroom carefully to make sure some students don’t get lost in the shuffle is paramount.

All of these methods involve careful planning, but they have the potential to better the educational experience and promote inclusion for all students.

Sources Bess, J. L. & Associates. (2000). Teaching Alone, Teaching Together. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Shafer, I. (2001). Team Teaching: Education for the Future. Retrieved 1/29/06 from : http://www. ncrel. org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/instrctn/in500. htm Walsh, J. & Jones, B. (2004). New Models of Cooperative Teaching. Teaching Exceptional Children, Vol. 36, No. 5, pp 14-20.

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