Date of Award

December 2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Embargo Date

8-12-2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Teaching and Leadership

Advisor(s)

Gerald M. Mager

Keywords

collaboration, coteaching, pedagogical content knowledge

Subject Categories

Education

Abstract

The use of coteaching as a means of supporting students with disabilities in the general education classroom is becoming more common. The literature base on the effectiveness of coteaching in elementary grade levels is well established; however, coteaching in secondary school is a less documented topic. Therefore, this study examines coteaching in secondary schools. Coteaching, as defined in this study, is one general and one special education teacher sharing instructional responsibilities for at least one group of students in one classroom for at least one instructional period. The research questions guiding the study focused on the models of coteaching used at the secondary level, coteachers’ understanding of coteaching, reported challenges in sustaining coteaching, and the matters that influence coteaching practices.

For this study, qualitative research methods were used to collect data on coteaching practices in two suburban school districts. There were 13 participants in this study comprising seven coteaching pairs; one special educator was a member in two participant pairs. The grade levels represented by the participants were seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth; the content areas represented were English, French, mathematics, science, and social studies. Data was gathered during two school years (May 2011 to March 2012) through two in-depth interviews and one observation of the participant pairs coteaching. Each coteacher participated in one individual semi-structured interview. Six of the seven participant pairs also participated in one semi-structured interview with their coteaching partner; one participant pair was not able to complete the joint interview because of scheduling difficulties. Each coteaching pair was observed for one instructional period. The interviews and observations yielded data on the coteaching practices of the participants.

Significant findings of the study include a deeper understanding of the complexities of coteaching at the secondary level. The six models of coteaching (one teach – one assist, station teaching, parallel teaching, alternative teaching, teaming, and one teach – one observe), are a useful framework for coteachers. The use of one particular coteaching model over another one seems to be influenced by the open communication and the level of trust between the partners. Likewise, open communication may lead to a richer understanding of coteaching for each partner and development of shared pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Shared PCK, a new conceptualization of teacher knowledge based on the collaborative work of coteachers, is an amalgam of knowledge of content, knowledge of pedagogy, and knowledge of student learning characteristics. Findings of this study indicate that shared PCK led the participant pairs to engage in more synergistic coteaching practices. In addition to the development of shared PCK, personal principles of teaching, contextual matters, and the role each teacher negotiates while coteaching also influenced coteaching practices. The participants reported that challenges to their coteaching practices included inadequate time to collaborate, connect and co-plan; the demands on the special educators’ time; and the class roster composition.

The findings of this study should be considered in light of the limitations of the study. Limitations include the limited amount of interview and observational data on coteaching practices and the lack of data on student achievement in cotaught classes. Implications are offered for further research as well as considerations for teacher education and coteaching practices in secondary schools.

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