Negotiating Teacher Roles in the Collaborative Mathematics Classroom

Allen, Amanda, Curriculum and Instruction - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Berry, Robert, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

The 2015 Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) indicated that 95 percent of students receiving special education services spent the majority of their day in general education classrooms. This is in response to trends and legislature mandating inclusive instruction and reiterates more children with special needs are educated in the general education classroom setting than ever before. Co-teaching is currently considered the most popular model for increasing opportunities for high quality instruction to students with disabilities (Friend & Bursuck, 2002; Friend & Cook, 1995; Murawski & Dieker, 2004; Vaughn, Schumm, & Arguelles, 1997). These classrooms are typically taught by a general education and a special education teacher. While the concept of the co-teaching model brings together two experts, one in the content and one in special education to make material more accessible to students, the literature on co-teaching reports substantial problems exist related to its implementation. In many cases, the special education teacher takes on a subordinate role in the classroom due to the greater content knowledge of the general education teacher (e.g., Feldman, 1998; Mastropieri et al., 2005; Morocco & Aguilar, 2002; Pugach & Wesson, 1995; Rice & Zigmond, 200; Rosa, 1996). Assuming a subordinate role inhibits the special education teacher from capitalizing on their expertise to adapt general education lessons for students with disabilities. This is problematic for the mission of providing all students access to the material and closing the existing achievement gap for students with disabilities.
There is currently a lack of agreement in the co-teaching literature about the precise roles and responsibilities of the content area teacher and special education teacher in the collaborative classroom (Mastropieri et al., 2005). Additionally, there is a gap in the existing literature related to how each teacher defines his or her role, either implicitly or explicitly, in the collaborative classroom. Although researchers have determined special education teachers often assume the role of the assistant or observer, it remains unclear how the roles are unpacked between the teachers. The purpose of the study was to better understand this process and how collaborative teachers enact their roles in the collaborative classroom. A better understanding of this practice could help examine co- teaching more critically in order to make systematic changes to the implementation of the model to better meet the needs of the students, particularly students with disabilities. Enhancements to the current way educators view and implement co-teaching in the mathematics collaborative classroom could also begin the process of closing achievement gaps for students with disabilities on state and national assessments.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: