Co-Teaching as a Special Education Service: Is Classroom Collaboration a Sustainable Practice?


  • Marilyn Friend The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Collaboration; Collaborative classroom; Co-teaching; Special education;


In the current climate of rigorous educational standards, universal accessibility, and teacher accountability for student outcomes, it is not surprising that co-teaching has become a widely implemented service delivery option for students with disabilities.  Questions can be raised, however, about its sustainability, at least in part because of concerns about its dependence on sophisticated teacher skills for meaningful collaboration set in a supportive school content.  The defining characteristics of collaboration and co-teaching are outlined, and examples of dilemmas related to the collaborative dimension of co-teaching are presented.  The elements that can contribute to strong collaborative classroom partnerships, including carefully prepared teachers, knowledgeable administrators, ongoing professional development and coaching, feasible scheduling, and a focus on parity are attainable, but only if carefully integrated into a school’s culture.  Is co-teaching sustainable as a collaborative endeavor?  Yes, but only if its many dimensions are understood and addressed.



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