Cooperation Between Teachers And Special Teachers In An Inclusive School

By | April 2, 2017

ABSTRACT

The research focuses on cooperation between special needs teachers and the regular teachers, the major objectives of the research were; to determine teacher opinion on cooperation in inclusion, to determine the factors that impede cooperation in the integrated environments and to determine the most suitable model for cooperation.

The research employed the use of secondary and primary resources. Secondary resources were necessary in understanding the models of cooperation in the inclusive classroom. Primary research was used to achieve all the three objectives. The research involved the use of observations and interviews. There were ten schools considered for the interview. Sampling was done in accordance with the following criteria; presence of cooperation between special needs and regular teachers in the inclusive classroom, willingness of the participants to take part in the research, availability of one of the four inclusion models, availability of inclusion from five years or more and type of school i.e. it had to be a primary school. If a school met these criteria, then two teachers were chosen for the interview and one of them had to be a regular teacher while the other had to be a special needs teacher.

It was found that special needs teachers had the least preference for cooperation in the inclusive classroom. It was also found that the factors that affected special needs teachers in the process of cooperation were experience, lack of clarified roles in the integrated environment and poor support structures from the school administration. Additionally, the regular teachers cited experience, domination by special needs teachers, poor support structures, lack of training and the special needs child’s requirements as the main impediments to cooperation between them. The research also found that the most effective model for implementing cooperation between special needs and regular teachers in inclusion is through the integrating-classes model.

INTRODUCTION

The process of cooperation between regular teachers and special educators is called co-teaching. Here, the two professions work hand in hand in order to deliver knowledge to a specific group. Normally such a group is characterised by students who have diverse learning needs. The main advantages of collaboration between regular and special needs teachers can be summarised as follows;

  • Supports the regular teacher as a professional
  • Reduces or eliminates stigmatisation for special needs children
  • Improves the inclusive program
  • Creates a diverse instructional environment (Avramidis et al, 2000)

The issue of collaboration between the two types of teachers improves service delivery because it allows children with special needs to benefit from the provisions of the general curriculum; a concept that cannot be achieved if those special needs children do not get effective support. It should be noted that co-teaching can only be successful if the special needs teachers and the regular teachers both have good judgment and also if they exercise flexibility in the inclusion process. Teachers who plan on working with one another need to be prepared for that by training. On top of that, they also need to have support from the administration. This means that they ought to be given the right opportunities to co-teach or to create relationships with one another. Cooperation between the two types of teachers can only be effective if those respective professionals implement and plan the inclusive program effectively. On top of that, it is only possible if these two categories of teachers communicate well with one another; they need to do this regularly and clearly. In light of all the latter requirements for success, it is necessary to examine whether the respective parties have adhered to these parameters. (Hannah, 1998) Therefore, research in this area of inclusive education is important so as to reveal what is actually happening on the ground. By examining the level of cooperation between special education teachers and mainstream teachers, one can pinpoint the problems and gaps in implementation. In effect, the research will offer guidelines on what can be done to improve the educational experience of special needs children.

The issue of inclusion presents numerous challenges to stakeholders involved in the process. Concerns such as teacher training, curriculum changes, parental role and effective administration of inclusion need to be examined and the most feasible approaches taken. Experts have suggested a number of remedies that can ensure that special needs children can fit well into the integrated environment. Some of these suggestions affect the category of mainstream teachers and special teachers. (Clouch, P and Lindsay, 1991)

Team formation between the two types of teachers has been suggested as an alternative towards making inclusion successful. Additionally, others have asserted that special needs teachers need to look at a special needs child’s individual problem; these problems may include anxieties or use of wrong strategies in the past. Alternatively, it is possible for special needs teachers to collaborate with mainstream teachers in the preparation process of working with a special needs child and seek the best solution towards dealing with these children. All the latter issues have been considered and implemented in inclusive schools. It is therefore appropriate to examine all the available approaches and ascertain whether they are working currently. By conducting research in this field, it is possible to asses which models of implementation are appropriate and what factors affect the implementation of these models. (Forlin, 1995)

By examining the issue of cooperation between special needs teachers and regular teachers, it will be possible to bring out some of the impediments to inclusion. Matters such as having a positive attitude towards working with special needs children, being ready for such a concept, getting support from the overall school management and comprehensive description of problems facing the inclusive program can go a long way in ascertaining that inclusion thrives in mainstream schools.

Research question

Overall Hypotheses

‘Certain approaches in inclusion are more effective at achieving cooperation between teachers than others.’

Specific objectives

The research will examine the following research questions hence when reworded, they can be considered as the specific objectives

1)      What are the opinions of special needs teachers and regular teachers on cooperation?

2)      What factors impede cooperation between regular and special needs teachers in inclusive schools?

3)      What are the most effective models of implementing collaboration programs between regular and special education teachers?

The first research question is particularly important because one must pinpoint the least cooperative party. Owing to the fact that mainstream teachers and special education teachers undergo different training and have different teaching approaches, it is quite possible to find that one party may not fully support the idea of collaboration. In such cases, one category of teachers may feel superior to the other and may not value cooperation. (Killer and Flem, 2000) Consequently, assessment of their opinions is necessary in order to highlight the ineffective party and thus nip the problem in the bud. Since it is rather difficult for either party to state directly that they oppose collaboration with one another, then the most appropriate method of assessing this research hypothesis is through observation. The method involves third parties that can form their own opinions about the matter. Since this is a sensitive issue, teachers may not give their honest opinion and it is therefore necessary to use an approach that does not rely solely on their word of mouth. However, it is also important to get feedback from the respective candidates in order to have a starting point. Consequently, their opinions ought to be sought through interviews. (Veal and Ticehurst, 2000)

The second research question involves determining the factors that impede cooperation between special needs teachers and special education teachers. The solution to this question is imperative in inclusive education because it will assist teachers in implementing inclusive education programs by making them aware of the real issues behind their lack of collaboration. On top of that, it will assist administrators and other inclusive education stakeholders in the process of training teachers. Additionally, it will make the inclusive classroom more satisfactory to the special needs child. This research question will be addressed through two approaches; observation and interviews. The interviews will give a teacher’s perspectives on the most significant impediments to inclusion. Additionally, the research question will be assessed through observation. This method can complement interviews in that it allows an external party to look at the inclusive classroom in a fresh perspective. (Babbie, 2005)

The third research question involves an assessment of the best inclusive model for collaboration between special educators and mainstream teachers. This will be instrumental in giving teachers and administrators a direction as to which framework is necessary in the process of inclusion. This will also act as guide for them in the inclusive classroom. The latter research question will be assessed through observation. This is because the question is of an analytical nature. Consequently, using a secondary party to seek answers is more proficient than relying on the subjects themselves. This particular question is very technical. As a result, the person solving this question ought to have a thorough knowledge of the available co-teaching strategies available. While a sizeable number of teachers know and implement collaborative models, other teachers may not, consequently asking them (through interviews) about their schools’ model may not be feasible. Observation is therefore very effective in this case. (Waring, 2000)

METHODOLOGY

Research design

There are two major types of research cycles that one can choose from i.e. the design cycle and the empirical cycle. This particular study involved the use of the latter cycle. This cycle entails five major steps that can be outlined as follows; identification of research goals, outlining the research design, collecting data, analysing data and reporting the findings. (Sayer, 1992)

This type of research cycle is applicable in two types of situations, that is when trying to test the validity of existing theory and also when trying to come up with new theories. This research will encompass both ascertaining new theories and also verification of existing theory. The issue of determining opinion of the different types of teachers on collaboration will entail development of new theory. On the other hand, finding out which factors impede cooperation between special needs and regular teachers will involve use of existing theories. It should be noted that the same applies to determination of the most effective model of cooperation among teachers.

After verifying the research questions and the steps that the overall design will take, it is necessary to lay out details of the research design. This involves the research philosophy, research strategies and research approach. These steps were explained by Saunders et al (2003) as research layers and were laid out in five steps. The latter authors believed that one should start with the outermost layer and then work their way to the innermost layers. The research philosophy is the outermost layer. In this particular research, the research philosophy that governed the outcome was the reality philosophy. This means that there was the belief that data collection and explanation ought to employ similar approaches. Additionally, it also encompassed the view that there is an external element to the theory in use.

The research approach in this particular study was governed by deductive and not inductive reasoning. This is as a result of the fact that the largest part of the study encompassed the use of pre-existing theories. Data collection was based upon pre-existing theories. At first, theories were established then the implementation of those theories was analysed. It should however be noted that the research also had some elements of inductive reasoning but these instances were fewer compared to deductive cases. Shown below is a summary of the research onion process.

Research Philosophy

Positivism                                                             Realism                                                     Interpretivism

Research Approach

Deductive                                                                                                                                      Inductive

Research Strategies

Comprehensive interviews        Analysis of observations                                        Grounded Theory

Time Horizon

Cross-Sectional                                                                                                                        Longitudinal

Data Collection Methods

Sampling                       Secondary Data                      Observation                      Evaluation of the results

Source: Saunders et al (2003): The Research process onion; Prentice Hlall

The next layer is the research strategy. This normally occurs through the exploration phase. In this case, it encompassed studying the behaviour of respondents in observation studies. It also encompassed an in-depth understanding of other sensitive issues through interviews. Thereafter, the research was characterised by the testing phase. In this case, it involved the assessment of the research methodology to test the research question. Since this research involves theory application, then action research (manipulating and changing variables) was not part of the research strategy because it may interfere with the results. This occurs as a result of intervention by the researcher. (Meyers et al, 2005)

The time horizon in this case was a cross-sectional rather than a longitudinal one. The interviews and observation aspects of data collection were done within a specific time frame. Consequently, it was plausible to place these studies within a specific time scale. Additionally, the research is not focusing on development or change, it is simply studying the occurrences at any one time. Since the research only encompasses validation of the research methodology, then it was best to use a cross sectional time horizon. (Sandoval, 1996)

Data collection is the last aspect of the research onion. This aspect encompasses examining issues surrounding reliability and validity of the data. The use of interviews as a method of data collection was appropriate in qualitative research. This is because it allowed an in-depth understanding of the prevailing circumstances and this unravelled some issues that I may not have been familiar with prior to the research. On the other hand, the reliability of interviews comes into play because measuring some of the elements revealed in the interview process can be difficult. There is a tendency for respondents to give answers that do not relate to the question. On top of that, it is possible that respondents may modify their answers to please the interviewer. Similarly, the use of observation methods can also bring problems in trying to ascertain their reliability owing to the fact that most of the findings are limited to the opinions and biases held by the observer. (Davenport et al, 1999)

Data collection must be done in such a way that it ensures construct validity. This involves using multiple sources of information. In this case, the research combined observation, interviews and secondary sources. By combining both secondary and primary sources, the research’s validity was ascertained. Internal validity is another aspect that needs to be considered. It refers to process of developing sound arguments for the results obtained. In this case, the research should refrain from reflexivity which occurs when the respondents give answers expected of them. Additionally, recall biases and pre-conditioned answers from the participants should also be taken into account. These aspects were all incorporated in the research. External validity is another aspect that should be ensured in the data collection phase. This involved comparing results to the external environments. This was ensured by validating the testing phase. All the latter aspects ensured that the research process was a successful. (Yates, 2004)

Procedures

The research mostly involved the process of observation. Here, the most useful instrument was the eyes and a camera as a recording instruments. The research mainly focused on the activities in the inclusive classroom with regard to special needs and mainstream teachers who were working together. (Sandoval, 1996)

Despite the fact that the research questions may involve a wide range of activities, it was necessary to narrow down the activities that ought to be the most important to the research. In this case, the activities observed in the inclusive classroom included; student performance of tacks, discipline within the classroom and consultation between special needs and regular teachers among others. However, owing to the fact these activities may be too many, then it was crucial to select a small portion of them. In other words, the observational methods involved sampling techniques from the numerous range of activities recorded within the survey. (Forline et al, 1996)

The research was partly exploratory and partly hypothesis based. The first research objective that focuses on determining teacher attitude towards collaboration within the inclusive classroom was largely exploratory. This is because little research has been done on the issue of cooperation between the two parties. Consequently, there were very few research models that can govern this research question.

The second research question involving determining factors that impede collaboration between regular and special needs teachers was hypothesis based. This is because there are some existing hypothesis on the cause and effects of cooperation between these two types of teachers. The purpose of the research will be to ascertain that these factors are indeed true. In other words, the research was verifying the hypothesis on the research question. In this case, the hypothesis was that there are factors that impede cooperation between special educators and regular teachers. The observation was done in order to ascertain which factors carry most weight. The most important things to watch out for with regard to this research questions are teacher behaviour in the classroom and the outcome of their behaviour i.e. whether it is positive or negative. (Sayer, 1992)

The last research question involves determining the most effective model for implementing inclusive education. In this regard, the observation will be hypothesis based. There are a variety of models set out by certain individuals, consequently, the most effective ones are the ones that yield the best outcomes in the inclusive classroom.

The observation was done in its original setting i.e. it was non systematic observation where interference is not eliminated out of the research. This is because when one tries to eliminate possible disturbances, then can alter the outcome of the research. By trying to study collaboration between special education teachers and regular teachers, it would be most effective to analyse this process in its natural environment because any attempt to make the inclusive classroom ‘more conducive’ for research would simply give false inferences.

It should be noted that non-systematic observation may sometimes be too slow. This is because it involves eliminating all the possible assumptions and theories one holds true. It also entails taking in all the things that the researcher observes as they start with the research. No activity is ignored as it may important. After the researcher has familiarised themselves with the subject, this is when they can begin deducing the most important occurrences. If the research was to follow such a routine, then chances are that the research will take too long. In this case, the research involved some pre-conceived ideas, consequently, it would be necessary to establish whether these ideas are actually true. Therefore, not all the activities will be important in the survey. (Glaser and Strauss, 1967)

In specific terms, the research was also done through a consulting-type observation. Here, the participants of the research aired out their thoughts and ideas. This is important because sometimes the parties may forget that they are involved in a research and may do or say things that do cannot be easily understood by the researcher. In order to minimise interference if the activities under study, it was necessary to tell the participants about this at the beginning of the research. Consequently, the students, special educators and regular teachers involved in the observations will be expected to think aloud.

Due to the fact that human beings tend to act unnaturally when they are being observed. In order to achieve results that display people in their natural environment, then the research involved a recording device i.e. a digital camera. Teachers could go on doing what they normally do without having the feeling that they are being watched all the time. However, the disadvantage of this method is that subjects may not do what is required in the study. Consequently, I prompted the class to conduct certain activities prior to the research then left the room. The other advantage of using a camera for this study is that it allowed a thorough analysis of the events that occurred in the classroom even days after the observation. This is sometimes very difficult when direct observation is done since the observer may have difficulties recording every single aspect of the session all at once. (Easterby-Smith et al, 2002)

Interviews

The research also involved qualitative interviews. The purpose of the interview is to generate insights about the impediments to cooperation in the inclusive environment. The interview was also crucial in assessment of teacher’s opinions towards collaboration with one another. While the former aspect can be studied through observation of the inclusive classroom, such an approach may not fully give all the factors because some issues cannot observed on face value. As matter of fact, most of the time, the factors that impede cooperation between the two parties can only be found outside the classroom. Consequently, conducting an interview would be an effective method of bringing out some of these factors. On top of that, the interview is personal in nature and helped in the process of revealing some hidden truths. (Easterby-Smith et al, 2002)

In particular, the interview was conducted through the qualitative interview process. In this case, questions were laid out prior to the research. The major advantage of such an approach is that it guided the interview process so that the discussion was not haphazard. In the qualitative interview process, the interviewer holds the highest form of control because he/she is the one that determine the responses in the interview. In this research method, the interviewer ensures that the research will remain focused thus bringing about better results in the end. Additionally, it is essential that the interviewer encourages personal opinions as much as possible. This means that participants ought to describe their experiences in their own ways rather than being directed by prompts from the interviewer. Consequently, there will be obligations on both sides of the coin. The interviewer is expected to act in a certain way according to research philosophy and the interviewee is also expected to adhere to certain obligations. These were all the interviews. (Waring, 2000)

Data collection

Data was collected from a total of ten schools. Each school was an inclusive school and was located in different neighbourhoods. There were several issues that were taken into consideration before choosing a particular school. In other words, the schools were not just randomly selected. (Glaser and Strauss, 1967) Schools had to have inclusive programs that involved both the regular teachers and special needs teachers. Additionally, those schools were required to have implemented this cooperative strategies of inclusion for no less than five years. Schools that took part in the interview were also expected to take part in the research process voluntary without fear or intimidation. Additionally, the research only involved the use of primary schools as it can be tricky trying to mix results from elementary and the secondary schools together. This could possibly interfere with the outcome of the results because there are different dynamics that affect primary schools as compared to secondary schools.  (Fishbaugh, 2000)

Besides all the later criteria, it was necessary to ensure that schools were compatible to the theoretical models present in the third research question (determining which school model was most effective). Schools had to fall in either of the following categories;

The integrating class or the working-and-learning-together model; in this model, the regular teacher and the special educator stay in the classroom together and teach the class together. The second model is called the Integrated and special education help model. In this model of integration, the special needs teacher is a member of the school teaching staff and they work in between classes collaborating with various classes at different times of the day. The other model is called the mobile special educational services model. This model involves application of mobile strategies between various classrooms. This means that the special needs teacher is not part of the school staff, they are usually called by a wide range of schools to deal with specific problems. The fourth model is called the single integration model. In this model of inclusion, the special needs teacher is given specific hours of the day to deal with special needs children and thereafter; he/she leaves the rest to the regular teacher.  (Fishbaugh, 2000)

The UK is a diverse area with numerous education models. There are also a wide range of philosophies that govern these education models. It was therefore feasible to check on all the latter models in order to obtain fair representation form the participants. Of the schools chosen for interview, two schools implemented the single integration model, three schools implemented the mobile special education model, two schools implemented the special education help model and three implemented the integrating classes model.

Owing to the fact that there ere numerous aspects that were sought in the process of choosing schools then precedence was given in this order;

1)      possessing an inclusive program of cooperation with one of the four models of implementation

2)      being a primary schools

3)      have implemented inclusion for five years or more

willingly take part in the research (DeBoer, A. et al, 2000)

The schools chosen for observation were also the same ones used for interviews. Each school was represented by two teachers each. One teacher had to be a special educator while the other had to be a regular teacher. It was also necessary for the participants in the interview to have taken part in collaborative strategies in the inclusive classroom. This ascertained that they represent the rightful group and that they were talking about things which they were familiar with. (Easterby-Smith et al, 2002) It should however, be noted that two teachers from each school is a relatively low number and may not necessarily represent the views of all the teachers in the school. The purpose of the research was not to obtain representatives for particular schools; instead, it was to obtain representatives for all inclusive teachers in the nation. Consequently, most of the answers given in the interview process needed to represent the views of those respective teachers regardless of the school which they came from.

The process

For the observations, it was necessary to ensure that very little attention was given to me as the researcher, instead, more emphasis ought to be on the task at hand. To minimise these distractions, a camera was placed at the back of the class. (Villa, R. et al, 1996)

The class was informed that they had to explain what they were doing prior to the observational process. But thereafter, the two types of teachers were left to run their own show. The observations were done for a period of three days in each school. Then the last important information was collected from the recordings. The use of aids in the study was essential in ensuring that answers were given in a natural environment. (Crotty, 1998)

After recording these sessions for three days, it was then necessary to single out some particular circumstances that denoted lack of cooperation or success in cooperation depending on the nature of the classroom environment. Although it is difficult to determine opinions directly through observation, some features indicated a positive attitude. These features included;

-If both teachers gave each other room to handle the students

-If teachers took part in classroom activities at least fifty percent of the time

-If the suggestions made by one teacher were respected by the other

-If both teachers disperse reading material

-If students consider both teachers as important to the class

-Classrooms that have a controlled and conducive environment for study

-Classrooms in which special needs and regular children get the help they require

All the latter features indicate that teachers respect one another and that they are indeed capable of working together within the same environment. The reason why the latter features were chosen is that it would be very difficult for teachers to act in this manner if they had a negative attitude towards cooperation. These features will also give an indication of which model is most effective in fostering cooperation between special needs and regular teachers. Those classrooms that will appear more organised, more student friendly and more integrative will be deemed as the most successful models. On the other hand, when the classroom is disorganised with rowdy students everywhere, when children are not working together or when it appears that one teacher is dominating the other, then it will be concluded that that model of teaching is not effective for children. (Gould, J.& Gould, 1999)

The interview method chosen is a structured interview. Here, participants were expected to answer a preset series of questions. (Dixon and Pickard, 2003) The major advantage of such an approach is that the interview is more focused hence it avoids dwelling on other irrelevant issues. Thereafter, the answers that were given by respondents were then classified into certain categories. This is because there were some common features among the responses given. Precedence was given to the most similar and most common responses. This was necessary because the questions were open ended and they therefore solicited some varied responses. (Rose, D. &Smith, 1993)

It was assumed that having a positive attitude towards inclusion affected the way the teachers conducted themselves in the classroom. Consequently, this was an inference that was carried forward to a particular category of teachers. Consequently, the opinion of teacher about cooperation was assumed a predictor of the actual practices in the classroom.

The interview was also important in the process of assessing the most outstanding factors that were impeding cooperation between the teachers. Teachers were required to state which factors they felt were slowing down progress in the inclusive classroom. Additionally, there were some neutral question asked in the interview process that were garnered towards determining some of these impeding factors. For instance teachers were required to indicate how long they had worked with special needs teachers if they were regular teachers or vice versa. This was done in order to determine whether the issue of experience affected the overall outcome of collaboration. (Mingers, 2003)

On top of that, teachers were also asked about the level of support they have been receiving from the school administration. They also gave information about the kind of training they underwent before working with special needs children and hence special needs teachers. Additionally, teachers were also expected to give information about the availability of resources that help them deal with inclusion. Issues such as gender were noted to during the interview process. Besides that, interview participants were also required to give their opinion about the nature of the special needs children and how it affected their relationship with their counterparts.

Data analysis

Responses given by teachers about their opinions regarding inclusion were classified into three categories. This was a necessary classification because answers varied widely depending on the wording used by the participants. These three categories were

  • Neutral to cooperation
  • Oppose cooperation
  • Supports cooperation

The teachers were then clustered into two groups i.e. the special educators and the regular teachers. Their positive and negative opinions were tabulated and results compared against one another in bar charts.

With regard to the factors that impede cooperation, these were analysed using two categories. Here there was an analysis of the factors that regular teachers thought was most important and there was also an analysis of what the special needs teachers thought impeded their cooperation. The most common factors were tabulated and then plotted to determine the most important ones. In this case, factors that impede cooperation were regarded as an independent variable while the category of teachers were considered as the dependent variables. These two variables were compared against one another and the factor with the highest ranking was the most influential. (Hussey and Hussey, (1997)

Ethics

The research was conducted ethically due to the following reasons. First of all, the respondents were duly informed that their participation was completely voluntary. Even when conducting the research, no individual was forced to give answers. Additionally, the participants were duly informed that their right to privacy was protected. Consequently, those who discussed sensitive issues such as blaming their superiors for failures in the inclusive classroom were protected from any victimisation. This was achieved by maintaining anonymity. In cases where school administrators wanted the results of the survey, they received them without mentioning any particular name in the process. Lastly, the research was done practically. The results given in the ‘results’ section of the report are true and are not fabricated in any way. (Mutch, 2004)

Validity

The research will improve its validity through the process of triangulation. The latter term refers to checking for truth through incorporation of a variety of methods or techniques. In this case, the research did just rely on interviews as the source of information. Additionally, it did not just involve the use of observational methods of research. The research also entailed secondary research. Here, there was an examination of some of the research done on conceptual models and frameworks for cooperation between special education teachers and regular teachers. Consequently, this allowed a cross check of the facts obtained in one form of research with that in another form. (Bell and Bryman, 2003)

Additionally, it allows an in-depth understanding of the issues of collaboration in inclusion. By doing all these, validity of the research was enhanced. It should also be noted that triangulation shifts focus from a participant’s viewpoints. This is because when the research entails only the participant’s view points then chances are that that participant may not give the researcher permission to print out the item.

RESULTS

The research found that regular teachers had a more positive opinion of collaboration than their special needs education counterparts. Of all the 10 schools chosen for the study, only three special needs teachers reported a positive attitude while the rest did not. On the other hand, seventy percent of the regular teachers asserted that they supported collaboration between themselves and the special needs teachers. Shown below is a graphical representation of these opinions

Consequently, it can be said that special needs teachers do not support collaboration with regular teachers. The findings obtained from the survey also indicated evidence that supported the latter assertions. It was found that special needs teachers were not as cooperative as the regular teachers. This can be inferred to their opinions on the matter i.e. if their classroom practices are not positive, then it is also likely that they do not fully support cooperation between the two categories of teachers. (Hughes et al, 1996)

The observational part of the research found that in five of the schools, special needs teachers seemed to control the class. They often interrupted their regular counterparts when trying to deal with a certain situation even when it was clear that the mainstream teacher could handle the challenge. For example, one child with attention deficit disorder had been instructed to complete a mathematical question. In the previous days, the child would be taken to a corner where he was required to stay there for a period of ten minutes without moving if he did not follow instructions. This normally used to work, therefore, when the regular teacher found that this child was not cooperating with her, she decided to send the child to a corner. This strategy would have worked but the special needs teacher intervened in the situation and wanted to use another strategy. The special needs teacher instructed the regular teacher to use another approach which ended up confusing the child. This regular teacher had the potential to tackle this problem alone without requiring intervention from the special needs teacher. This caused some confusion in the classroom. (Leyser et al, 1994)

Given the fact that special needs teachers were having difficulty employing their skills in some of the schools, then it can be inferred that these same teachers did not embrace the idea of cooperation within the classroom.

In the process of measuring what teachers thought about the most important factors that impede cooperation between them, it was found that they each held their own opinions as revealed in the interview. The following were some of the factors indicated by the teachers;

The first aspect pointed out by eighty percent of the mainstream teachers was the issue of domination by their special needs counterparts. The mainstream teachers explained that special needs teachers treated them as inferior colleagues within the classroom. Most of them asserted that special needs teachers thought regular teachers knew nothing about the pedagogy and that they could tutor them on the matter. Another factor that was mentioned by fifty percent of the special needs teachers was the issue of experience. They felt that the longer someone worked with a special needs teacher, the easier it was to work well together and also the easier it was for that particular individual to consider the special needs teacher as the co-worker. Experience was two-way in that it applied to the regular teacher’s themselves and also to the special needs teachers. (Schhorth et al, 1997)

Thirty percent of the regular teachers also pointed out that the lack of training on teacher cooperation in the inclusive environment was partly to blame for poor collaboration between the two parties. This was something that they had to forge while in the field yet their special needs counterparts received training on this issue. It therefore gave them an unfair advantage compared to the regular teachers. Fifty percent of the regular teachers also cited lack of supporting structures as another impediment to cooperation between the two groups. They asserted that their schools did not give them adequate resources to cope with the needs of the classroom more so because they had to wok hand in hand with the special needs teachers. Two out of the ten regular teachers interviewed claimed that the type of special needs children within the classroom played a large role in cooperation between them. This teacher claimed that it was very difficult to cooperate with the special needs teacher when one of the special needs children was out of control. This is because it seemed to undermine their authority and it also made them appear incompetent before the special needs teacher. (Marchesi, 1998)

On the part of the special needs teachers. There were some three outstanding factors that they thought impeded cooperation between them. The first was the lack of undefined roles in the classroom. Eighty percent of special needs teachers thought that they were expected to fit into the inclusive classroom without clearly defined roles. Some teachers felt that the counterparts in the inclusive classroom i.e. the regular teachers knew exactly what they were supposed to do. However, the special needs teacher was given the daunting task of determining what they were supposed to do within the classroom especially because someone else was already doing most of the work.

The other issue that most of the special needs teachers seemed to have problems with was the lack of support structures (sixty percent of them thought that this was a problem). They mostly cited the administration as an impediment towards the cooperation. Here, some teachers felt that they had too much to do especially when the ratio of special needs teachers to regular teachers is unfairly low yet all the classes are inclusive classes. Other teachers explained that the school administration failed to realize the needs of the special needs child as the curriculum and other learning aids were not made available. The overall result for such a prospect was that it became increasingly difficult for the two groups to cooperate with one another. (Marchesi, 1998)

The third issue was in terms of experience. Most (seventy percent) of the special needs teachers felt that they would work well with their mainstream counterparts if the latter had experience with the approach. They claimed that those regular teacher who had worked for long with special educators were more likely to respect them. They were slo likely to coordinate their activities in a better way than if they had never cooperated with them before. Shown below are graphical representations of what regular and special needs teachers thought about the factors that impede cooperation

Regular teachers

Factors

percentage

Domination

80

No experience

50

No training

30

Poor supporting structures

50

Special child’s needs

20

.

Special needs teachers

Factors

percentage

No defined roles

80

No supporting structures

60

No experience

70

be seen from the pie charts above, both categories of teachers thought that a lack of experience on either impedes cooperation between them. However, the most dominating factors among the regular teachers was domination from their special needs counterparts. On the other hand, the special needs teachers thought that lacking clearly defined roles was the most significant impediment to their cooperation. There were some factors that were unique to the two types of teachers, for instance, teacher domination and the nature of the special need’s child were exclusive to the mainstream category. On the other hand, the issue of having defined roles was also exclusive to the special needs teachers.

As for the last research question; which model is most effective. The main answers were obtained from the observational part of the research. Through observation, it could be seen that the schools implementing the mobile inclusion model were not very effective in dealing with the special needs child. Most of the time, the mainstream teacher gets accustomed to handling the challenges on her own, consequently, when a special needs teacher is called to intervene, the regular teacher seems lost in the process. (Lindsell and Roberts, 1997) For example, in one situation, a special needs teacher was called to handle a child who was mentally retarded. The child had started making disruptive noises within the classroom for some days; consequently, it had become very difficult for the rest of the class to continue with the lesson. When the special needs teacher was called to handle the situation, the regular teacher merely stood at a corner looking lost. This teacher did nothing for the entire four hours that the special needs teacher had intervened. Yet the same behaviour was usually not displayed when the teacher was handling the class on her own.

The second model called the single integration model was found to give average results. Since the special needs teacher was given only a portion of the lesson time to work with the class, then it became increasingly difficult to forge relationships with the children because the regular teacher dominated most of the classroom activities. The observational research indicated that children in such classrooms tended to respect their regular teachers more. For instance, those who wanted to ask permission to visit the lavatories usually approached the class teacher. Also, children referred most of their questions to the regular teacher more than the special needs teacher.

The third model called the integrating class model was the most efficient model. Here, their pupils respected both teachers. Also, most of the pupil’s tended to concentrate on tasks including the special needs children. The classrooms were rarely interrupted by special needs children and most of the teachers were not forced to take up more time trying to deal with disruptions. It seemed that both teachers had worked out a way of dealing with one another as they actively took part in learning. Even the desk arrangements in class reflected this level of cooperation. In one of the schools implementing this model, desks were placed in circles so as to encourage better discussion and assistance from the teachers. It would be very difficult for one teacher to deal with a specific challenge when desks are arranged in rows. This latter arrangement places more emphasis on the teacher as the only source of help yet the fellow students or the other teacher can do the some thing and save on time. Overly, schools that implemented this model were more organised, more efficient and they knew what they were doing in the process.

The fourth and final model is called the integrated and special education help model. Here, the special needs teacher deals with different types of classes at any one time as they are members of staff. The model was not found to be that efficient because the special educators did not bond with their respective classes. Sometimes the services of the special educator were needed in a class yet that special educator was not present, the overall result was that mainstream teachers lacked support. They had to deal with challenges on their own and the special educator came in at times when he was not needed or at times when the specific situation has already by-passed. It is therefore more effective for the special needs teacher to be in the classroom most of the time because they can internalise a particular child’s problems and then come up with the most effective strategies of the dealing with the challenge.

CONCLUSION

Cooperation between special needs teachers and regular teachers is susceptible to a number of external factors. (Soodak L. et al, 1998) These factors can either motivate or discourage these two parties. The purpose of the research was to determine the opinions of the two categories of teachers regarding cooperation in the inclusive classroom. Through both the interviews and the observational method, it was found that the special needs teachers had less enthusiasm for cooperation within the classroom than their regular counterparts. These findings indicate that there is a need for the special needs teacher to be made aware of the benefits of cooperating with regular teachers. Perhaps their inhibitions could have been brought about by the gaps in implementation. On top of that, some special needs teachers denoted a form of superiority complex, which makes it difficult to work with other professionals. In order to eliminate this negative attitude, it would be necessary to improve supporting structures in schools while at the same time train special needs teachers about the need to work with regular teachers and the need to respect them too. (Jausovec and Siegel, 1994)

After determining which category of teachers had the least enthusiasm for cooperation, it was then necessary to unravel some the reasons behind this negative attitude or the impediments to the process of cooperation. The research revealed that some factors were synonymous to regular teachers and others were synonymous to the special needs teachers. It was found that’s special needs teachers were concerned about the lack of clearly defined roles in the school. They were expected to forge the roles on their own and it was difficult. Other concerns such lack of support structures and the poor experience were also cited by the group. School administrations ought to make changes with regard to cooperation between the two types of teachers. (Snyder, 1999)

They should give adequate resources for helping the special needs child and they should also tackle role clarification of the special needs teacher. In this case, school administrators could inform both categories of teachers what their expectations and tasks in the inclusive classroom are. This information is also necessary in the process of designing training curricula for both the regular and special needs teachers. During training, both categories of teachers should be given a clear explanation of what they are supposed to do in the classroom so as to minimise instances of disagreement between the two groups. (Vaughn et al, 1996)

The research aimed at establishing the most effective model for cooperation between the special needs and the regular teacher. Since it was found that the most effective model was the integrating class model, then inclusive schools should adopt this model. This implies that there should be an adequate supply of special needs teachers within the classroom in order to allow enough time for them to deal with specific classes. The other models that do not encourage constant presence of the special needs teacher may not be the best approach because the special needs teacher does not get time to learn the students. Consequently, the regular teacher is overburdened and has to tackle all the challenges of the classroom alone

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