Leadership for Co-teaching: A Distributed Perspective

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Virginia Tech

Educational leadership is challenged with meeting the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legislation which mandates an education for all students. The focus on accessibility and accountability has resulted in more students with disabilities being served in the general education setting. The co-teaching service delivery model is offered in the school environment to provide an education for all students and is intended to include instruction that is specially designed for students with disabilities. Instructional leadership is essential to a successful implementation and maintenance of inclusive practices.

This study sought to provide a better understanding of instructional leadership practices of the co-teaching service delivery model. The purpose of the study was to describe and explain how leaders support co-teaching. A distributed perspective based on the combination of activity and distributed cognition theories has been developed to study school leadership. This distributed perspective views leadership practice as an interaction between leaders, followers, and the situation (Spillane, Halverson, and Diamond 2004). This study examined instructional leadership practices of the co-teaching service delivery model at the elementary level.

Data were collected through a qualitative design, using interviews, observations, and review of documents. Interviews were conducted with administrators responsible for the direct supervision of the co-teaching model and with co-teachers, both general and special educators. Observations occurred in the school setting and related documents were collected and analyzed. The distributed leadership perspective guided the data collection focusing on leadership tasks and functions, task-enactment, and social and situational distribution of leadership practice. The data revealed leadership tasks that included forming the team, scheduling, assigning instructional roles, allocating resources, and developing the co-teacher relationship. Leadership was shared between the administrators and teachers with both providing leadership. School environment, organizational arrangements with available resources, and participants' profile were identified as factors influencing the leadership practice of co-teaching. It is hoped by understanding the leadership roles and responsibilities of co-teaching, educators may better understand and nurture a co-teaching model that supports students in an inclusive environment.

Co-teaching, Special Education, Leadership Practices, Shared Leadership