Perceptions of Beginning General and Exceptional Education Teachers of their Preparation and Importance of Skills Associated with Collaboration and Co-teaching
The need for more collaboration and co-teaching emerged from the standards-based and accountability movement as a result of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) legislation. The purpose of this study is to identify the perceived skill set needed by general and exceptional education teachers in order to be successful in a co-teaching classroom, discover if collaborative coursework is being offered to pre-service teachers as part of their university experience, and identify specific strategies, programs, and field experiences in which pre-service general and exceptional education teachers can engage in to better prepare them for their first co-teaching/collaborative teaching assignment.
This qualitative study was based on the naturalistic inquiry design (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) and was comprised of one focus group from each of the three school divisions. The purposeful sample selection of teachers for each focus group included five to eight general and exceptional education probationary (zero to five years experience) teachers who have current or previous experience in a collaborative or co-taught classroom, and who graduated from a Virginia institution of higher education. A focus group protocol was used for data collection based on the ten revised (2011) Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium standards. When comparing the data of what general education teachers perceived were most important compared to what training, coursework, and experiences were actually provided as part of their pre-service training, 53% of the training received matched the skills they felt were most important. Forty-seven percent of their pre-service training focused on "other" skills, knowledge, performance, and critical dispositions. When comparing the data of what exceptional education teachers perceived were most important compared to what training, coursework, and experiences were actually provided as part of their pre-service training, 60% of the training received matched with the skills they felt were most important. Forty percent of their pre-service training focused on "other" skills, knowledge, performance, and critical dispositions. These data suggest that there is a disconnect between what pre-service teachers perceive as important and what is actually being taught through coursework and experiences in teacher preparation programs.