Perceptions of Inclusion Support Models in Elementary Mathematics: Co-Teaching Experiences and Barriers


Background: General and special education teachers develop mathematical thinking with students in diverse general education classrooms. Students present with a variety of academic needs and often include students with disabilities who are taught in inclusive classrooms. Conversely, special educators are tasked with supporting students with disabilities to learn mathematics. Both content-specific general education teachers and special education teachers are tasked with utilizing their expertise in both content and accommodated support to guide increasingly diverse groups of students. Given the diverse nature of America's classrooms, general education mathematics teachers and special education teachers who support students with various levels of need often work hand-in-hand to support mathematics instruction. Special and general education teachers must possess the skill sets necessary to facilitate inclusion models that can improve the performance of students with disabilities. Delivering appropriate math instruction to students with disabilities is influenced by both the perceptions of teachers of co-teaching models within math classrooms and their own experiences with co-teaching. Purpose: This study gathered archival data from a district survey that addressed teachers' experience in co-teaching and perceptions of barriers in co-teaching. Specifically, the study provided responses to the following two research questions (RQs). RQ1: What are the levels of experience of general education teachers, special education teachers, and math content specialists in utilizing co-teaching models? RQ2: What are the perceptions of general education teachers, special education teachers, and math content specialists of barriers to co-teaching including: planning, professional development, teacher roles and responsibilities, campus expectations, content knowledge, and beliefs about co-teaching? Method: This archival record study involved a sample of teachers who represented educators from twenty-four elementary schools and six intermediate schools (N=253). A three-part electronic district survey on co-teaching gathered demographic information and teacher experiences and perceptions in co-teaching. Teachers completed the online district survey using google forms anonymously. The archival data were analyzed using SPSS to provide descriptive stats for each group of teachers and to identify any group differences using MANOVA. Outcomes were displayed using various charts and graphs. Results/Findings: Additionally, in addressing teachers’ awareness of co-teaching, approximately 74.7% of the total teachers had read about co-teaching. However, only 14.2% of all teachers had attended co-teaching training. Key findings overall showed that teachers reported the highest usage of the station teaching model (63.2%) and lowest usage of the parallel teaching model (21%). Finally, teachers (80.6%) strongly agreed or agreed students with disabilities would benefit from co-teaching instruction and teachers (74.3%) strongly agree or agreed that co-teaching would improve their instructional practice. The results of the General Linear Model MANOVA identified an overall difference in responses by teacher groups. Follow up analyses identified significant differences in teacher responses at the item level. Math specialists and special education teachers expressed more confidence in teaching and engaging students with disabilities more than general education teachers. Also, math specialists expressed stronger confidence in their capacity to teach mathematics concepts to students with disabilities than general and special education teachers. Conclusions: The results indicated that teachers have a positive perception of the benefits of co-teaching in the mathematics classroom. However, a gap existed between teachers' knowledge and completed training in co-teaching models. This gap suggested a need for professional development on the implementation of co-teaching. Future research should focus on the effectiveness of co-teaching on student achievement in mathematics and the success rate of co-teaching relationships.