Bridging the gap between general and special education

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Which collaborative practices can bridge the gap between general and special education?


The unwarranted changes in the domain of public education have reformed conventional perspectives with respect to approaches for education. One of the prominent factors that are observed on a general basis is the accountability of all institutions for the progress of children that is supported by the various changes in the public policies regarding education. However, it is imperative to understand the distinct requirements of special education intended for children with disabilities in order to accomplish comprehensive and productive outcomes with respect to education (Best & Kahn, 2016). Hence the practices for general and special education are associated with formidable disparities which have to be resolved in order to assist all students in leveraging the optimal benefits of education irrespective of their characteristics. Therefore, collaboration accounts as one of the prolific practices that can enable teachers to realize the objective of reducing the gap in methodologies for general and special education.

Which collaborative practices can bridge the gap between general and special education?

The significance of the research question could be identified clearly on the basis of references to the frequently changing regulations and conventions with respect to education as well as the implications of changing responsibilities of special education teachers. The role of teachers in perceiving the different standards of special and general education and implementing them could also be accounted for as one of the reasons for emphasizing explicitly on the research topic. The following assessment is intended to provide a clear description of a literature review pertaining to the research questions focused on the identification of collaborative practices that could resolve the gaps between special and general education. The other factors that are included in the assessment reflect profoundly on the comprehensiveness of the literature and limitations observed in the same. The other significant aspects that are included in the following assessment include a discussion on the relevance of literature for educators in the context of the research question as well as the capabilities of the literature review for addressing the questions. Additional factors for supporting the research could be identified in the form of concerns for future research and recommendations for addressing them.

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Literature review:

One of the most profound aspects that are responsible for introducing the necessity of collaboration between general and special education can be identified from literature sources is the changes in perception of general and special education as well as the standards responsible for initiating demands for collaboration. The prominent references to the Salamanca’s statement in UNESCO in 1994 and the UNESCO’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006 have implied the increasing prevalence of inclusive practices all across the work alongside prominent references to the continents of Europe and Greece (Coughlin, 2017). Therefore the concept of inclusive schools started to gain momentum and accounted for the accommodation of relevant technical and educational factors that could provide educational facilities to all students in general education. As per Coughlin (2017), students that are characterized by special educational needs could attend general education programs and could be enrolled in classes appropriate to their ages for the majority of the complete duration of schooling (Coughlin, 2017). The variety of debates regarding inclusion were emphasized on the feasibility of coexistence of students with special educational needs and general education students in similar settings as well as the attitudes of teachers and other members in the schooling community towards the same. Along with the prominent demands in political circles regarding the benefits of inclusion towards strengthening equality, there has been profound empirical evidence that implies inflexible nature and insufficient resourcing capabilities in educational systems which influences the educational processes and outcomes for a pool of students with diverse characteristics.

Collaboration Of Special Education And General Education Teachers

he collaboration of special education and general education teachers is considered as one of the crucial aspects leading to effective education outcomes for children with special educational requirements. The reflection on the scope of parallel support that is considered as individualized educational support for students could indicate potential references to complementing the resource settings in inclusive schools. However, Coughlin said that the effectiveness of parallel support is subject to discrepancies on the grounds of ambiguities in the roles of special and general education teachers that can be accounted as a prominent issue in collaborative teaching (Coughlin, 2017). The coexistence of general and special education teachers is a significant fact in the case of inclusive settings since the issues of collaborative teaching emerge as the source of complexities for teaching effectiveness. The significance of focusing on collaborative practices between teachers in general and special education contexts is observed in the form of complexities as compared to that of the collaborative practices in the case of teachers and professionals from other disciplines. One of the notable characteristics that are identified in the context of collaborative practices for general and special education is the working together of general and special education teachers for the majority of the working day at school which is referred to as co-teaching (Leigh & Blakely, 2016). Co-teaching is a productive strategy with respect to various inclusive school practices as it involves the partnership of two or more professionals in the delivery of substantive instruction to a diverse group of students in the same physical settings.

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One of the foremost implications identified for the effective performance of inclusive school practices is the attitude of teachers as it is responsible for affecting the classroom climate and subsequently on the opportunities available for students to accomplish success. The needs of special education could be taken into account for drawing insights into the basic aspects of collaboration with general education and the needs are profoundly reflective of references to substantial levels of preparation as well as specialized planning to implement special education objectives (Landever, 2010).

In order to accomplish these outcomes, it is essential to introduce reforms in the general education curriculum that would be based on a universal design curriculum. It is also imperative to observe the factor of teaching efficacy as a promising influence for improving the collaborative practices between special and general education. The findings from the research are profoundly reflective of the impact of teaching efficacy on teaching objectives, efforts invested by teachers in teaching as well as their capabilities for organization and planning of the activities (Muijs & Reynolds, 2017). However, the development of collaborative practices for special and general education is considered as a strenuous effort on behalf of the teachers as well as school administration since collaboration deviates from the conventional precedent in education which implies the perception of the classroom environment by teachers as a personal space with the presence of students treated as hosts.

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Initiation of collaborative practices

The initiation of collaborative practices in the context of general and special education for accomplishing the desired outcomes of co-teaching should be supported by clarification of essential characteristics of collaborative practices with respect to the professional strength, teaching competences, personality and resistance of teachers. The evidence from research pertaining to the practice of collaborative teaching is reflective of the primary aspect regarding the voluntary nature rather than a legal mandate which implies the working together of two adults towards the common approach of providing the necessary services for diverse students in a coordinated approach (Marsh & Farrell, 2015).

The inferences from research evidence considered for this literature review also suggest the imperative characteristics of professionals capable of effective collaborative practices in the context of general and special education. The characteristics include profound references to professional competence, teamwork experience, refraining from conflicts, personal confidence, investment of additional time for weekly planning, effective and flexible organizational skills as well as promising competencies for communication and problem-solving.

Eight Prolific Practices

The eight prolific practices which are considered as imperative elements of collaborative teaching could be identified in the form a mnemonic strategy ‘PARTNERS’ which ensures that collaborative practices for general and special education could be realized effectively (Rowland et al., 2017). The factors include planning together on a weekly basis, proactive resolution of classroom concerns, obtain consistent administrative support, capabilities for addressing challenges, development and fostering of the classroom community, evaluation of student performance, reflection on practice and provision of support to each other in the classroom setting. Co-teaching or cooperative teaching practices in the context of special and general education is found to be associated with the imperative characteristic of sustaining joint responsibilities for delivery of specified education instruction that has to be executed in the concerned setting.

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According to Stronge (2018), research evidence has profoundly indicated towards the productivity of three distinct collaborative teaching arrangements which can facilitate beneficial prospects for effective sharing of instructional responsibilities in collaborative practices for bridging the gap between general and special education (Stronge, 2018). The three arrangements include first of all complementary education, team teaching and supporting learning activities. The research should also be used to derive promising references to the essential components in the collaborative practices for teaching in a combination of special and general education contexts. The four components inferred from research imply the significance of instruction delivery by the teachers of special as well as general education, single classroom setting for special education as well as general education students, two educators for special and general education as well as a heterogeneous group of students.

As per Tzivinikou (2015), the extension of the scope of collaborative practices could be profoundly perceived in the implications of the evolution of educators from coexistence levels towards co-working and co-instructing followed by sharing of responsibilities with respect to the aspects of presence, presentation, planning, processing and problem solving (Tzivinikou, 2015). The collaborative practices for bridging the gap between general and special education are also found to be based on five distinct methods which include team teaching, station teaching, one teaching and one supporting, alternative teaching and parallel teaching which are associated with distinct characteristics and pitfalls.

The one teaching and one supporting methodology could be clearly evaluated on the basis of the terminology with the involved teachers reversing roles of teaching and supporting. However, this method has profound limitations in the form of general consideration for the special education teacher as an assistant in the teaching process. Station teaching is associated with the division of the course content among the educators and the associated responsibilities of planning and teaching. According to Zionts, Shellady & Zionts (2006), parallel teaching is associated with joint planning of the instructional approach by the involved teachers and is characterized by demands of higher coordination (Zionts, Shellady & Zionts, 2006). Team teaching is characterized by the integration of teaching styles of instructors involved in the collaborative practice. Parallel teaching is associated with the classification of a single heterogeneous group into two groups with similar levels of heterogeneity and involves the instructors providing instructions to each group individually albeit with joint planning of approaches.

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The literature review focused on the essential variables that have to be moderated in order to accomplish the effectiveness of collaborative practices for reducing the gap between general and special education. The foremost aspect that can be identified as a solution for the research question reflects on the necessity for the introduction of the common perception of teaching standards for general and special education students (Tzivinikou, 2015). The implications towards professional competences, confidence and resistance of teachers should also be inferred as substantial contributors to the improvement of collaborative practices as teaching efficacy is found to be a reasonable influence on the capability of educators to adapt to the diverse objectives of instructing a heterogeneous group of students with varying needs in terms of education. While the research in the literature review facilitates productive insights into elements of effective collaboration, it depicts notable pitfalls in the identification of the barriers. The implications of competing priorities, limited focus on professional development and limited availability of resources should be taken into account for accomplishing the desired objectives of collaborative practices in general and special education. The benefit of the literature review in the context of the selected research topic is identified with respect to the recognition of opportunities to improve collaborative practices (Holvikivi, Lakkala  & Muukkonen, 2016). One of the examples of the productive implications of literature could be identified in the form of emphasizing on the training of educators in specialized courses and qualifications that can account for an improvement of teaching efficacy which is a mandatory characteristic for effective collaborative practices among general and special educators. The literature also focused on the perception and attitude of educators towards the context of combining general and special education since these factors are responsible for influencing the classroom environment and subsequent teaching outcomes. Another aspect inferred from the literature that can be accounted as a significant contributor to the context of research is the limited emphasis on equality and inclusion as compared to the political rhetoric that is dominant in the inclusive practices for special and general education. Therefore, collaborative practices for general and special education are perceived as legal mandates that must be complied with (Marsh & Farrell, 2015). This factor leads to forced participation of educators thereby leading to discrepancies in the outcomes of collaborative practices. The research presented in the literature review also focuses specifically on the references to mandatory characteristics associated with best practices in collaboration among special and general educators. Some of the notable factors that can be used for promoting the collaborative practices include regular weekly planning, proactive planning and resolution of classroom concerns (Rowland et al., 2017). The other inferences derived from the literature that can be used to address the research query brought forward in this assessment include development and promoting the perception of classroom community as well as evaluation of student performance in order to supplement the practices for continuous improvement. The other concerns for effective collaboration between contexts of special and general education imply references to mutual support, frequent access to administrative support and responding comprehensively to the challenges in a coordinated manner.

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The literature review presented coherent implications towards addressing the research question in order to derive best practices that can be implemented for improving collaborative practices that can bridge the gap between special and general education. However, there are prominent references to the considerations that could not be included in the scope of the literature review that can present notable setbacks in the resolution of best practices in the context of the research topic. The limitations in the identification of barriers to effective coordination among general and special educators should be taken into account for inferring questions that have to be addressed in future research. First of all, the factors of competing priorities and their impact on the dynamics of the collaborative practices in general and special education environments are accounted as ambiguities. Therefore, in order to address the influence of competing priorities, it is essential to anticipate the characteristics of the general and special educators individually so that the participants could leverage the competences of each other in order to resolve insufficiencies in the combined instructional settings. The references to the different methods for providing collaborative instruction could be accounted for as promising interventions in this case which could provide productive outcomes. The limitations on the provision of resources were also identified as a notable insufficiency in the literature which has noticeable influences on the productivity of collaborative instruction contexts. Therefore, the requirements for collaboration should be preceded with appropriate planning on a joint basis to present a clear evaluation of resource needs in order to prevent such setbacks. Subsequently, the evaluation and planning of the instruction resources and structure could also improve coordination among the general and special educators thereby contributing to the resolution of competing priorities. It is also imperative to focus on the question of the relevance of continuous professional development in the context of improving the effectiveness of collaborative practices for general and special education. This question can be resolved through reflection on the productivity of additional training and participation in qualification courses in order to facilitate opportunities for professional development to participants in a combined context involving general and special education. It can be observed that continuous professional development can also contribute to an increased and accurate perception of responsibilities and tasks on behalf of educators thereby leading to limited conflicts and effective realization of collaborative practices.

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Best, J. W., & Kahn, J. V. (2016). Research in education. Pearson Education India.

Coughlin, S. L. (2017). Collaborative Practices Among Professionals in Special Education Workplaces.

Dell’Era, C., Magistretti, S., & Verganti, R. (2018). Exploring collaborative practices between SMEs and designers in the Italian furniture industry. Researching Open Innovation in SMEs.

Holvikivi, J., Lakkala, M., & Muukkonen, H. (2016, July). Introducing Collaborative Practices to Undergraduate Studies. In International Conference on Stakeholders and Information Technology in Education (pp. 47-55). Springer, Cham.

Leigh, N. G., & Blakely, E. J. (2016). Planning local economic development: Theory and practice. Sage Publications.

Landever, G. S. (2010). Collaboration among general and special education teachers (Doctoral dissertation, Baker University).

Muijs, D., & Reynolds, D. (2017). Effective teaching: Evidence and practice. Sage.

Marsh, J. A., & Farrell, C. C. (2015). How leaders can support teachers with data-driven decision making: A framework for understanding capacity building. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 43(2), 269-289.

Rowland, D., West, R., Hood, M., Hirvonen, T., & Morrissey, S. (2017). Collaborative practices and partnerships to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. InPsych: The Bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society Ltd, 39(6), 26.

Stronge, J. H. (2018). Qualities of effective teachers. ASCD.

Tzivinikou, S. (2015). Collaboration between general and special education teachers: Developing co-teaching skills in heterogeneous classes. Problems of Education in the 21st Century, 64, 108-119.

Zionts, L. T., Shellady, S. M., & Zionts, P. (2006). Teachers’ perceptions of professional standards: Their importance and ease of implementation. Preventing school failure: Alternative education for children and youth, 50(3), 5-12.

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