The Impact on Pre-service Teachers’ Perceptions toward Co-Teaching from Being a Learner in Co-taught College Courses

Fall 2021

Source: Action in Teacher Education, 43:3, 301-320

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

As instructors and the researchers in this study, the authors explicitly modeled co-teaching within their two methods courses, Special Education and English Language Arts.
They explored the current gap in the research by not only investigating how these experiences affected pre-service teachers’ beliefs about the effectiveness of co-teaching for K-12 student learning, but also varying co-teaching approaches.
This study implements six of the most commonly used approaches in recent research: one teach - one observe; one teach - one assist; station; parallel; alternative; and team teaching.

Study Aims and Research Questions
Explicit analysis of pre-service teachers’ beliefs about how co-teaching and its various instructional approaches affect K-12 student learning is noticeably absent in recent research.
This study addresses this gap by specifically exploring pre-service teachers’ perceptions toward the effectiveness of co-teaching instructional approaches for K-12 student learning with the following questions:
(1) How does modeling co-teaching for pre-service teachers influence their perceptions toward the impact of co-teaching on K-12 student learning?
(2) How does modeling co-teaching instructional approaches for pre-service teachers influence their perceptions of the effectiveness of co-teaching approaches for K-12 student learning?


Research Design
To answer the research questions, the authors employed the qualitative research design of Interpretive Phenomenology Analysis (IPA; Smith et al., 2009).
In IPA, the researcher takes an active role in interpreting participants’ perceptions of experiences, rather than creating an objective recording of their experiences.
Using IPA, they purposefully gathered data from multiple sources, including verbal and written comments in pre- and post-surveys, class exit notes and focus group interviews.
Then, through an iterative process using IPA techniques of deriving codes from the data and organizing codes into reoccurring themes, they determined how individual experiences within each lesson and co-teaching approach might have shaped participants’ overall perceptions of coteaching’s effectiveness for K-12 student learning.

Participants and Context of the Study
The authors conducted this study at a small regional public university in the Midwestern United States.
The campus offers a dual teacher licensure undergraduate program for elementary and special education and initial teaching licensure in special education with a master’s degree.
This study included a total of 30 participants, with 28 undergraduate and two graduate pre-service teachers.
The first semester group had 22 participants (20 undergraduates and two graduates) and the second semester group had eight undergraduate participants with no graduate participants.
Study participants were not selected based on their familiarity with co-teaching.
All pre-service teachers enrolled in both instructors’ courses were invited to participate in this study.
Both undergraduate and graduate participants had a basic understanding of co-teaching from an introductory special education course which briefly addressed the concept of co-teaching.
However, both groups had limited observation or experience with co-teaching, due to area schools not implementing coteaching at the time of the study.
As course instructors, the authors were the co-teachers for this study.
The first author, is a special education method class instructor.
The second author, is a reading methods class instructor.
Both authors had previously taught participants in prerequisite courses, including an introductory special education course (first author) and language arts methods course (second author).

Study Procedures
At the beginning of each semester, prior to conducting co-teaching sessions, the authors met with participants to describe the study, collect pre-assessments, and provide an overview of the co-teaching instructional approaches.
After the pre-assessment, they gave pre-service teachers a chart visually illustrating the coteaching instructional approaches from Friend (2018) and verbally described each of the approaches while the pre-service teachers wrote notes for future reference.
They intentionally provided the visual chart after the pre-assessment so that the pre-assessment results were not impacted by the exposure to the co-teaching visual chart.
They scheduled several co-teaching sessions each semester, increasing from three to five sessions across the two semesters as both of them became more comfortable integrating related topics.
Maximizing learning outcomes was their priority for their courses, although they also intentionally designed course activities to deliver multiple types of co-teaching approaches.
During team teaching, they alternated roles of leading and clarifying content.
In each lesson, they also used other co-teaching instructional approaches appropriate for the lesson activities and learning objectives.
They consistently revised their coteaching approaches each semester based on participant feedback.

Data Sources and Collection
The study included three data sources:
(a) pre- and post-surveys,
(b) exit notes, and
(c) focus group interviews.
The authors administered the survey at the beginning and end of the semester to gather pre-service teachers’ beliefs about the effectiveness of co-teaching for K-12 student learning before and after their experience as a student in a co-taught classroom.
After each co-taught session, they collected exit notes to gather pre-service teachers’ immediate perceptions on how the co-taught lesson affected their own learning.
They conducted a focus group after each semester for further exploration of pre-service teachers’ learning experiences and possible changes in their beliefs about the effectiveness of coteaching.

Results and discussion
The results of the qualitative IPA study indicate being a learner within co-taught classes may influence how pre-service teachers perceive co-teaching in various dimensions.
Further, this study adds to the literature by specifically focusing on pre-service teachers’ perceptions about the effectiveness of various co-teaching instructional approaches.
This study demonstrated pre-service teachers’ perceptions of the benefits of co-teaching upon student learning increased positively after being a learner themselves in a co-taught college class. Even if pre-service teachers start with relatively positive views toward co-teaching, participating in a cotaught class can still increase their perceptions of co-teaching benefiting student learning, while at the same time increasing their confidence to implement co-teaching in their future teaching (Bashan & Holsblat, 2012; Stang & Lyons, 2008).
This study extends previous literature to show a strong relationship between experiences pre-service teachers have as learners in co-taught courses in their teacher preparation program, with how they believe co-teaching will specifically impact their future K-12 students’ learning.
Pre-service teachers began to perceive that co-teachers can provide more individualized support to meet students’ needs, use personal backgrounds and professional expertise to provide differing perspectives on content, and improve student relations through modeling respectful peer interactions.
This study also identified that being exposed to multiple types of co-teaching approaches positively impacts pre-service teachers’ perceptions of how these approaches can be used in co-taught classrooms to improve student learning.
Similar to previous research, findings indicate participating in cotaught courses as a learner can increase pre-service teachers’ awareness of the various co-teaching approaches that go beyond one-teach, one-assist and team teaching (Pellegrino et al., 2015; Scruggs et al., 2007).
This study adds to the literature by demonstrating experience with each instructional approach increases pre-service teachers’ understanding of the unique differences and uses for each approach in the co-teaching classroom.
Conversely, this study also demonstrates that how an approach is implemented in cotaught teacher preparation courses can also negatively impact pre-service teachers’ perceptions or applications for the approach.
The shifts in pre-service teachers’ beliefs about co-teaching’s effectiveness for K-12 student learning, as related to their own experiences in a co-taught college classroom, has strong ties to the teacher belief framework (Pajares, 1992).
Pre-service teachers generalized their mainly positive experiences from being a learner in a co-taught college classroom to their beliefs about how co-teaching could benefit K-12 students’ learning.
The accumulation of experiences across the course of the semester helped shift pre-service teachers’ beliefs about what co-teaching could look like in the classroom, supporting the theory that personal learning experiences accumulated over time affect pre-service teachers’ beliefs (Yüksel & Kavanoz, 2015).
Pre-service teachers in this study also described how they might implement co-teaching using examples that stemmed from their experiences during this study, supporting the teacher belief theory that observations of one’s teachers become templates for future teaching practice (Berry, 2004).
Additionally, the explicit inclusion of co-teaching in this study allowed the authors to combat the hidden curriculum of isolation so often seen in teacher education, which impacted pre-service teachers’ perceptions of co-teaching.
They grew to understand both teachers in a co- teaching partnership need to harmoniously integrate their individual expertise, in order to provide a balanced, consistent delivery of content.
These findings provide implications for how co-teaching can purposefully be included within a teacher preparation program.
Based upon the tight connection between pre-service teachers’ experiences as a learner in a co-taught course with their perceptions of co-teaching’s impact on K-12 student learning, teacher educators should carefully arrange experiences and additional resources to ensure pre-service teachers have positive experiences in co-taught methods courses.
Further, because specific learning experiences can impact pre-service teachers’ impressions of how various co-teaching instructional approaches can be applied in the classroom, co-teaching faculty should plan lessons that demonstrate active student engagement and use the various approaches for both behavioral and academic focused purposes.

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Berry, A. (2004). Self-Study in teaching about teaching. In J. J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. K. LaBoskey, & T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 1295–1331). Springer.
Friend, M. (2018). Special education: Contemporary perspectives for school professionals (5th ed.). Pearson.
Pajares, M. F. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307–332.
Pellegrino, A., Weiss, M., & Regan, K. (2015). Learning to collaborate: General and special educators in teacher education. The Teacher Educator, 50(3), 187–202.
Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & McDuffie, K. A. (2007). Co-teaching in inclusive classrooms: A metasynthesis of qualitative research. Exceptional Children, 73(4), 392–416.
Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretive phenomenological analysis: Theory, method and research. Sage.
Stang, K. K., & Lyons, B. M. (2008). Effects of modeling collaborative teaching for pre-service teachers. Teacher Education and Special Education, 31(3), 182–194.
Yüksel, H. G., & Kavanoz, S. (2015). Influence of prior experiences on pre-service language teachers’ perception of teaching. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 199, 777–784. 

Updated: Nov. 17, 2021


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