Preservice Teachers' Perceptions of Coteaching: A Qualitative Study

From Section:
Preservice Teachers
May. 10, 2010
Spring 2010

Source: Action in Teacher Education v. 32 no. 1 (Spring 2010) p. 15-25.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this research was to explore attitudes about and practices of preservice special and social studies education teachers toward coteaching


The authors are both faculty members in a small college in the Northeast United States, teaching in an education department. All PSTs in this study were enrolled in a sequence of classes that included supervised experience in classroom settings, and all were student teaching.
The study included systematic instruction and exploration of coteaching models and modeling coteaching for students. PSTs practiced coplanning, coteaching, and assessing a content area lesson, and they reflected on the process of collaboration.

This research was conducted with two classes of PST education teachers: one group of 12 PSTs in elementary and special education and one group of 17 PSTs in secondary social studies. Participants were predominantly young White adults ranging in age from 19 to 23. One PST in social studies was changing careers and was in his 40s with a family. The majority of special education PSTs were women (11 of 12); the majority of social studies PSTs were men (14 of 17).

Data were collected through written reflections, focus groups and presentations.


Two findings emerged in this study. First, the students were open minded about coteaching but had concerns about the process. In other words, the academic programs and manifest goals of teacher education programs are most often generally achieved. This is important because it suggests that we can influence our PSTs' attitudes and values and increase the likelihood that they will adopt best practices in their own classrooms.

Second, the students conceptualized their fields -- special education and social studies -- as separate spheres of knowledge and practice, quite isolated from each other, and they perceived their roles as coteachers as different as well.
This finding also indicates that the structure and design of the program shape the students' perceptions in a way that can later interfere with their ability to develop and put into practice effective coteaching models.

Implications for Practice

Three implications for teacher preparation programs emerged from this study.
First, secondary special education PSTs need to be competent in the content they teach.
They need to be comfortable discussing lesson plans and directly teaching whole-group activities.
Second, PSTs in all areas need practice collaborating and differentiating instruction. All teachers are responsible for differentiated instruction, and this needs to be communicated clearly and regularly for all PSTs.

Third, PST educators need to be aware of and so work to address the gap between their discourse about practices in schools and their own practices.

Updated: Oct. 28, 2019
Lesson plans | Preservice teacher education | Preservice teachers | Social studies | Special education | Student teacher attitudes | Team teaching