Collaboration by Design: Integrating Core Pedagogical Content and Special Education Methods Courses in a Preservice Secondary Education Program

From Section:
Instruction in Teacher Training
Feb. 01, 2012

Source: The Teacher Educator, 47(1), p. 45–66, 2012
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose in this article was to describe key aspects of the design, implementation, and initial evaluation of the innovative preservice secondary education teacher education program.
The authors focused on the collaborative efforts of faculty in general education and special education departments to prepare future secondary teachers to use inclusive instructional practices to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

The collaborative instructional design was based on a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) perspective, integrating key concepts from both special education and general education, to give preservice teachers opportunities to explore models of both inclusionary teaching and UDL lesson design.
The instructional design emphasized a co-teaching model where principles of Universal Design for Learning and instructional adaptation were integrated and assessed in multiple courses by collaborating university faculty.

The setting for this collaboration was a large midwestern land grant university.
The courses Blocked together for the first level of the secondary education professional program.

Preservice teachers enrolled in the program were all junior or senior undergraduate students preparing to be secondary education teachers in general education settings.
Sixteen preservice teachers’ portfolios in seven different content areas were selected as the sample for the evaluation.
Data from the initial evaluation included student teaching portfolios, formal teacher observations, and 6th- through 12th-grade student assessments.

Evaluation Results

The data yielded meaningful results related to three major themes:
(a) use of UDL principles in lesson plan design,
(b) appropriate use of instructional adaptations, and
(c) impact of lesson design on sixth through twelfth-grade student outcomes.

Planning and Use of UDL Principles
The data reveal that not all 16 preservice teachers demonstrated strengths in the area of instructional planning.
Some struggled to identify the reasons for their students academic difficulties or lack of engagement.

Instructional Adaptations
The second area of interest involved the preservice teachers’ ability to develop and implement appropriate adaptations for students with exceptionalities.
Overall, students who went through the Block 1 integrated program appear to have a good grasp of basic strategies they can use to adapt instruction.
They were able to identify appropriate adaptations and implement them in an actual secondary classroom setting.
For example, candidates learned not only about what appropriate adaptations might be for a secondary student with a learning disability, but they also learned pedagogical strategies that can be incorporated into their instruction to help meet that student’s needs.

Outcomes for Sixth- Through Twelfth-Grade Students
The final area examined in the evaluation was the effect the preparation and instructional experiences of the Block 1 program may have had on the sixth- through twelfth-grade students in the student teaching internship classrooms.
Each student teaching intern was required to give a summative assessment at the conclusion of the unit.
Eleven of the 16 sample student interns provided data for the summative unit assessment.


The authors believe preservice teacher candidates should should design their instruction and classroom management strategies to anticipate the needs of all learners in their classrooms.
This collaboration between general education and special education teacher education faculty enhanced both the teaching of the methods courses and the candidates learning related to meeting the diverse learning needs of students within their teaching.

This approach to integrating coursework has helped preservice teacher candidates in the secondary education program take a proactive approach to lesson design and avoid the presentation of concepts in isolation.
The candidates left the class better equipped to implement an array of inclusive teaching
approaches and lesson design strategies.
This UDL approach has impacted the way lessons developed in our methods courses were written and delivered.

Updated: Oct. 26, 2019
Classroom techniques | Collaboration | Inclusion | Instructional design | Preservice teachers | Program effectiveness | Special needs students