SANDRA COOLEY NICHOLS and ADRIANE N. SHEFFIELD 33 brings into question the measures currently being used to determine the effectiveness of co-teaching. In addition to benefits for students, there are benefits for professionals as well. First, both general education and special education teachers report professional growth as a result of co-teaching arrangements (Murawski & Lochner, 2011; Scruggs et al., 2007). In addition, teachers report shared accountability and responsibility for students; improved morale and reduced burnout, and the use of increased instructional strategies (Friend et al., 2010). Kloo and Zigmond (2008) question whether there is actual evidence to support that co-teaching is effective in its present form. For while there are benefits to co-teaching for educators, numerous concerns still exist regarding co-teaching situations. Teacher concerns included: a need for common planning time (Friend et al, 2010). Scruggs et al, 2007; teacher assignment to co-teaching situations (Rytivaara & Kershner, 2012), and the need for additional professional development (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2008; Ryan, 2010) and administrative support Kloo & Zigmond, 2008; Hines, 2008; Rice, 2006).
The Role of Administrators
Research has found that administrators are critical of the implementation of inclusive practices. An administrator has significant power and influence over establishing and maintaining inclusive settings, and this happens on multiple levels. First and foremost, a
principal’s beliefs, attitudes
, and values about inclusion (Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010; Schmidt & Venet, 2012) set the tone and help to create a vision of inclusive schools. In order to influence teachers, principals must also increase their own knowledge and understanding of special education (Lynch, 2012). They must then model a positive attitude toward inclusive practices (Harpell & Andrews, 2010;Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010) for their faculty and community. Second, it is crucial that principals serve as instructional leaders in their schools (Fullan, 2009; Lynch, 2012; Waldron, McCleskey & Redd, 2011). Educators need principals to be highly visible as instructional leaders. They need to create and encourage open dialogue and communication among all staff (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2006; Riehl, 2000). Hines (2012) lists six activities that encourage openness and collaboration. These include: (1) providing positive opportunities for sharing; (2) scheduling time for planning; (3) having teachers document their collaborative activities; (4) visiting other inclusive settings; (5) providing resources, and (6) celebrating successes. In addition, administrators must encourage and support parents, students, educators, and community members to take an active role in building an inclusive climate (Waldron et al., 2011). According to Lynch (2012), an inclusive learning environment is
“concerned with the schools’ emotional atmosphere, culture, values, and high expectations of all
students, especially those with disabilities
” (p. 42).
In order to develop more inclusive learning environments, administrators will need to influence and support teachers. One major teacher concern when initiating inclusive practices, particularly co-teaching, is planning time. This may require administrators restructuring the school day to provide adequate planning time for teachers to collaborate (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2006; Ryan, 2010) and modify curricula (Rice, 2006). In addition, administrators must provide ongoing professional development opportunities that facilitate and support inclusive practices (Hines, 2008; Rice, 2008; Ryan 2010). Principals can also demonstrate instructional leadership by addressing and mediating conflicts that may arise between constituents (Hines, 2008; Lynch, 2012; Rice, 2006). One important factor for administrators is the development and utilization of effective