It is hearsay in the education world that the future of education leads to a collaborative classroom. The educational approach knows as Inclusion pushes for special educations students to be in a general education classroom with their peers as much as possible.
Special education students are in special education, because they need extra help. Therefore, throwing students that belong in a special education setting into a general education setting cannot be wise at all. In fact, it sounded completely stupid to me, and probably does to a lot of people at least initially. See, I believed at first that the idea was to just say “alright kid, good luck with that,” and go on your merry way telling yourself that this child should be able to succeed. Maybe you would meet with the student for counseling every so often to see how he or she was doing, or counsel them on good study habits, but besides that the kid was going to have to learn to swim in the “real world.”
After all, after graduation they were going to have to be in the “real world” with their general education (non-disabled) peers. Everyone would look at that situation and say that was just not going to cut it. These students needed extra help, and we are talking serious extra help. That’s why these students were in a special education setting anyway. Sure, these students would benefit by not getting discriminated against as much and being able to be around their non-disabled peers. Sure their self esteem would benefit, but trading self-esteem for education is by no means acceptable.
That is exactly where collaborative education comes in. I had the privilege of student teaching in a collaborative setting, and it transformed the way I looked at Inclusion completely. I was in a high school math education setting and got to see exactly how it works.
The idea of a collaborative classroom is that there are two teachers: the general education teacher and the special education teacher. The special education teacher is there as the expert in students’ disabilities. The teachers work together to make learning relevant and understandable for all students. While one teacher teaches, the other works one-on-one with students in the classroom who need the extra help.
How does it work? In a setting where both teachers work like a team, it works beautifully like a well-oiled machine. Only the teachers know for sure which students have disabilities and which students are general education. Actually, even students who haven’t been identified but need a little extra help, or are actually eligible for special education, but not enrolled, get the help they need.
One of the collaborative classrooms I worked in was a class of 24 with three actually enrolled in special education. It functioned exactly like a collaborative classroom. The only difference was that we were giving students who weren’t necessarily special education students the aid they clearly and most definitely needed.
Do students still face discrimination? Of course. As long as you have students who don’t care about others or think first of themselves there’s no way around that. However, it is much less in a collaborative setting than in a self-contained classroom.
Now, there are some draw backs or things to keep in mind when it comes to collaborative education. Collaborative education does not mean 100 percent success all of the time. There are a lot of different things that go into a successful collaborative classroom including the cooperation of both teachers, the students into the class, materials and resources available, and time constraints involved in the classroom. However, collaborative classrooms do benefit students.
The biggest drawback to Collaborative Education is the cost. Schools have to pay for the cost of the special education teachers for the collaborative classrooms. This is why collaborative education isn’t as widespread and in fact may be a thing of the past as budgets get cut more and more.
No one knows the future of education. However, a future of education that involves collaborative education would not be a bad one. In fact, I believe that future would be one where students really were more likely to acheive their highest potential whether they have a learning disability, emotional disability, or are simply a struggling general education student.
The beauty of collaborative education is that it individualizes education. Your job as a teacher is to help this individual student learn the material and be successful. When it comes right down to it, that is what each student needs: to be seen as who they are and taught based on exactly that.