Recently, while sitting in a session at the Institute Designed for Educating All Students (IDEAS) conference on St. Simons Island, GA, I was reminded about the purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legislation. The session was presented by a group of educators working with students with hearing impairments. One of the points they were making had to do with providing access to written content for students with hearing difficulties, especially those whose primary language was American Sign Language (ASL) or Signed Exact English (SEE). Because students using ASL or SEE as their primary language rely on interpreters to mediate the hearing world, some educators felt that hearing interpreters should not take on the role of ” teacher”, therefore they should not be expected “read” to students that rely on their support. As the discussion progressed, one ASL interpreted quickly clarified her role in the educational setting. She stated, “the role in an educational setting is to provide access to academic content [to students with hearing impairments]. This means oral and written content if they need it.” This made me think about the purpose of IDEA and how Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) and Skills Navigator serve these students, especially in co-taught classrooms.
Co-teaching has become a primary model of instruction for students with disabilities, because it allows them to participate in the general education classroom, while receiving extra support from a special education professional. Clarifying and describing what that looks and sounds like in a classroom can be quite complicated, because co-teaching has various models that can be used separately or together. Identifying how MAP and Skills Navigator can be used as supports for co-teaching requires us to take a look at the various models of instruction. Co-teaching has five basic models that can stand alone or be used together to meet a student’s or group of students’ needs:
- Alternative teaching
- Station teaching
- Parallel teaching
- Team teaching
Let’s begin with the one-teach-one-support model of instruction. For this model, one teacher is providing instruction to all students. The other teacher is providing support for the students that are accessing the content. Sometimes, for this model, the role of the support teacher is to collect data or to monitor on-task behavior. When this model is used, an observer in the classroom might find the support teacher assigning or administering a MAP assessment or a Skills Navigator mission. The data from these assessments are later used to identify a students’ areas of support or acceleration, to set goals with students, or to document growth towards a goal on their individual education plan (IEP) or response to intervention (RTI) plan.
Alternative teaching is another model of co-teaching that MAP and Skills Navigator data can support. In alternative teaching, both teachers are providing instruction to students, but one teacher is providing instruction that is either accelerating or remediating the content. For teachers to use this model effectively, they need to know which skills and content students need to jump ahead on or practice a bit more. Learning Continuum statements in MAP can support broad concepts of learning and identify content that is above or below the students’ instructional level. Using the results from a Skills Locator or Mastery Check in Skills Navigator, the teacher can find isolated misconceptions that are holding the student back or can identify conceptual strands that are significantly stronger for the student. Identifying conceptual strengths allows the teacher to target specific areas in which students can delve into content with a higher Depth of Knowledge (DOK). This increases the complexity of the concept for student’s engagement which leads to higher levels of thinking.
When teachers choose to station teach, they are providing students with different activities at each station that correlate to the concepts they are teaching. Sometimes, students rotate through the various stations being exposed to the content at each. At other times, students may choose the stations they visit, providing them with alternative ways to understand the content being taught. If teachers want to provide different content at each station, then using the Class Breakdown by Goal report in MAP can identify the specific groupings for each activity station. Accessing the Learning Continuum statements correlated to each group, helps the teachers identify the specific skills each student is ready to learn about the content they have identified. Using Skills Navigator instructional resources to provide personalized instruction for students at one of the stations is a great way to differentiate the content and to ensure that it is aligned with the learning targets the teacher has chosen. For station teaching, some stations may require direct instruction from the teacher, while others do not.
Parallel teaching has always been one of my favorite ways to co-teach. I suppose this is because I often based it around reading content. In parallel teaching, the teachers are teaching the same concepts and using the same instructional strategies, but the class is divided. This model of co-teaching is essentially reducing class size so that students get more individualized interactions with the teachers and their group of peers. Using reading levels to identify student groupings is an easy and effective way to organize parallel groups. The Class Report in MAP for Reading provides Lexile scores for each student. Co-teachers can use this information to form two groups that will each be teacher led. While both groups are exposed to the same content, using the Lexile levels to form the groups, allows the teachers to use different levels of text. This helps students that are reading at lower levels to interact more effectively because the group reading level is not as expansive and lower reading level students are not as obvious to their peers. For middle school students, this can be the difference in social reclusiveness and social inclusion. Using Skills Navigator Mastery Check or Skills Locators for identifying reading levels for the specific genre that is being targeted, can further support students’ understanding of the content while protecting their growth mindsets.
Finally, there is team teaching which is the most difficult of the co-teaching models and it is often the most confusing to watch, because in this model, both teachers are teaching at the same time. This requires that they both provide input regarding the content that is being taught. One of the major benefits of this style of co-teaching for students is that, they naturally get alternative perspectives on the content as both teachers provide input. Team teaching is an effective model when the entire group is similar in their skill level or when all students need exposure to the concept that is identified as the learning target. Team teaching can provide the opportunity for content to be presented in two modalities at one time, such as auditory and visually, as one teacher is speaking, the other is drawing a conceptual map. Team teaching also allows teachers to model appropriate interactions between collaborative partners. When teachers find that student groupings, for a specific instructional area in their Class Breakdown by Goal Report, are tightly aligned (span three RIT groupings) or the Mastery Check in Skills Navigator suggests that all students are at a similar instructional level, then team teaching can be the most effective method of delivery for the content.
As I reflect on the IDEAS session that I attended, I am comforted to know that both MAP and Skills Navigator are tools that can be used to support every model of co-teaching, but most importantly, both tools support student access to content, which is the goal of IDEA legislation.