Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have long recognized the importance of reducing fragmentation of service by collaborating with families and teachers. Simply put, children, youth, and young adults make more substantial gains in their communication skills when programming efforts are coordinated and when they relate to the academic and social contexts of school and home. Within schools, co-teaching offers flexible approaches for SLPs to collaborate with team members, particularly general and special education teachers.
SLPs face unique challenges when they adopt a co-teaching framework. They are usually responsible for large caseloads of both general and special education students, and their work is frequently divided across two or more schools. Within a single day, an SLP’s co-teaching roles can be in response to a kindergarten phonemic awareness lesson, a grade 4 science experiment, and a grade 8 social studies debate. Each of these co-teaching experiences requires planning, implementation, follow-up, and reflection. Each also requires SLPs to link their efforts to classroom demands, including curricular expectations and individual teacher’s instructional styles.
As SLPs co-teach with different partners they may experience varying levels of interpersonal comfort. Also, SLPs typically have more experience with certain content areas, topics, or grade levels, each of which can impact the effectiveness of the team. In order to avoid frustration, and the potential abandonment of co-teaching alternatives, SLPs can be mindful of the Dos and Don’ts of Collaboration.
• Do accept lower levels interactions as foundations for higher-level relationships.
• Don’t expect to be a collaborator with all people with whom you work.
• Do begin the collaborative process with people with whom you already have a comfortable, informal relationship.
• Do concentrate your collaboration building efforts on just one or two people to be sure to have sufficient time and energy to invest in the working relationship.
• Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
• Do recognize that initial success will build your expertise in collaboration and your reputation as a collaborator.
• Do expect that success will pave the way for working with others and make more people receptive to collaboration (DiMeo, Merritt, and Culatta, 1998).
Co-teaching offers many opportunities for enhancing student learning. These guidelines, practiced within a commitment to developing professional relationships, can be a cornerstone for personal growth, improved student outcomes, and a collaborative spirit within schools.
DiMeo, J.H., Merritt, D.D., & Culatta, B. (1998). Collaborative partnerships and decision-making. In D.D. Merritt & B. Culatta, B. (Eds.), Language intervention in the classroom. San Diego, CA: Singular.