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TNLI: Action Research: Professional Development: Working Collaboratively to Build a Learning Community


How effective are collaborative teaching models for student success?


Teacher action research has proven to assist legislatures in developing policy that can shape the culture of a school. Currently, we are in the age of restructuring to improve secondary education, and teachers’ voices can impact the decisions made. The changes need to be sustainable. By developing the process of collaboration in the school community, we can renew our most important resource in education—learning—and become an enduring professional learning community.

My research has shown a positive relationship between co-teaching and the success of special education students in that setting. It also qualitatively demonstrates the efforts of a team of educators and administrators to incorporate collaborative teaching models into a school community. The vision of improving student achievement and having all students succeed is based on this collaboration to build a professional learning community.

There is a legal precedent for providing students with special needs with the least restrictive environment (LRE) in which to learn. One LRE approach is co-teaching. This gives an opportunity for all students to benefit from the collaboration of two teachers. It becomes important to clarify how to collaborate for the best interests of the students. By establishing strong relationships as partners, teachers can begin to change the perception of students: that two teachers in a classroom are a positive thing rather than indicative that the students are placed in the slow class. With the reauthorized IDEA that took effect on July 1, 2005, districts and schools must provide intensive professional development to all school staff to improve academic achievement of children with learning needs.

Reflection is another important process for learning. Since this action research is more qualitative, it reveals the need to record quantitative data in all core cotaught courses, looking at the most successful models and working toward analyzing and sharing that information. It also discloses the desire of staff to collaborate as a school community to organize consistent, researched, and exemplary teaching models.


  • Institute in all classrooms collaborative teaching of children with learning needs.
  • Study the interviews, failure analysis reports, meeting analyses, and video recordings of faculty presentations to gain insight into the importance of collaborative teaching methods.
  • Review the analysis of data identifying the correlation between the amount of time spent in a coteaching classroom and the success rate of special education students.
  • Consider other collaborative models, including Richard DuFour’s work on professional learning communities.
  • Provide the least restrictive environment in which students can learn at an achievable level, instituting coteaching as a means of addressing diverse needs.
  • Create professional learning communities throughout all public schools.
  • Restructure secondary schools to meet time factors so school professionals can collaborate.


Lorraine Caputo

Physical Science and Special Ed.,
Sussex Central High

TNLI Affiliate:

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.



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