The effects of co-teaching for students with disabilities (Best Evidence in Brief)

A study in the new Best Evidence in Brief caught my eye because we also discussed this briefly in our second myth book: what is the effect of co-teaching? We concluded in our book that there is not much research on the effectiveness of the approach on learning in comparison to e.g. regular teaching. Do note: we didn’t write it doesn’t work, but in comparison with other topics in education the research is scarce.

This new meta-analysis doesn’t answer this question in general but does make a comparison for a specific group as Justin Hill notes:

A recent meta-analysis by Margaret King-Sears and colleagues investigated the achievement of students with disabilities in special education classes compared to those learning in co-taught classrooms. The researchers identified 26 studies for inclusion in the analysis, with all but one of the studies being conducted in the United States. Overall, the researchers found a moderate, positive effect on academic achievement (g = 0.47) for students educated in co-taught classrooms when compared to students educated in special education classrooms. Further analysis demonstrated the effect of co-taught classrooms varied by student age, with elementary school outcomes showing a weaker effect (g = 0.25) than middle school outcomes (g = 0.56) and high school outcomes (g = 0.52). The analysis also indicated slightly stronger effects for co-taught classrooms in language arts (g = 0.60) than in mathematics (g = 0.42).
However, the researchers were concerned that the students assigned to co-taught classrooms may have had different characteristics than students assigned to special education classrooms. To assess this source of bias, the researchers separated studies using convenience sampling from those using randomization techniques. Studies using convenience sampling yielded larger effects (g = 0.51) than those using a randomization technique (g = 0.24), but both methods still demonstrated significant positive effects for students in co-taught classrooms.
This meta-analysis provides evidence that students with disabilities in co-taught settings have better academic outcomes than students in special education classrooms. However, the researchers also emphasized that the placement setting of a student with disabilities is a complex decision that must account for other factors beyond the scope of this meta-analysis.

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