Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning


This study investigated the nature of collaboration between special educators and general educators in two elementary schools. Using a phenomonological approach and qualitative methods of research, 18 educators were observed in consultative meetings or cooperative teaching arrangements. Fifteen of these teachers were also interviewed. In order to increase the validity of the findings, a constant comparative study was conducted at two similar schools. Twelve themes emerged from analysis of the corpus data.

Several of these themes focused on the collaborative relationships as they presently existed in these research sites. Others centered on educators’ perspectives about their professional roles and beliefs surrounding the education of students with disabilities. Writers have suggested that consultation is most effective when it follows a problem-solving agenda of sequential steps. However, the participants in this investigation consulted in a much more serendipitous fashion and did not use sequential problem-solving steps during these meetings. Cooperative teaching arrangements were as varied as the teachers who participated in them. Educators found their relationship with other teachers empowering and useful in gaining insights into their students’ needs. The single greatest barrier to collaborative relationships was the lack of time available in the school day. Teachers also discussed their relationships with parents and their perceptions of the role of special educators in the schools.

Although this study was not designed to investigate teachers’ beliefs about inclusive education, this topic emerged through interviews and observations. The process of change was evident as teachers dealt with the ramifications of the increased need for collaboration. Teachers involved in collaborative relationships believe teachers who are resistive to working collaboratively have fears of the unknown and wish to maintain the status quo.

If school personnel believe collaboration is important, they must (a) find time for teachers to meet with one another, (b) provide staff development in collaborative models such as collaborative consultation and cooperative teaching, (c) let educators know about the process of change, (d) give teachers a voice and responsibility in how an innovation is implemented, and (e) be realistic about outcomes.