A Meta-Analysis of Co-Teaching Research: Where Are the Data?

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NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 24 describes the following:

Title | A Meta-Analysis of Co-Teaching Research: Where Are the Data?

Author | Murawski, W.W., & Swanson, H.L.

Source Remedial and Special Education, 22(5), 258-267.

Year Published | 2001

Students with special needs are increasingly being served in the general education classroom. Co-teaching is one service delivery option designed to meet those needs. The purpose of this article is to synthesize data-based articles pertaining to co-teaching between general and special education personnel. Of 89 articles reviewed, only 6 provided sufficient quantitative information far an effect size to be calculated. Effect sizes for the individual studies ranged from low (0.24) to high (0.95), with an average total effect size of 0.40. Dependent measures were varied and included grades, achievement scores, and social and attitudinal outcomes. Results indicate that further research is needed to substantiate that co-teaching is an effective service delivery option for students with disabilities.

The importance of educating special education students with their peers in regular education classrooms, to the greatest extent appropriate, was emphasized in law with the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in both 1990 and 1997. Co-teaching or cooperative teaching, as a method for including special education students while providing support for regular education teachers, gained considerable popularity during the 1990s.

Co-teaching can be implemented in a variety of ways. For example, one teacher can act as the primary teacher while another assists. Alternatively, teachers can work with students at different stations in the same room, or two teachers can trade off during a lesson, each presenting different parts of the material. Several components must be in place for an intervention to be considered co-teaching. First, the general education teacher and the special education service provider (either a special education teacher or related service specialist) must be working together in the same classroom. Second, both instructors must participate in lesson or activity planning together. Finally, the class itself must be made up of both students with and without disabilities.

Research Questions

  1. What is the general effectiveness of co-teaching models?
  2. Does the effectiveness of co-teaching vary depending on characteristics of the students studied (e.g., grade level, gender, type or severity of disability) or the dependent measures* of interest (e.g., grades, social outcomes, achievement)?

Research Design

  • Number of Studies Included | While 89 studies were reviewed, only 6 provided enough information for effect size to be calculated. These 6 formed the basis for the meta-analysis.
  • Number of Subjects | N/A
  • Years Spanned | 1991-1998

Research Subjects
Students who participated in classes co-taught by a special education teacher and a regular education teacher.

Age/Grade of Subjects
Students ranged from kindergarten to 12th grade. However, there were no studies focusing on 7th or 8th grade.

Specified Disability
Learning Disabilities (LD); Emotional Disturbance (ED); Deaf/hard of hearing; Mild to Moderate Intellectual Disability; English as a Second Language (ESL); low-achieving.

Classes were co-taught by a special education teacher and a regular education teacher.

Duration of Intervention
The co-teaching intervention occurred daily for at least 1 hour a day. Five out of 6 studies lasted a complete school year; the remaining study covered only 3 weeks.

This meta-analysis found co-teaching to be moderately effective with strong effects in language arts, moderate effects in math, and negligible effects for social outcomes.

Combined Effects Size

  • The overall mean effect size was 0.40 (moderate).
  • The mean effect size for reading and language arts achievement was the largest (ES = 1.59).
  • Math achievement had an effect size of 0.45 (moderate).
  • Social outcomes (e.g., peer acceptance, friendship quality, self-concept, and social skills) and attitudinal outcomes (e.g., attitude toward math) were not influenced by the co-teaching treatment (ES between 0.00 and 0.08).

Though the results of this meta-analysis suggest co-teaching can have positive effects, particularly for language arts, the authors Murawski and Swanson recommend more research be done on co-teaching. Only 6 studies contained enough data to be included in this meta-analysis, and of those 6, only 3 included effect sizes related to students with disabilities.

Future Research
More research is needed that:

  • Uses experimental control groups to compare co-teaching with other methods;
  • Examines outcomes as a function of gender, grade, disability type, severity of disability, and subject matter;
  • Synthesizes the qualitative information on co-teaching that has been collected.


* Meta-Analysis | A widely-used research method in which (1) a systematic and reproducible search strategy is used to find as many studies as possible that address a given topic; (2) clear criterion are presented for inclusion/exclusion of individual studies into a larger analysis; and (3) results of included studies are statistically combined to determine an overall effect (effect size) of one variable on another.

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