Exploring Primary Teachers’ Views of Co-teaching for Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Multi-grade Classrooms


  • Ann Marie Casserly
  • Aileen Padden


Models of Co-Teaching, Special Educational Needs, SEN, Multi-Grade Classrooms, Teaching Approaches, Collaboration


This study focused on primary teachers’ (multi-grade, mainstream and support teachers) views of co-teaching approaches in addressing the learning needs of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in multigrade classrooms in Irish primary schools. Multi-grade classes are a common feature in Ireland where currently, there are 3,124 mainstream primary schools with over 1,700 schools having multi-classes (Department of Education and Skills (DES), 2016). A case study incorporating a mixed methods approach was chosen using self-administered questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. The findings indicated that while teachers believed the learning needs of pupils with SEN could be met through coteaching approaches, the withdrawal of pupils for supplementary support remained the dominant approach. Teachers indicated that they would prefer a combination of withdrawal and in-class support as opposed to choosing one approach over the other. Teachers referred to both the benefits and challenges posed by co-teaching in delivering instruction for pupils with SEN. The data demonstrated that station teaching was the most common form of co-teaching in multi-grade classrooms.


British Educational Research Association (BERA) (2011) Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research. https://www.bera.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/BERA-Ethical-Guidelines-2011.pdf (accessed 6th November 2017).

Cook, L. and Friend, M. (1995) Co-teaching Guidelines for Creating Effective Practices, Focus on Exceptional Children, Vol. 28 (3), pp. 1-16.

Cook, L., McDuffie-Landrum, K. A., Oshita, L. and Cotheren-Cook, S. (2011) Coteaching for Students with Disabilities: A Critical Analysis of the Empirical Literature. In Kauffman, J. M. and Hallahan, D. (eds) Handbook of Special Education, London: Routledge, pp. 147–59.

Department of Education and Skills (2016) Education Statistics Database. Available at: https://www.education.ie/en/Publications/Statistics/EducationStatistics-Database (accessed 12th January 2017).

Department of Education and Skills (2017) Guidelines for Primary Schools - Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs. Dublin: DES.

Friend, M. (2008) Co-teaching: A Simple Solution that isn’t so Simple after All, Journal of Curriculum and Instruction, Vol. 2 (2), p. 164.

Friend, M. and Cook, L. (2013) Interactions (7th ed), New York: Pearson. Mastropieri, M. A., Scruggs, T.E., Graetz, J., Norland, J., Gardizi, W. and McDuffie, K. (2005) Case Studies in Co-teaching in the Content Areas: Successes, Failures and Challenges, Intervention in School and Clinic, Vol. 40, pp. 260-270.

Mastropieri, M. A. and Scruggs, T. E. (2006) The Inclusive Classroom: Strategies for Effective Instruction (3rd ed), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Murawski, W. (2008) Five Keys to Co-teaching in Inclusive Classrooms, School Administrator, Vol. 65 (8), p. 29.

Murawski, W. and Dieker. L. (2012) Leading the Co-teaching Dance: Strategies to Enhance Team Outcomes, Council for Exceptional Children. 2900 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000, Arlington VA 22202-3557.

National Council for Special Education. (NCSE) (2013) Supporting Students with Special Educational Needs in Schools; NCSE Policy Advice Paper No. 4. Trim, Co. Meath: National Council for Special Education.

Pratt, S. M., Imbody, S. M., Wolf, L.D. and Patterson, A.L. (2016) Co-planning in Co-teaching: A Practical Solution, Intervention in School and Clinic 1– 7 © Hammill Institute on Disabilities.

Rose, R., Shevlin, M., Winter, E. and O’ Raw, P. (2015) Project IRIS Inclusive Research in Irish Schools. A Longitudinal Study of the Experiences and Outcomes for Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Irish Schools. Trim, Co. Meath: National Council for Special Education.

Scruggs, T., Mastropieri, M. and McDuffie, K. (2007) Co-teaching in Inclusive Classrooms: A Meta-Synthesis of Qualitative Research, Exceptional Children, Vol. 73 (4), pp. 392-416.

Shevlin, M., Winter, E. and Flynn, P. (2013) Developing Inclusive Practice: Teacher Perceptions of Opportunities and Constraints in the Republic of Ireland, International Journal of Inclusive Education, Vol. 17 (10), pp. 1119-1133.

Sileo, J. M. (2011) Co-teaching: Getting to Know Your Partner, Teaching Exceptional Children, Vol. 43(5), pp. 32–38.

Strogilos, V. and Tragoulia. E. (2013) Inclusive and Collaborative Practices in Co-Taught Classrooms: Roles and Responsibilities for Teachers and Parents. Teaching and Teacher Education, 35, pp. 81–91.

Stopgilos, V. and Avramidis, E. (2016) Teaching Experiences of Students with Special Educational Needs in Co-taught and Non-co-taught Classes, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, Vol. 16(1), pp. 24–33.

Teddlie, C. and Yu, F. (2007) Mixed Methods Sampling: A Typology with Examples, Journal of Mixed Methods Research, Vol. 1(1), pp. 77-100.

Tiernan, B., Casserly, A. M. and Maguire, G. (2017) Meeting the Needs of Children with Special Educational Needs in Multi-Grade Classrooms. Armagh: SCoTENS.

Walther-Thomas, C, Korinek, L., McLaughlin, V. and Williams. B. (2000) Collaboration for Inclusive Education: Developing Successful Programs. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Yin, R. (2009) Case Study Research: Design and Methods (4th ed), Thousand Oaks: Sage.




How to Cite

Casserly, A. M., & Padden, A. (2021). Exploring Primary Teachers’ Views of Co-teaching for Pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) in Multi-grade Classrooms . REACH: Journal of Inclusive Education in Ireland, 31(2), 129–140. Retrieved from https://reachjournal.ie/index.php/reach/article/view/19