Promoting Student Learning

Strategies for Collaboration in Special Education

Collaboration Between Stakeholders

Collaboration in special education is an vital part of the success for students and teachers. This poster outlines the most important pieces of the puzzle as follows:

  • Classroom management
  • Teacher collaboration
  • Student relationships
  • Family relationships
  • School relationships
  • Community relationships

Classroom Management

Classroom Management is a key part to a successful class for students to learn and teachers to collaborate effectively. Though there are several factors impacting the classroom collaboration, such as setting structure, engaging students with effective lesson plans, and using effective discipline (RTI), there are two pieces that should be addressed immediately on day one. Two key points that should be a top priority are: Establishing relationships and Creating a positive learning environment for students.

Establishing Relationships:

When at all possible it is important to get to know your students and their exceptionalities. Also sharing this information with the general education teacher should be a priority. Having that background information will help you create a relationship with your students. The relationship between student and teacher can have a lasting impact on their educational experience. Its is important to try and reach your students by getting to know them and accepting the challenges that come with building a repot with even the most difficult student. Some great ways to build relationships are to:1. learn their names, 2. Ask questions, 3. Learn interest that can help with learning in the classroom (Kirkpatrick 2013).

Creating Positive Learning Environments:

The Climate in any classroom is usually lead by the teacher(s). The first step in creating a positive learning environment is knowing your students "emotional, intellectual, physical and social needs"(Kirkpatrick, 2013). Fostering a classroom climate where students feel valued and supported will increase success in the classroom.


Helpful resources:

Kirkpatrick, 2013. Classroom Management 7 Tips From an Experienced Teacher Retrieved from


Best Practices:

  • Build Relationships with students built on respect, trust, and mutual expectations
  • Create a positive climate conducive to learning
  • Create engaging and exciting lesson plans lessons
  • Get and maintain organization
  • Create structure and procedures and establish rules and expectations
  • Establish routines
  • Continuum of responses to deal with inappropriate behavior
  • Respond appropriately to behavior/ set procedures to help prevent bad behavior


Teacher Collaboration

Teacher collaboration is the ability of teacher working together, through communication, to improve educational standards in their school. An educational system in a school may thrive or fail on the teacher’s ability to communicate with each other and the students. “Research by Amy Edmonson at the Harvard Business School finds that organizations often thrive, or fail, based on their ability to work as teams to learn, improve, and innovate.” (Poulos, Culberston, Piazza, D’Entremont, 2014). This statement is true in education. It is not about the individual student or individual teacher but the educational organization as a whole. A school system must continuously thrive to meet new standards in education provided by the state or federal government each year or so.


Helpful resource:

MAKING SPACE: The value of teacher collaboration. The Education Digest, 80(2), 28-31


Recommended Best Practices:

Recommendations on how to improve the practice of teacher collaboration is fun and friendly meeting and technology. Meetings can sometimes be stressful for all teachers and intimidating for new teachers. Technology is an excellent way for teachers to collaborate. Using IPads or other hand help computers to communicate with one another, other than through meetings; can be effective if the issue is needed during class or planning period.

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Student Relationships

Student relations or involvement in the school is important to higher education. “A study of the teacher collaboration process and its relationship to student achievement is important to provide insight, suggestions, and information so educators can work together to achieve the highest level of student academic performance” (Ervin, 2011). Teacher’s collaboration for student achievements must include student relationships with administration.


Helpful Resource:

Ervin, S. R. (2011). The relationship between teacher collaboration and student achievement (Order No. 3491848). Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Full Text. (915644095). Retrieved from


Recommended Best Practices:

Recommendations on how to improve the practice of the student’s relationship with teachers and other administrations is to keep the door open to communication for the students and suggestions from the students. If the students know they can go to a teacher and give input on their education and ideas on how to make learning more effective and fun in the classroom. Another recommendation is for the teacher to have open discussions rather than just teach or hand out worksheets. Open discussion leads to ideas and effective communication between the teachers and students.


Family Relationships

Family relationships are those existing between parents, primary caregivers and other significant persons in a child's immediate family. In an effort to increase learning outcomes it is vital to foster productive home and school collaborations (Christenson 2002). Involving family in a child educational experience provides positive improvement with grades and test scores, attitude, behavior, willingness to complete work, increased participation and most important increased attendance. Two key points when creating family - school partnerships are:1. Create a open and welcoming school environment for parents, and 2.

Strengthen knowledge and skills of caregivers to support increase learning at home.

Create a open and welcoming school environment for parents

Start the year off by providing information for parents welcoming them to the school and to your classroom. Also provide information about partnering with parents for student success. Teachers should consider personally reaching out to parents via or postal mail. Schools can hold an open house to invite parents to meet administration and teachers prior to school starting. This is the schools opportunity to extend an olive branch to parents regardless of what experiences they may have had in the past.

Strengthen knowledge and skills of caregivers to support increase learning at home. Providing parents with training and materials for improving the students study skills or learning in various academic subjects will increase the academic performance overall. One idea to help parents at home include making assignments that require students to discuss with the family what they are learning. Consistently involve parents in the education expectations and requirements and ways they can support this learning at home. And another important aspect is to involve parents in goal setting and plans for post secondary education.

Christenson S., (2002). Collaborative family -School Relationships for children's Learning, Virginia Department Of Education, Office of Student Affairs, Special Education Retrieved from

Sample Best Practices for Parent Involvement in Schools (2013). Retrieved from


Helpful Resources:


Best Practices:

The Ohio department of education outlines the following best practices for parent involvement:

  1. Create a open and welcoming school environment for parents
  2. Provide families information related to child development and creating supportive learning environments.
  3. Establish effective school-to-home and home-to-school communication
  4. Strengthen families’ knowledge and skills to support and extend their children’s learning at home and in the community.
  5. Engage families in school planning, leadership and meaningful volunteer opportunities.
  6. Connect students and families to community resources that strengthen and support students’ learning and well-being

Retrieved from


School Relationships

The greatest improvement in student outcomes are characterized by deep collaboration between administrators and teachers. In a good school relationship, teachers are actively involved in developing and selecting instructional materials, assessments and pedagogical strategies; collaboration time among teachers focuses on sharing ideas for improving instruction is embedded in the workweek, with a broad recognition of the importance of breaking out of self-contained classes; teachers are open to being observed and advised; administrators and teachers focus closely on monitoring testing data, but as a diagnostic tool to identify areas where students are struggling so they can receive additional support; and schools conduct unusually extensive and systematic outreach to parents and community groups.

Some features of schools that promote student achievement in special education are a coherent instructional guidance system, in which the curriculum, study materials, pedagogical strategies, and assessments are coordinated within and across grades with meaningful teacher input. Also, strong parent-community-school ties, which closely integrate the network of people focused on enabling each student learn.

Strauss, Valerie. (2013). Why collaboration is vital for creating effective schools. Retrieved from

Community Relationships

All children, youth, and young adults with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education and/or services that lead to an adult life characterized by satisfying relations with others, independent living, productive engagement in the community, and participation in society at large. To achieve such outcomes, there must exist for all children, youth, and young adults a rich variety of early intervention, educational and vocational program options and experiences (Special Education in the Schools n.d.).

Community relationships begin for different reasons. For example, some partnerships form when school leaders or local policy makers initiate collaboration. Also, some begin when a community becomes aware of an urgent need for change, or when funding becomes available to respond to conditions in the community. Finally, some begin when school staff initiates collaboration with the community to respond to a recognized need. For example, in Kentucky, school staff learned of a developmentally delayed pre-school child whose parents had been unaware of the community services available to them but were willing to work with school, health, and human services providers to enroll the child in a preschool program. (“Building Collaborative Partnerships-Learning Point Associates”, n.d.)

An example of community relationships with schools are Adopt-a-school program. This is a family-coordinated effort that arranges for businesses to provide funds and services to the school. An example of the service offered is a recreational program that provides after school homework help.

Helpful Resources

Special Education in the Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Building Collaborative Partnerships-Learning Point Associates. (n.d.). Retrieved from