Murawski, Wendy M. (2009). Collaborative teaching in secondary schools: Making the co-teaching
marriage work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Introduction
Collaborative Teaching in Secondary Schools: Making the Co-teaching Marriage Work! by Dr. Wendy Murawski engages the reader from the beginning, starting with the table of contents. It cleverly ties the co-teaching partnership to the marriage relationship with chapter titles such as “The Dating Scene,” “The Engagement,” “The Wedding,” and finally “The Marriage.” As a special education teacher, Dr. Murawski understands the importance of connecting information to prior knowledge for optimal retention. Therefore, applying the stages of co-teaching to the process leading up to a marriage relationship, even considering the possibility of divorce, creates a helpful informative resource guide in an easy to read and entertaining format. Murawski masterfully communicates that co-teaching is a relationship which depends on interpersonal qualities of respect, compromise, and humor for success in addition to the practical matters involved in providing quality educational opportunities for the children. Anyone who has experienced or witnessed the work involved in planning a wedding will appreciate the attention to details provided in this book.
Summary
Dr. Wendy Murawski’s major purpose in writing the book was to provide a practical resource that would guide teachers and administrators into a successful, enduring, co-teaching relationship. Information is presented with an informal tone. Practical strategies for differentiation and application are provided along with various templates and models for application of co-teaching in different settings. There are easy reference pages for information in each chapter, resources should the reader want more on a topic, and a self-assessment at the end of each chapter to assess mastery of content. Within each chapter is a division for administrators which highlight an especially helpful piece of a successful co-teaching experience. There is a chapter entitled; “Playing Nicely with the Other Parents,” which discusses how seamlessly co-teaching works with other school improvement initiatives. Many of the critical aspects of Response to Intervention are addressed through the co-teaching experience. The index is complete and detailed with an extensive reference list. There are three pages of websites for disability, inclusion and differentiating lessons. The photographs and numerous printable worksheets will model and guide teachers and administrators into a successful co-teaching relationship.
Evaluation
The strengths throughout Collaborative Teaching in Secondary Schools far outweigh any discernable weaknesses. The book is easy to use with co-teaching terminology clearly defined and guided discussion points in reproducible handouts to facilitate the evolution of the co-teaching relationship. “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” is the title of the section in each chapter which highlights the role of the administrator as an important overseer of the relationship, such as mediation between the co-teachers and more practical matters of distributing the students with special needs among various classrooms in order to establish “natural proportions” or 15-20% per classroom. The “EZ Reference” pages and “Cliff Notes” synopsis for each chapter are definitely strengths for this book. The main co-teaching focus for this book is inclusion for students with special needs in the general population. Reference is made to the benefits of co-teaching for students in the classroom population who are academically and intellectually gifted, but it is not a condition of differentiation that is expounded upon. Little attention to co-teaching and differentiation to meet the needs of students with giftedness or English Language Learners would be the only weakness of this book.
Dr. Wendy Murawski has classroom experience co-teaching. She has a Ph.D. in special education with an emphasis on co-teaching, collaboration, and research. She is the co-creator of Co-Teach Solutions Systems software and owns an educational consulting company. She accurately recounts the history and rationale for inclusion along with the development of laws associated with the policy of least restrictive environment which is a driving force behind the use of co-teaching for an optimal learning environment. Dr. Murawski addresses all roles in the co-teaching relationship with objectivity and parity. She stresses the importance of starting with baby steps when implementing a co-teaching program. Her book is current and applicable to a variety of audiences both experienced, and those just starting the co-teaching relationship. She provides extensive coverage of all aspects of inclusion from the formation to the longevity of a collaborative relationship. Transition information between divisions in secondary school years as well as a student’s anticipated exit from the secondary system are addressed in this comprehensive book. This book has several attributes that make it a easy and practical to use for busy educational professionals.
Conclusion
Collaborative Teaching in Secondary Schools: Making the Co-Teaching Marriage Work! should be on every teacher’s bookshelf. The format of the book follows the stages of teaming proposed by Norris (1997), Gately and Gately (2001) of Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. The stages in a marriage relationship that mirror these are Dating, Engagement, Wedding, and Marriage. This book illustrates the stages of group formation in a tangible and practical way so the participants understand they will have to pass through certain stages in the co-teaching experience. This book provides valuable resources to make the journey more successful. So, raise your glasses to the bride and groom. A co-teaching marriage is sure to reach its golden anniversary with this resource as its foundation.