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Teamteaching between Regular Teaching Staff and Special Needs Teachers

Background and aims

Various cantons have created a statutory basis for the integration of children with special educational needs into regular schools. This begs the question of how, on the one hand side, this challenge can be met by regular teaching staff and how, on the other hand side, the additional and necessary skills of the special needs teachers can be applied to full effect.  

A proposal repeatedly propagated in connection with this question is teaching-related cooperation, in particular 'teamteaching' between regular teaching staff and special needs teachers. Several cantons have gone as far as declaring teamteaching – a demanding form of cooperation – as obligatory.

The cantons give few concrete guidelines as to the form this cooperation should take, especially with regard to teamteaching. It is unclear how the teaching staff will implement teamteaching and whether the theoretical criteria for teamteaching (cf. e.g. Frommherz & Halfhide, 2003; Thommen, Anliker & Lietz, 2008; Gräsel, Fussangel & Pröbstel, 2006) will be taken into consideration.

Theoretical literature on teamteaching often declares it as having positive effects on tuition. Working on the basis that a special needs teacher brings with them additional didactic methodological, theoretical and diagnostic knowledge, it must lead to a noticeable increase in the quality of teaching. Empirical evidence for this, however, is largely pending.  


The aim of this research project is to investigate how teamteaching between regular teaching staff and special needs teachers with respect to the available theoretical criteria is implemented, the effects of the collaboration on the quality of teaching with regard to those aspects relevant to special needs education and whether there are any connections between the forms of teamteaching and the forms of tuition.

  1. How is teamteaching implemented with respect to theoretical criteria?
  2. How do the parties involved (teachers and pupils) in teamteaching evaluate the quality of teaching with respect to those aspects relevant to special needs education?
  3. How do the parties involved (teachers and pupils) evaluate the difference between those aspects relevant to special needs education in lessons with and without teamteaching?
  4. Are there connections between the theoretical criteria concerning the form, which the teamteaching takes and the quality of those aspects relevant to special needs teaching?


170 persons, 80 out of those as regular school teachers (RLP) and 90 as special education teachers (SHP) from the cantons of Zurich and Zug, took part in the survey. By means of cluster analysis different types of cooperation were built and, together with further multivariate procedures, the connection between the cooperation design and the basic conditions regarding class design was examined.


The results show the following three cooperation types. Regular school teachers and special education teachers are distributed equally on the three cooperation types.

  • Co-constructive type (51 % of all RLP and SHP) – With this cooperation type all characteristics of cooperation, such as mutual acknowledgement, mutual learning, flexibility in teaching and didactic methods positioning, are rather pronounced. Compared to the two other types, responsibility for the class is noticed and defined as shared, and the cooperation is experienced as satisfying and efficient.
  • Little cooperative type (16 % out of all RLP and SHP) – All characteristics of cooperation, compared to the other two types, are pronounced under average. With the less cooperative type responsibility is perceived as far less shared. For pupils as well as for class management this type mostly considers the RLP as responsible. The less cooperative type experiences the cooperation, compared to the two other types, as less satisfying and efficient.
  • Mixed type (33 % out of all RLP and SHP) – This type has two very strong above average characteristics: high mutual trust and acknowledgement as well as high flexibility during class. A didactic methods exchange hardly takes place, and also the feeling of learning something from each other only exists below average. The mixed type shares the responsibility similar to the little cooperative type. This means that for class management and strong pupils mostly the RLP are in charge. The cooperation is experienced as satisfying and efficient by this type.

The study proved that there is a connection between basic conditions and belongingness of the cooperation type. The co-constructive type assesses the found basic conditions more positive than the other two types. At the same time a connection between good integrative teachings in class and belongingness to the cooperation types could be found. The belongingness to the group of the co-constructive types is associated with a more differentiating class design and a less problematic class management. These are the main results of this study. For more details we would like to refer to the extensive report, which can be found on the H-server soon. Here you can also find the answer to the question about the teachers' assessment of the class with and without class-related cooperation regarding differentiation and class management, which we cannot discuss in more detail here for lack of space.


Consequences in practice

The study poses some questions with regard to the SHP role in the IF setting, as it is currently organized. As shown in the description of the cooperation types, the RLP and SHP of the co-constructive types, amongst other things, are characterized by the fact that they share the responsibility. Looking at the current basic conditions, under which IF teachers have to work, these oppose the request for shared responsibility. Therefore, one of the main recommendations of the study will be, to improve the basic conditions for SHP such that it can lead to shared responsibility within the cooperation. This for examples involves the reduction of the number of classes, in which an IF-LP works, the increase of paid discussion times or the setup of institutionalized meetings before the cooperation starts. Further recommendations are included in our final report.


  • Henrich, C., Baumann, B. & Studer M. (2012). Ausgestaltung der unterrichtsbezogenen Kooperation. SZH 9, 35-41.
  • Baumann, B., Henrich, C. & Studer M. (2012). Rahmenbedingungen der unterrichtsbezogenen Kooperation. SZH 9, 42-47.
  • Baumann, B., Henrich, C. & Studer, M. (2013). Unterrichtsbezogene Kooperation zwischen Regellehrpersonen und heilpädagogischen Lehrpersonen und Klassenführung. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, 19(10), 45-52.



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