Brewer, Robin

Committee Member

Correa-Torres, Silvia M.

Committee Member

Ferrell, Kay Alicyn

Committee Member

Ku, Heng-Yu


Special Education


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created



264 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Virtual education in the United States continues to be a popular option for K-12 students. The enrollment in full-time virtual schools not only represents typical learners but a growing number of students with disabilities, including low-incidence disabilities. In some states, this population exceeds the state-wide average percentage of students with disabilities enrolled in public education and is compelling virtual schools to focus their attention on the legal expectations of serving individual needs. A pilot study, Virtual K-12 Teachers’ Perspectives on the Provision of Inclusive Online Environments (Ridings, 2016), investigated the types of inclusive strategies used by teachers in the virtual classroom and indicated a steady use of six of the seven strategies surveyed. Among those reported, the co-teaching strategy ranked the lowest, yet open commentary about co-teaching was positive. Thus, this study utilized transcendental phenomenology to gain more information about the use of co-teaching as a strategy to support the education of students with disabilities in the virtual general education classroom. Sixteen co-teachers participated in questionnaires, interviews, and focus groups. Four research questions related to the implementation, roles and relationships, school culture, and successes and failures in co-teaching guided the collection and analysis of data to obtain the true essence of co-teaching. Indications of this study show that despite the significant differences in model and delivery, the body of research pertaining to co-teaching in traditional, face-to-face schools is still highly relevant. Research provides prescriptive practices such as the use of application-based training both prior to strategy implementation and as an on-going approach as well as the need for improving the value of co-teaching roles and expertise of co-teaching partners. Findings also uncovered factors of co-teaching specific to virtual schools, including unique challenges to relationship building, greater emphasis on the value of content knowledge, the development of triad and team configurations, and the challenging impacts of a culture of change in virtual schools. Based on these findings, the study’s implications emphasized the need to address the training of general and special educators as well as the necessity for virtual schools to investigate the structure and roles of teachers as they deliver inclusive services to students with disabilities.

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