TIES Inclusive Education Roadmap

Collaborative Professional Development

It is helpful to use an inclusive approach to professional development (PD) to create an inclusive system that encourages all students to be viewed as general education students.

In a collaborative professional development model, general and special education teachers attend PD activities as cross-disciplinary grade-level or subject-area teams and apply what they learn to all students. Design each PD activity is to be relevant to this mixed group of educators. Likewise, examples given during all PD activities intentionally include all students, including students with significant cognitive disabilities, to illustrate what a concept looks like in practice.

When external groups are providing PD to your system (such as vendors of new curricula), ask them to provide their offerings in a way that meets your systems' standards for collaborative professional development. Within the context of collaborative PD, specialized offerings can be offered to specific groups. For example, training on a new state IEP online platform may only need to be provided to special educators.

Collaborative professional development is most effective when it is:

  • Driven by clearly articulated goals related to teacher and student outcomes
  • Designed in reference to best practices for adult learning
  • Designed to be of sufficient intensity and duration to build system capacity
  • Incorporates active learning
  • Includes a focus on participants' reflection on their professional practice
  • Provides coaching and expert support 
  • Offers a variety of professional development activities chosen to match the intended outcomes

Leveraging the Collaborative Professional Development Driver for Inclusive Education

Professional Learning Activities

 Real World Examples

Maximizing the Benefits of this type of Professional Learning

Large group presentations

  • School-wide presentation describing the research-based benefits of inclusive education 
  • District-wide presentation describing the goals and expected outcomes of initial implementation of inclusive practices
  • State-wide online presentation on delivering specially-designed instruction in general education classes
  • Make connections to teacher practice
  • Discuss resources that will support implementation
  • Include interactive and small group activities that allow participants to consider application in their context 

Small group presentations

  • Science teachers and collaborating special educators attend a session on co-teaching in general education science classes
  • Second-grade team receives information on the medical needs of a second-grade student
  • Provide multiple sessions 
  • Make a clear connection between PD and practice
  • Can at times be delivered as part of a standing meeting (i.e. second-grade planning meeting)

Learning walks

  • 2nd-grade teacher new to inclusive education visits 2nd and 3rd-grade classes where students with significant cognitive disabilities are on the class rosters
  • 7th-grade science teacher visits 6th grade co-taught science classes as part of her preparation for next year’s co-teaching
  • The principal, special education director and literacy coach join general education literacy blocks to observe tiered instruction inclusive of all students 
  • Be specific about the purpose of the learning walk and desired outcomes
  • Build trust in the process. Ensure the focus is on collaborative  adult learning and not considered to be an evaluation
  • Facilitate reflection (through discussion or writing) on the learning walk after it is completed, or during the walk itself, if appropriate.

Topic-based work sessions

  • 9th-grade science teachers and special educators work together to create adapted materials for second-semester science units
  • 1st-grade general and special education teachers work together to create a series of lesson plans  for an upcoming unit
  • A district-level equity workgroup focuses on analyzing data as it relates to students who are English Learners, inclusive of students with significant cognitive disabilities
  • State Department of Education team works with higher education colleagues to determine course content necessary for an endorsement as an Inclusion Specialist
  • Provide all necessary resources and material
  • Determine specific product/process outcomes for each work session
  • Where the teams agree, share the co-developed resources through a district electronic respository so other teams have a starting place when they  start co-developing units and lesson plans


  • State technical assistance to districts includes coaching on developing effective Equitable Inclusive Leadership Teams and developing the capacity in data-based decision-making 
  • District science coach supports 4th grade co-teaching team on strategies to make the “big ideas” of a science unit accessible to all learners using UDL practices
  • Collaborative coaching of general and special educators on grade level teams by a district coach 
  • Problem-solve ongoing coaching challenges
  • Utilize evidence-based practices for coaching