Collaborative Planning for Inclusive Lessons

Teachers in a meeting

This article originally appeared in START Connecting in March 2024. 

When we support students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in the Least Restrictive Environment, we are committed to identifying opportunities for meaningful engagement with general education content. Intentional, systematic planning is needed to ensure all students, including those with extensive support needs, are active members of the classroom with authentic opportunities to learn alongside peers. 

Practicing collaborative lesson planning is one strategy to promote student engagement in the general education curriculum. With this approach, general and special educators work together to efficiently design lessons that enhance student learning (Kuntz & Carter, 2021). Such lessons provide access to the rich content and instruction found within the general education experience. 

How does collaborative planning support student learning and engagement? The partnership and dialogue of collaborative planning allows educators to spark ideas for instructional activities, remove common barriers to student learning, identify the essential concepts and vocabulary to teach, and optimize engagement (TIES Center (2021): Inclusive Big Ideas).  

Collaboration is a process that requires a limited resource: time. Teachers are busy and need to be as efficient as possible when planning support for individual students. To make the process of collaborative planning easier, general education and special education teachers can use The 5-15-45 Tool developed by the TIES Center. A summary of this resource can be found in this flyer.

5-15-45 Tool and Resources

The 5-15-45 Tool offers easy-to-follow templates and video guidance on how to begin and maintain collaborative lesson planning based on the amount of time you and your planning partner have. 

5 minutes
The TIES Center offers a short video explaining the 5-minute meeting and they provide a downloadable template to keep the meeting structured. After attempting this process for the first time, you and your planning partner might be surprised by how efficient and well-designed the process is, for just 5 minutes of your time!

15 minutes
Watch this brief video explaining the added benefits of a 15-minute meeting and view an expanded downloadable template. In the video, you will also learn about the Inclusive Strategies resource. Once you have clarified the goal of the lesson and addressed barriers, strategies can be considered and selected. The tool emphasizes the importance of obtaining student feedback on approaches that help their learning. The Inclusive Strategies resource page provides multiple options to “Spark Student Engagement,” “Spark Student Understanding,” and “Empower Student Participation,” with tips on how to implement and teach each strategy.

45 Minutes or Beyond
If you and your collaborative planning partner are ready for a deeper dive and have more time available, download the 45-minute planning template and check out the Inclusive Big Ideas resource. For those who are eager to keep going, there are also suggestions for implementing lessons across multiple units.  

On their Resource page, the TIES Center offers customizable email messages to help educators reach out to potential collaborators or administrators to request planning time, an agenda for making the best use of time together, and articles and briefs to support the planning process. 

When we collaborate to create meaningful and goal-aligned general education lessons that embed strategies for engagement, understanding, and participation for students with extensive support needs, we set high expectations for students. “The positive correlation between active student engagement and academic achievement is one of the most well-established and robust findings in all of educational research” (McLeskey et al., 2022, p. 251). When given the opportunity to participate academically alongside grade-level peers with grade-level materials, learning outcomes for students with IEPs are optimized.

Written by: Lisonn Delcamp, Ed.S. – Autism Education and Intervention Specialist and Jamie Owen-DeSchryver, Ph.D. - Project Faculty


TIES Center. (n.d.).  5-15-45 Tool: Linking Available Time with Meaningful Collaboration. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from 

Kuntz, E. M., & Carter, E. W. (2021). Effects of a collaborative planning and consultation framework to increase participation of students with severe disabilities in general education classes. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 46(1), 35–52. 

McLeskey, J., Maheady, L., Billingsley, B. S., Brownell, M. T., & Lewis, T. J. (2022). High-leverage practices for inclusive classrooms. In Routledge eBooks. 

Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network. (2021). 5-15-45 Tool Linking Available Time with Meaningful Collaboration.

Page last modified March 8, 2024