The co-teaching model transforms the general education classroom into a more inclusive environment where students can receive remediation, interventions and individualized instruction in the whole group setting. Typically, co-teaching teams are made up of a general education teacher and a special education teacher, but this model can also be implemented with ESOL teachers, counselors, Speech & Language Pathologists, Reading Interventionists, Gifted Educators, and other specialists. Ideally, co-teachers share the class evenly; there is no "my students" and "your students," only "our students". The planning, instructing, and assessing is also shared. In this strategy, the six approaches developed by Dr. Marilyn Friend and Dr. Lynne Cook are highlighted, as well as resources and instructional strategies to assist with implementation.
If either partner is new to co-teaching or new to the partnership, it's important that a rapport is established and goals are identified. The National Education Association provides a list of suggestions included below for new co-teaching teams. Then, explore the types of co-teaching described in the following steps.
One Teach, One Observe: In this model, one teacher instructs while the other observes students to identify issues and assess their performance. This is great for data collection, behavioral observations, and collegial observations (see BetterLesson's "Collegial Observation" strategy below to learn more).
Before observing, have a plan; BetterLesson's "Planning an Observation" strategy which is linked below is a great place to start.
Be sure to consider the following questions before engaging in an observation: What are you looking for? How will you observe? What is your note-taking plan? How long will the observation occur?
One Teach, One Assist: In this model, one educator leads instruction, while the other circulates the room to provide unobtrusive assistance to students. This is helpful when teaching mini-lessons. Be sure to switch up these roles regularly so that both teachers are leading instruction and parity is established.
Parallel Teaching: In this model, the teachers divide the class in half and each teach the same lesson simultaneously. The smaller groups provide more opportunity for student participation and direct instruction.
This also lends itself to Differentiated Lesson Planning and strategic grouping. To learn about Differentiated Lesson Planning and Strategic Grouping consult the strategies below.
The strategy Parallel Teaching, which can be found in the BetterLesson lab, provides clear steps for implementing this approach.
Station Rotation: In this model, the teachers design stations that meet the instructional needs of students. Each teacher is in charge of a station where they provide direct instruction and/or targeted interventions. The additional stations are planned for students to work with independence.
In the Better Lesson strategy, "Designing Group Stations for Station Rotation Model," step-by-step plans and resources are provided.
Alternative Teaching: This occurs when one teacher instructs the whole group, while another teacher provides specialized instruction/interventions with a smaller group.
BetterLesson's Small Group Sessions strategy, which can be found below, provides a planning template for organizing and implementing these groups.
In using this approach, also consult BetterLesson's Microgrouping to Provide Feedback strategy as well as the Mild, Medium, Spicy Strategic Grouping strategy.
Team Teaching: This model requires the strongest partnership, but can be one of the most enjoyable and effective methods of co-teaching. The co-teachers fully share responsibility and deliver instruction at the same time, often referred to as a “tag team”.
A successful team approach relies on clear plans and Common Planning Time (to learn more about Common Planning time, consult the BetterLesson strategy below)
When done well, team teaching lends itself to alternative teaching methods like Project-Based Learning and Mastery-Based Progressions, both of which are BetterLesson strategies linked below.
All co-teaching models can support students who are English learners. As described in the article, "The Power of Two: Co-Teaching to Support ELLs" published on Northern New England TESOL Association, co-teaching provides ELs with:
Access to peer models of language, through turn and talks, whole group discussion, and small group work
Flexible groupings that allow for heterogeneous groups when appropriate, or homogeneous groups when a specific language or academic concept needs to be pre-taught, revisited, or practiced more extensively
More time with their classroom peers to build relationships and community
Integration of home languages (e.g. teacher introduction of counting to 10 in a represented language).
Elevated status among classroom peers
More individual attention
More productive observation and reflection by teachers
Increased academic access, able to see content through a variety of strategies and viewpoints
One of the most important aspects of co-teaching is the inclusive and least restrictive environment it creates for students with disabilities. Rather than receive IEP services in a pull-out model or in a substantially separate class, students with disabilities can be educated alongside their peers. As outlined in Collaborative Teaching in Secondary Schools by Wendy W. Murawski (26), co-teaching benefits students all students by providing:
How will you and your teaching partner manage student behavior? What expectations and routines need to be in place to avoid common issues like the good cop/bad cop?
How will you share grading and assessment? What technology do you have access to to do this effectively?
Go digital! Use an online interface like Google Classroom so that you can have a shared gradebook as well as share lessons, handouts, and assignments. This assists with parity.
Have a set co-planning time and stick to it. Try your best to plan in person as much as possible.
Ask for help! Co-teaching is hard; reach out to veteran teachers for support.
Observe other co-teachers in their classrooms to see some of these models in practice.
Google classroom is an online interface that shares assignments and lessons with students as well as an online gradebook.
A digital interface like Google classroom is critical to a successful co-teaching relationship. It helps teachers share the workload from lesson planning, providing students with feedback, file sharing, and grading.
In developing this strategy, the following resources were consulted:
What is Co-Teaching? An Introduction to Co-Teaching and Inclusion by Nathan Trites, CAST Professional Publishing
Effective Co-teaching Practices: A Simple Guide to Co-Teaching. Adapted from: The Maryland State Department of Education, 2012
Murawski, Wendy W. Collaborative Teaching in Secondary Schools: Making the Co-teaching Marriage Work! (2009).