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5 Components of Effective Co-Teaching

Co-taught classrooms, classrooms where there are two or more teachers delivering instruction at the same time to a group of students, grew in popularity shortly after federal and state laws mandated public schools to provide a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) possible to students with disabilities. Co-taught classrooms quickly became an innovative way to support inclusion efforts and an effective model for improving the performance of all students regardless of abilities.

There are many benefits for students in a co-taught classroom, especially students with learning disabilities. Some benefits include students with disabilities having access to the general education curriculum and general education setting, opportunities for differentiated instruction and opportunities for students to receive specialized instruction in their general education classroom. Students without disabilities also benefit from classrooms with two teachers because they have access to additional support and can receive direct instruction in smaller groups. Co-taught classrooms allow teachers to learn from each other’s expertise and expand the scope of their teaching capacity.

A successful co-teaching environment can sometimes be easier said than done, however, and requires purposeful planning and effort from both teachers. In order for a co-taught classroom to benefit all parties involved, there are core components that must be included:

1.     Co-Planning, Co-Planning, Co-Planning
The power of co-planning cannot be stressed enough. Not only are students in co-taught classrooms extremely lucky to have the opportunity to learn from two teachers. Co-planning time is a key factor in making a co-taught classroom thrive. This is an opportunity for both teachers to plan their lessons together and get a better understanding of the content and the students. Clarifying the role of each teacher during the lesson is also vital.  Co-teaching models should be planned out and each teacher should identify an area that they will own. Small group instruction should be discussed and student assessments should be reviewed together. Using platform like GoogleDocs make it easier for teachers to create and edit lessons collaboratively.

2.     Using A Variety Of Co-Teaching Models To Innovate Classroom Instruction
Co-taught classrooms can have small groups where each teacher works with a group for a definite amount of time. These groups can be daily or weekly. Co-teaching models should vary depending on the lesson. Using the same model every day, runs the risk of becoming ineffective.  Co-planning time gives both teachers the opportunity to identify what model should be used during the lessons. Co-teaching models should not only leverage the lesson, but should also highlight teacher strengths and teaching styles. If the teacher who usually supports identifies a lesson that she would want to take the lead on, then switching up the model benefits both the teachers and the students. Models like Team-Teaching, Parallel Teaching and Station teaching all give both teachers opportunities to implement the lesson at the same time, but in their own unique way. Additional co-teaching models can be found  on the Marilyn Friend and Lynne Cook co-teaching models website.

3.     Communicating Regularly About Student Progress 
Discussions of student progress should not only happen during co-planning. These conversations can happen after every lesson. A co-taught classroom gives ample opportunity for students to receive targeted instruction and assessments. After instruction is delivered, teachers can have discussions regarding the strengths and weakness of all students in the classroom. Both teachers should also review whether a student with an IEP received all of the support necessary to access the content. Co-taught classrooms can review data and assessments, group students based on what concepts students still need, then assign a teacher to work with particular groups. Having two teachers in a room, makes it easier to catch students who are in need of additional support, which in turn makes it easier to adjust instruction, drive positive outcomes and find children who may be in need of special education services.

4.     Setting Expectations With Students And Staff 
Students and other staff members should understand that that both teachers are equal contributors to the classroom environment and for that reason, should be seen as equals. Make sure to end `any discussions about which teacher is the “lead teacher”. It is very likely that one co-teacher will have more experience than the other, but that does not take away from the fact that each teacher brings a unique set of skills to the classroom. The title “lead teacher” holds very little weight to students and can be used to justify which teacher they should respond to. Teachers should make it clear that instruction will be received from both teachers and that behaviors should remain consistent regardless of who is delivering instruction. Both Teachers should have their names on doors and classroom communication, in addition to holding parent conferences together. In order for the co-teaching model to be effective, both teachers should feel equally responsible for the classroom environment and the success of the students.

5.     Building A Partnership
Building a strong co-teaching relationship starts and ends with the teachers involved. All co-teachers do not have to be best of friends, however they should respect each other and be open to building a positive relationship. Engaging in friendly conversations about topics like hobbies and interests is one way to get to know your co-teacher and break up the monotony of talking about work. It’s also a great way to incorporate interests and personalities into lessons, which in turn make the lesson more interesting to students 

Embedding these core components in your co-taught classroom is key to ensuring a successful partnership that drives successful student outcomes.