The Art of Co-Teaching: How to Make It Work

The old expression “two heads are better than one” is true in most cases, and the classroom is no exception. In fact, today, more and more schools are implementing co-teaching in their classrooms. But, the art of co-teaching is about more than simply putting two educators in a room together in the hope that it’ll all work out.

Educators today have different styles of preparing and teaching their students. This becomes increasingly true depending on the school, the grade they’re teaching, and of course, the children being taught.

With the above in mind, we’re going to have a deeper look at co-teaching, the many benefits this teaching style has to offer, and some practical tips to make it work for you.  

What Is Co-Teaching?

Co-teaching is when teachers are paired together in a classroom. This style of teaching means that educators not only teach together but also plan their lessons and assess students as a team. These two educators are seen as equally accountable and responsible for the students in their classroom. They have to create a strategy that will allow them to educate a group of students with diverse needs.

The key to successful teaching is planning. But, when co-teaching, you’re not just planning for your students. You’re also planning around another person’s individual skills.

The Benefits of Co-Teaching  

While ensuring the success of co-teaching does take some planning, the opportunities for both children and teachers are limitless. Aside from allowing educators to share some of the responsibilities for instruction and management, these teachers also have the chance to give more attention to the students that need it most.  

Furthermore, co-teaching allows for greater integration among students and can even improve student achievement over time. This teaching style is particularly beneficial in a setting where student teachers are involved. By co-teaching, student teachers get the chance to learn more about lesson planning and delivery. In this setting, there are continuous mentoring opportunities that will allow them to become better educators in the future.

Understanding the Different Co-Teaching Structures

Co-teaching is about more than putting two talented educators in a classroom together. There are different co-teaching structures, some of which are better suited to certain teams than others. Here are the six structures:

Team teaching involves two educators teaching the classroom at the same time. They teach the same content and have equal roles and responsibilities within the classroom.

Alternative teaching is when one teacher provides one smaller group with specialized instructions about a task while the other educator offers different instructions to the other larger group of students.

Station teaching is when the classroom is divided into groups and educators rotate between stations. Each station is led by a teacher or allows students to work on projects independently. Both teachers are actively involved in the teaching process.

Parallel teaching is when both educators teach two separate groups the same content. The teachers plan these sessions in advance to maximize student success.

One teach, one assist is when one educator takes the lead and provides the instructions while the other assists students who need extra guidance.

No matter which strategy you choose for your lesson, it’s important that both teachers have equal responsibility and status within the classroom. While each educator may have different levels of experience and expertise, neither should be seen as a subordinate to the other.

Four Tips to Ensure Co-Teaching Works

While it’s important to fully understand co-teaching and the different strategies available, there are other elements of this style of teaching that must be considered to make it work. Here are four of them:

1. Choose a Co-Teaching Model and Establish Roles and Responsibilities

Before you enter a classroom, you must have agreed on a model for each and every one of the lessons you plan. Establishing roles within your classroom is important. Aside from allowing you to better prepare for your lesson, this will ensure that your students know where they stand.

By establishing your model and roles, you’ll make it clear to whom students should direct questions, queries, and observations to. Additionally, clearly defining your roles will prevent either teacher from overstepping boundaries. Before your lesson, you should also reach an agreement on classroom policies and behavior, scheduling, communication, and even grading.

2. Put On a United Front

Whenever you’re co-teaching, it’s important that you work as a team. Your students must see you both as equals. They must also see that you’re both invested in their education and their learning experience. When preparing lessons, make sure both parties have the same opportunities for presenting materials.

During the lessons, it’s important that one teacher doesn’t always take on a supporting role or lead role. You should share these roles so that students see you as equals. Also, don’t forget about small considerations. For example, both teachers should write their names on the board.

Similarly, you should put on a united front with parents. First and foremost, both teachers should attend teacher-parent meetings. Moreover, make sure to communicate with each other before contacting parents with specific views and opinions. Essentially, you must stay on the same page at all times.

3. Plan Your Lessons Together

The key to successful teaching is planning. But, when co-teaching, you’re not just planning for your students. You’re also planning around another person’s individual skills. With this in mind, it’s essential that you talk to your administrator about putting aside some shared planning time each week.

4. Learn From One Another

As with any team, each one of you has a set of unique skills to bring to the table. You also have individual personality traits that can aid with various teaching processes. Embrace these skills and traits and learn from one another. Make sure to watch each other in action and plan your strategy and lesson around each others’ skills.

Co-teaching is proving to be a promising technique that is not only helping students succeed but also allowing educators to learn new skills and improve their teaching strategies. However, the key to effective co-teaching is practice. By working with a team of professionals with experience working and teaching as a team, you’ll acquire the skills you need to adapt to different teaching situations, thus giving your children the best chance at a bright future.