What is Co-teaching?
Co-teaching is described as an act of teaching performed by two or more educators who deliver the instructions and learning activities at the same time working in one physical space with one class (The Benefits of Co-Teaching for Students with Special Needs, 2013). Besides, co-teaching is also known as CTT or collaborative team teaching. The educators need to be prepared and trained to be able to perform in a team (Kaplan, 2012). The primary goal of the collaborative model of teaching is to ensure the cooperation and co-performance of several educators in order to strengthen their capacity to meet the needs of all students (Dieker, n. d.).
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Models of Co-teaching
Parallel teaching model refers to the practice when several educators work with the class simultaneously so that the group of learners is divided into smaller groups (The Benefits of Co-Teaching for Students with Special Needs, 2013). That way, the student-teacher ratio changes and the educators become able to pay more attention to individual students and deliver unique approach based on the specific needs of the students.
One teacher observes while the other one works – this is another model beneficial for the educators as well as the learners. It allows teachers to keep their independent styles dividing the tasks within a lesson and interchanging their approaches (The Benefits of Co-Teaching for Students with Special Needs, 2013).
Another model of co-teaching is called alternative teaching; it involves one educator working with the majority of the learners, while the other one focuses on a small group (The Benefits of Co-Teaching for Students with Special Needs, 2013). This model is suitable for inhomogeneous classrooms where there are children with various needs (learners with disabilities or students with different academic performance levels).
Why Co-teaching Requires Preparation
Teaching is quite an individualistic occupation. Usually, a teacher works on their own, relying on the specifically selected and created materials, chosen materials, and techniques that suit both the teacher and the learners at the same time. Experienced teachers spend years practicing without much supervision. Moreover, teachers normally engage in self-evaluation and self-assessment techniques they create on their own and then adjust the lessons and teaching styles accordingly. Practically, every practitioner is an independent professional with a set of very specific individual tools, materials, habits, and ideas. Moreover, teachers differ from one another not only by the use of instruments, but also by views, attitudes, and philosophies.
Logically, many practitioners may feel insecure having to collaborate with their peers and share the working space and practices. Most are likely to reject the idea and have difficulties adjusting to the new circumstances and rules. Often, teachers working in one team may clash with one another arguing about appropriate ways to structure lessons or select activities. These challenges are nothing but normal during the first stages of training.
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The Benefits of Collaborative Education
Collaborative teaching may be extremely beneficial for the learners as well as the educators. This practice could be complicated at first and require some adjustment and changes. However, over time, it is likely to add more positive and useful dynamics to the lessons, make them more flexible, and interactive.
Collegial exchange represents many different benefits such as the exchange of individual teaching techniques and formulas – through such exchange, the professionals may enrich one another’s knowledge and practices. Also, working off of one another involves the mutual provision of feedback and objective evaluation – an option new for the teachers who are used to working alone (Stark, 2015).
Deeper Understanding of the Learners’ Needs
Subdividing a class into groups based on the learners’ academic, developmental, social, and cognitive requirements provides the students with a unique experience of receiving enough attention and guidance from the teachers to succeed and show improvement regardless of their age, level, or health status (Stark, 2015).
Decreased Stress and Burnout of Teachers
Professional support, communication, and the formation of peer relationships help the teachers to reduce the levels of professional stress, depersonalization, and burnout – the problems that are rather typical in this career field that kills the performance of the teachers and the academic success of the learners (Dieker, n. d.).
Stronger Educational Programs and Courses
Combining different approaches and working alongside one another, collaborating educators are able to create and maintain more active and informative courses with a higher density of tasks, topics, and goals that would cover more aspects and ensure a more dynamic learning in the diverse classrooms (Walther-Thomas, 1997).
Better Options for Inclusion of Diverse Learners (Including Children with Disabilities)
The learners’ needs are the primary focus in co-teaching. Working together, the teachers may ensure better inclusion in the classrooms and organize a cross-disciplinary approach to the studied subjects making connections between academic knowledge and day-to-day experiences of the students (Walther-Thomas, 1997).
Descriptions and Cautions
For the professionals to be able to collaborate successfully, they are to be ready to embrace the change and the possible inconveniences it may carry. There are a number of issues that persist in co-teaching regardless of the professionals involved, the locations, or specializations.
Combining the roles of several professionals working in one physical space and at the same time requires flexibility and patience from both sides; teachers report problems making time for all the activities simultaneously and deciding which ones are more preferable (Walther-Thomas, 1997).
The issue of schedules is related to that of time, but it also involves the problems of assigning roles to the team members and aligning them with the goals of the co-teaching activities.
For the co-teaching projects to work, the school administrations need to provide sufficient and diverse staffing to create the teams and also equip the schools with necessary materials to maintain co-teaching experiences (Walther-Thomas, 1997). Without such support, the initiatives are unlikely to work.
Development of Professionals
Finally, one of the key contributing factors is the level of training ensured by the school administration. The teachers are to learn to collaborate regardless of their experience, age, and specialization because collaboration requires much more than a high level of professionalism. It needs the willingness to help one another, unite efforts, work for the common goals, and match one another’s expectations (Walther-Thomas, 1997).
Excellent teachers make a successful team only when they approach this task with commitment and readiness. The professionals need to be monitored and guided at the primary stages of their collaborative teaching practices. The teachers need to learn to communicate with one another in a productive manner, create combined lesson plans, divide roles, address common objectives, and share the control over classroom (Why Co-teach?, 2014).
Dieker, L. (n. d.). Cooperative Teaching.
Kaplan, M. (2012). Collaborative Team Teaching: Challenges and Rewards.
Stark, E. (2015). Co-teaching: The Benefits and Disadvantages.
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Walther-Thomas, C. S. (1997). Co-Teaching experiences: The benefits and problems that teachers and principals report over time. Journal or Learning disabilities, 30(4), 395-407.
Why Co-teach? (2014).