Teaching as a team is an advanced method of working together in a classroom. It requires both individuals to have a compatible style and personality. Both teachers must also feel competent in the subject area to make this approach useful for students.
There are several different ways that co-teaching can come to the modern classroom. Some schools allow for both adults to be equally present with the content, encouraging their students to ask critical thinking questions. Others like to create an environment where one teacher gets to play the “devil’s advocate” to make a point.
Co-teaching works when both teachers have a personality that clicks. Each person must be comfortable with the other one in a classroom setting. Students must also see that there is no difference in the hierarchy of their instructors for the learning opportunities to be useful. The best results usually come from teachers who have been together for some time or are experts on the topic.
There are several pros and cons of co-teaching models and strategies worth considering before implementing this idea locally.
List of the Pros of Co-Teaching Models and Strategies
1. It creates fun and effective learning opportunities for students.
The inclusive model of co-teaching allows students with special education needs to learn in a mainstream classroom. This outcome is possible because of the additional supports that occur when both teachers get to work together. It is a model that has proven effective because the students and the teachers can create new and fun learning opportunities. This advantage also lets students who are in the general curriculum have the chance to experience more diversity in the classroom as they engage in the learning process.
2. Teachers can combine their knowledge to be more useful.
Special education teachers are well-equipped to manage behaviors in the classroom. They offer a different learning approach than what a general education instructor provides. When these two pillars of knowledge have the chance to come together, then great things can happen for the students in that classroom.
Students with disabilities must have access to learning opportunities that don’t restrict their ability to make grade-level progress. Co-taught classrooms let students move from modified assignments to regular ones as their skills develop. This makes the teaching relationship more useful because special education students become more likely to meet the standards for their grade.
3. It keeps both teachers engaged with the classroom.
The differentiated instruction that comes from a co-teaching relationship allows students to grow within the curriculum. Because there are two teachers in the classroom, there is more engagement because of how the material gets presented. It is easier for each person to anticipate the needs of their students, which means the planning lessons can become individualized more often in this setting. Then alternative lesson materials, assessments, or assignments can be distributed to the children in a way that maximizes their potential to learn.
4. Co-teaching allows for shared ideas that lead to enrichment and differentiation.
The special education teacher in a co-taught classroom often delivers content. There are more opportunities to observe the students who have special needs in that setting as well. When observing how students respond to assignments, it becomes possible to reteach concepts or revise the materials so that everyone can stay on task better. This design also helps enforce rules and guidelines for learning since one adult can circulate during the lesson to ensure that everyone is paying attention.
5. It reduces the monotony of having one person doing all of the teaching.
Students in grades K-4 typically have one teacher per year. Some teaching approaches keep the same teacher with a group of students as they get older to maintain continuity in the educational process. The reality of modern instruction is that older students have multiple teachers who offer lessons in their specialty areas already. Even grade school students go to “specials” like art, music, and physical education with a different teacher.
When the co-teaching environment gets introduced to the classroom, then the monotony of only having one person as the instructor disappears. The special education students feel welcome in the regular setting, while the kids in the standardized curriculum receive more opportunities to view the world in a different way.
6. This process creates more teachable moments in the classroom.
Students who receive exposure to diverse environments have more teachable moments each day compared to those who use the standard one-teacher concept. Introducing special education students to the general classroom creates chances to coach students individually while offering small group opportunities. More coaching and guidance are available because the student-to-teacher ratio is better. Some schools even add a teaching assistant into the mix to work with disruptive behavioral issues.
7. There are several different models from which to choose.
Research studies identify six different co-teaching models that schools implement for their students, but there are four options that receive consistent implementation.
- One teacher can deliver the lesson while the other observes or assists students as needed.
- Parallel teaching allows the classroom to be divided into two groups so that all students can receive the same lesson or one that is dissimilar for a specific reason.
- Station teaching gives students the chance to move around the classroom to form unique small groups. Desks get grouped into different areas, and then the teachers can deliver content directly to the students.
- Team teaching allows students to learn from two unique perspectives in a co-teaching environment.
8. Students receive exposure to different teaching styles.
When co-teaching decreases the teacher-student ratio, then it becomes easier to learn challenging materials. Students in this situation benefit because they get to receive exposure to multiple teaching styles. This advantage leads to more information retention, causing many kids to feel more comfortable sharing since they are in a smaller group setting. It is a process that eventually leads to the creation of learning opportunities as one group can learn what the other group might already know. Teachers end up covering more material over the course of the year since there are two instructors offering information instead of only one.
9. Students are more likely to engage with co-teaching.
Kids in a co-teaching environment are more likely to be engaged in lessons when there is a dialogue between two people. It’s an approach that encourages some risk-taking for the instructors and the students because there are more supports available in the classroom. This combination of factors allows the special education teacher to introduce effective strategies for learning while the general education teacher provides curriculum aid and instructional advice. Students with a variety of different needs experience chances to be successful because everyone enhances their knowledge based on the feedback that everyone provides.
10. Co-teaching allows for varied groups.
Working with small groups or individuals helps to meet the personal needs of each student better. Both teachers can remain in the classroom so there are higher levels of accountability. Since there are two adults in the room, it is easier to manage bathroom breaks or personal needs as they arise instead of waiting for the specials. This combination of benefits leads to the advantage of creating varied groups that can all tackle a specific piece of the curriculum under a structure that leads to better learning opportunities. Teachers can cover a lot more material in a short amount of time because of this structure when enough pre-planning occurs.
List of the Cons of Co-Teaching Models and Strategies
1. Any conflict between the teachers will reduce the effectiveness of this approach.
There can be numerous distractions in a classroom before any co-teaching efforts occur. Some students might find it difficult to track both teachers at school, especially when one of them does the bulk of the teaching. When you have someone circulating through a classroom to check on students, that behavior can be just as harmful to some kids as it is helpful for others. If a student is self-conscious and receives attention, then they might even withdraw from the classroom discussion.
This disadvantage can also reach the teachers. If there is conflict of any sort between them, then the disagreement will come out during instruction times. It is imperative for everyone to be on the same page to create an effective learning environment
2. Each teacher must be equally involved in supporting the classroom.
Both teachers must support the classroom environment equally for this arrangement to be useful. If the same teacher presents the lesson while the other circulates through the room, it is not unusual for the students to feel like the one doing the instructing is in charge. This perspective can lead to the idea that one teacher has more authority or competency when compared to the other. This attitude becomes an immediate roadblock to the co-teaching model because there will be resistance toward the individual who is doing the least amount of instruction.
3. Both teachers are forced to carry and support 100% of the load.
All co-teaching relationships require both instructors to be 100% involved in the classroom. Although they can work together to create and present the curriculum, the amount of work is doubled in this situation. The special education teacher must approach students from one direction, while the generalized education kids must receive a different form of instruction. That means the cost of providing an education can increase exponentially in communities that adopt this system. There could be significant improvements to student grades, but it might come at a cost that is too high for the community to support.
4. Planning can take a long time when using the co-teaching model.
Unless there is proper planning in the co-teaching relationship, the instructors might find themselves teaching different content on the same subject matter. This disadvantage causes many teachers to “hedge their bets” by grouping students according to their ability levels instead of mixing the kids together to create learning opportunities. Some support teachers may not feel confident about some lessons, which impacts the effectiveness of the relationship as well.
Some students may even feel stigmatized because they get placed with the special education teachers. That’s why there must be time to co-plan for teachers who use this model. Not being on the same page can be very destructive to the learning environment.
5. Students in the generalized curriculum may fall behind in some situations.
There are some concerns for the “typical” student when a co-teaching arrangement occurs. This approach is well-suited to the students who require extra support or enrichment. The kids who have an average ability and engagement level can sometimes fall through the cracks because they’re doing enough to get by without help. Trying to address the needs of those who exceed grade-level requirements can lead to boredom, an inability to access help, and the development of unrealistic impressions of their abilities.
Co-teaching can create situations where there might not be enough time for groups to receive an equal amount of exposure to both instructors. The students who have special needs might not be in the re-teaching group. There must be a plan in place to address the assessment logistics for every student to have this arrangement work.
6. Co-teaching can alter student expectations in the classroom.
The co-teaching arrangement can be so successful at times that some students begin to expect one-on-one encounters when they have questions. There can be an expectation that re-teaching and other interactions occur during class time as well. This disadvantage can lead to interference with a child’s ability to become an independent learner. It may also develop feelings of insecurity or inferiority, causing them to second-guess all of their work. They can become accustomed to the idea that teachers need to suggest that they review specific questions or offer a particular response.
7. It can lead to higher levels of classroom noise.
Many of the students who find themselves in a co-teaching arrangement often have a sensitivity to loud sounds. When you place two teachers in a room with a group of kids, then you’re going to end up with a classroom that is inevitably noisier than what it would be without a co-teaching arrangement. You can avoid this disadvantage somewhat by developing procedures that allow independent students to go to a quiet area or bring hearing supports so they can focus on their work.
This issue can also cause some students to feel separated from others, causing them to feel like they’re being left out of classroom activities. It is this reason that some kids experience high levels of anxiety about going to school each day.
8. Some teachers might find that they’re not doing much at all.
When co-teaching is done correctly, then each teacher has a specific role to implement. That makes it possible to teach students different skills at a faster pace. Since the special education teacher is no longer assigned to one demographic of kids, there are fewer stigmas attached to the children who need help. It is when this process is not implemented correctly that bad things happen.
One teacher can find themselves not doing much of anything because their role in the classroom is not defined clearly. Some might not know how to collaborate, so they just show up to work without a purpose. This situation leads to a lack of trust, causing every student to suffer because of it.
9. There must be trust in the relationship for it to work.
Co-teachers work well when there is an established relationship between them. That’s why the same grouping must happen each year for this structure to work efficiently. Throwing two adults together with an expectation for immediate results is a recipe for failure. Since the public school system doesn’t receive guarantees for service, the rotation that one teacher encounters each year can lead to a lack of trust in this system.
This disadvantage can appear at any time during the school year when a substitute teacher may be necessary. Co-teaching can emphasize cooperation all it wants, but there is not any blending of the teaching styles when one adult doesn’t trust the other.
Even though there are some specific drawbacks that can create problems for co-teaching arrangements, this strategy is useful for student integration. Kids with special needs can move into a mainstream classroom using this methodology. The typical student can receive enrichment activities and additional supports at the same time.
Because co-teaching is relatively new, there are relatively few broad-based studies that look at the long-term impact of this approach. Students who have come from these classrooms say that they can obtain and retain more content than they did with the traditional classroom. Teachers also report having more time to assess the needs of their class to meet them more effectively.
Schools must continue to develop new and useful ways to meet the learning requirements of students with special needs. The pros and cons of co-teaching models and strategies show us that picking the best method for local needs can increase the availability of learning opportunities.
About the Author of this Article
Natalie Regoli is a seasoned writer, who is also our editor-in-chief. Vittana's goal is to publish high quality content on some of the biggest issues that our world faces. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.