Co-Teaching Overview  

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Co-Teaching Overview

Teacher and Students

The ultimate goal of co-teaching—as is the case with all service delivery mechanisms—is to meet the educational needs of your students.  Co-teaching brings together a general education teacher and a special education teacher to share all aspects of teaching—planning, instruction and assessment—for an inclusive, heterogeneous group of students in a shared classroom environment.

Co-teaching is:

  • An equal partnership between two teachers—a general educator and a special educator—who have equivalent levels of professional licensure.
  • A way to have students with disabilities participate—and succeed—in the general education curriculum.
  • A tool for differentiating instruction for all students in the classroom, where both professionals are integral to the instructional process.
  • A way to promote the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles for all students.
  • A way to decrease student-to-teacher ratios across learning needs, styles and ability levels.
  • A way to promote professional collegiality and mutual support between teachers.
  • A way for teachers to learn from each other, and for students to gain knowledge from the expertise of two teachers both engaged in the instructional process.
  • Planned thoughtfully and collaboratively by both teachers.
  • A way to meet the requirements of IDEA and NCLB.

Co-teaching is not:

  • One teacher—typically the general educator—acting as the main teacher with the special educator in the role of “helper.”
  • The special educator only working with the students with disabilities.
  • The general educator only working with the students without disabilities.
  • Two teachers who take alternating turns teaching their students.
  • Solely a way to help the students with disabilities.
  • Planned at the last minute or improvised.

 

Every co-teaching relationship is different, based on the individual teachers, their mutual goals and their students’ needs.  However, one of the primary benefits of co-teaching is that both teachers get to bring their unique skill-sets and experiences to the educational process for their students.  In addition to their shared roles—planning, instruction and assessment—the specific individual roles of the two teachers may include:

The general educator as the expert in: The special educator as the expert in:
Learning strategies to address the diverse learning needs of students Learning strategies to address the diverse learning needs of students
The district and state curriculum  Writing and monitoring IEP goals and objectives for individualizing instruction
 Developing the pacing and sequencing of content instruction to meet all general education goals Case management and progress monitoring
Knowledge of the typical learner, social and behavioral characteristics for a large group of students at a grade level Understanding the learning process that needs to be matched appropriately to learner characteristics
The academic content areas Accommodations and modifications

Good teachers have found that co-teaching can serve as an opportunity to become excellent teachers, who are more well-rounded and effective with all of their students. For example, co-teaching gives general educators the chance to learn about IEPs, students with disabilities and specific teaching strategies. Likewise, the special educator can learn more about the general education curriculum and classroom management. Co-teaching gives both teachers the chance to learn a lot more about collaborating successfully and sharing responsibility for student outcomes.

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School administrators play an integral role in co-teaching. Learn how in the Leadership channel

SPOTLIGHT

Co-teaching is only a worthwhile endeavor if it enhances students’ performance. Some of the primary benefits for students include:

  • More opportunities for differentiated instruction, assignments and assessments
  • More small-group and one-on-one time with their teachers
  • Greater exposure to a wide range of teaching and learning techniques and styles
  • Increased opportunities to learn collaboratively with peers of diverse learning styles and abilities
  • Increased opportunities for students with disabilities to learn in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) with non-disabled peers and to gain confidence that comes with success in a general education classroom

 

BEST PRACTICE

Successful co-teachers share authority and responsibility in the classroom and are accountable for teaching all students within the classroom. They also teach in a way that demonstrates—everyday—their equal status to all students.