According to the Maryland State Department of Education:
Co-Teaching is a collaborative partnership between a generalist and a specialist who have shared accountability and ownership for planning and delivering instruction and assessment to all students within a classroom environment.
It wasn’t that long ago that education practice focused on dividing groups of students and teachers into numerous self-contained units by presumed capabilities. If you were going to compare education to a mathematical operation, it probably would have been division — people and ideas were being separated, always moving away from one another. In recent years, education has begun to change. It has evolved to become less about division and more about addition:
- Groups of students are added together to form today’s inclusive, diverse classrooms.
- Content that was traditionally taught in just one way is now taught in many ways through the application of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles.
- More and more teachers — who often worked in isolation — are actively collaborating with their colleagues. Some of these teachers share classrooms and the responsibility for all aspects of their students’ educations — they are co-teaching.
“I hope you find co-teaching is a way to help you accomplish the dream of offering all students the education that will enable them to reach their true potential.” –Marilyn Friend
Co-teaching brings general educators—and their students—and special educators—and their students—together in one space—the classroom. Bringing these groups together is the starting point, but there is a lot more to co-teaching. Co-teaching involves a general educator and a special educator blending their skills, strengths and experiences so that every student in their heterogeneous classroom benefits—all of the students have richer, more productive learning experiences than they would have had if they had only been taught by one of the co-teachers.
Some of the main benefits of co-teaching include:
- Increased instructional delivery and assessment options for greater student engagement.
- Increased grouping flexibility in order to provide students with differentiated instruction and diverse learning experiences.
- Reduced stigma for children through inclusive practices and access to the general education curriculum.
- Increased professional support and opportunities for collaborative problem-solving.
- Meets IDEA regulatory requirements for Least Restrictive Environment.
So, how does co-teaching—this coming together of two instructors with specialized expertise—work? And how can it improve student performance? Learn more about co-teaching.
- Be sure to download our In Brief on co-teaching to read and share with colleagues.
- Read about the ongoing refinement of co-teaching practices across the nation in the Education Week article, Hurdles in Pairing General, Special Education Teachers.