Basis for Selecting a Co-Teaching Approach
Co-teaching is most effective when the approaches used are deliberately selected. Here are four factors to consider in selecting a co-teaching approach:
1. Student characteristics and needs
The first considerations in thinking about co-teaching approaches are student characteristics and needs. For example, if students tend to become disruptive during transitions, an approach should be selected that minimizes transitions. Conversely, if students need extra motivation, an approach with frequent changes might be preferred.
2. Teacher characteristics and needs
Co-teaching will be different in different classrooms and at different times of the school year based on teacher characteristics and needs. For example, if co-teachers vary significantly in their teaching styles, it might be best to select approaches that enable them to teach independently. Alternatively, if co-teachers work easily together, a more shared approach might be appropriate.
3. Curriculum, including content and instructional strategies
The content to be taught and the instructional strategies that are most effective for addressing the content are additional considerations in selecting co-teaching approaches. Highly structured content and procedures, such as teaching steps in a process, would require one approach while less structured content, such as a discussion of ideas, would suggest another approach.
4. Pragmatic considerations
The preference for co-teaching approaches should also be tempered by the realities of the setting. For example, in an open school, noise is a consideration in selecting an approach. In a crowded classroom, an approach not particularly dependent on access to large amounts of space might be the best choice.
Co-Teaching Approaches: Overview
1. Station Teaching: In this co-teaching approach, teachers divide content and students. Each teacher then teaches the content to one group and subsequently repeats the instruction for the other group. If appropriate, a third “station” could give students an opportunity to work independently.
2. Parallel Teaching: On occasion, students’ learning would be greatly facilitated if they just had more supervision by the teacher or more opportunity to respond. In parallel teaching, the teachers are both teaching the same information, but they divide the class group and do so simultaneously.
3. Alternative Teaching: In most class groups, occasions arise in which several students need specialized attention. In alternative teaching, one teacher takes responsibility for the large group while the other works with a smaller group.
4. Team Teaching: In team teaching, both teachers are delivering the same instruction at the same time. Some teachers refer to this as having “one brain in two bodies.” Others call it “tag team teaching.” Most co-teachers consider this approach the most complex but satisfying way to co-teach, but it is the approach that is most dependent on teachers’ styles.
5. One Teach, One Observe: One of the advantages in co-teaching is that more detailed observation of students engaged in the learning process can occur. With this approach, for example, co-teachers can decide in advance what types of specific observational information to gather during instruction and can agree on a system for gathering the data. Afterward, the teachers should analyze the information together.
6. One Teach, One Assist: In a second approach to co-teaching, one person would keep primary responsibility for teaching while the other professional circulates through the room providing unobtrusive assistance to students as needed.