Friday, March 1, 2013


In working in different schools over the years I have seen co-teaching models were both highly successful and unsuccessful. From the outsiders perspective looking in on these classrooms, so much, it seemed, had to do with the personalities and personal relationships between the co-teachers. If the personalities meshed, it was obvious that they respected each other, enjoyed planning and teaching together and were able to communicate quickly and easy to adjust instruction to meet the needs of the learners. In referring to eight components of the co-teaching relationships (Gately & Gately, Jr., 2001), these successful groups were able to more easily move to the collaborative stage within each of the components, simply because they got along and enjoyed working together. Not to say that two teachers who get along will automatically be successful, collaborative co-teachers, but when you have a positive relationship and enjoy working together, the willingness to put the work in to becoming successful co-teachers in greatly increased.

In having witnessed successful co-taught classrooms, in which general and special education teachers not only planned and implemented instruction, but differentiated for the needs of all students, I am a big proponent for this model. In these successful co-taught classrooms, it was not apparent which students were special education students, or which students were completing alternative assessments. Both teachers supported all students and moved freely around the room helping students, providing instruction and accommodating as needed.  

As school curricula is upgraded for the 21st century, a co-teaching model would be a benefit for students. Some of the essential 21st century skills include collaboration and communication. These are very challenging skills for students. Special education and general education teachers, while teaching together, are provided the opportunity to model these skills for students on a daily basis. In addition, a curriculum that integrates 21st century skills is often student-centered and project-based. The additional supports that are provided in a co-taught classroom (for both the students and the teachers) help with the successful implementation of this type of curriculum.

As they say, “the best defense is a good offense”. For a school leader, in thinking about implementing co-teaching with in a school, the administrator should take great care in know the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of his or her teaching staff. Establishing teams of teachers that will mesh well will be important in setting up these teams for success down the road. Supervising and evaluating these teams would present a challenge for school administrators who include student data as a component in individual teacher evaluations. One strategy, might to evaluate the co-teachers as both a team (using student data and collaboration strategies) and individually (using observed instructional strategies and professional growth).

Gately, S., & Gately, Jr., F. (2001). Understanding co-teaching components. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(5), 40-47.

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