Collaborative Teaching and Co-Teaching Models
Co-teaching is building momentum in today’s education system and you certainly don’t want to be left behind. The classic school setup we think of, with one teacher standing by the board in front of an attentive audience of pupils at individual desks, is a thing of the past. Individual desks have been replaced with mobile collaboration tables, blackboards have morphed into tablets, and standard frontal lessons have been usurped by team teaching. More and more classrooms are adopting some kind of co-teaching model. So what is collaborative teaching and why has it become so prevalent?
What is Co-Teaching?
Co-teaching or team teaching involves two or more teachers working together on a regular basis. There are many ways to approach this type of education. The right choice always depends on what best suits the teacher’s and students’ needs. Co-teachers can divide tasks and support each other in the classroom in various ways. One teacher can be the main instructor while another circles around the room to help individual students or works with a smaller group in the back. Alternatively, teachers can split the class in half and run parallel activities. No matter which co teaching strategies work for you, reflection is a key component of collaborative work. Without evaluating co-teaching strategies and their execution, it will be hard for team members to stay on the same page and encourage each other.
Benefits of Collaborative or Team Teaching
The benefits of collaborative teaching or ‘team teaching’ are significant and diverse. Co-teachers have the ability to springboard ideas off each other, brainstorm, and receive feedback. Furthermore, different teaching styles can reach a larger spectrum of students and enable teachers to provide individual attention when needed. In addition, two teachers means half the workload, which can prove extremely helpful during stressful times. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, when students look at teachers working together and respecting one another, they learn through modeling. Seeing their teachers collaborate and cooperate is the best education they will ever receive.
When Co-Teaching in Education Does not Work
Despite the many advantages, not everyone thinks collaborative teaching is a great idea. There are educators who believe that co-teaching leads to “too many cooks in the kitchen” where conflicting teaching styles can potentially lead to a negative working environment. It’s clear that in order for co-teaching to be successful, time and energy need to be expended in communication and trust building.
Co-Teaching Best Practices
So how can you ensure that your co-teaching strategies will be successful? One way could be to focus professional development and devote faculty meetings to this specific area and to offer teachers time to collaborate, discuss goals, and build relationships. All research points toward the administrator and clearly proves that administrator support is crucial in order for co-teaching to be successful (Co-teaching: Concepts, Practices, and Logistics, Marilyn Friend, Ph.D., August, 2006).
On a personal note, I worked in a co-teaching environment for about four years. During that time I learned new ideas, different ways to solve problems, how to accept constructive criticism, and overall I gained a really great friend.