Can having more than one teacher in the classroom help your child learn better? That’s the idea behind collaborative team teaching, which is also called co-teaching. Co-teaching is one way schools make sure that students who need special education services are being taught in the least restrictive environment (LRE). And for most kids with learning and attention issues, the LRE is the general education classroom.
Here’s what you need to know about collaborative team teaching.
What Is Collaborative Team Teaching?
Collaborative team teaching often occurs in inclusion classrooms. (Read about the benefits of inclusion classrooms.) In a co-taught class, general education and special education teachers work together to plan lessons, teach, monitor student progress and manage the class.
It’s an approach that makes it easier to teach all students the same content and hold them to the same educational standards. That includes kids with learning and attention issues who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and 504 plans.
The Benefits of Co-Taught Classrooms
Being in a co-taught classroom has many benefits. Students can spend more time with the teachers and get more individual attention. And with more than one teacher, it’s easier to teach students in smaller groups or one-on-one.
Students have the opportunity to learn from two teachers who may have different teaching styles, ideas, perspectives and experience. It also makes it easier to implement differentiated instruction, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and personalized learning.
How Co-Teaching Works
Here are the basic models of co-teaching:
- Team teaching. Both teachers plan lessons and work together to teach students. This helps students see the teachers as equals with each other. It also gives students the chance to ask questions and get assistance during a lesson. This can be especially helpful for students with accommodations.
- One teaches, one assists and/or observes. Having one teacher actively teaching frees up the other teacher to assist and give individual help as needed. Or the other teacher can observe. For instance, an observing teacher may collect information about how a child responds to different teaching approaches and about his attention and behavior. That kind of data is valuable for IEPs and for behavior intervention plans.
- Station teaching. Teachers may be responsible for different parts of the lesson plan. This allows them to play to their teaching strengths. Students are divided into groups and move from one station to the other. Or the teachers rotate from group to group.
- Parallel teaching. The class is split in half, and each teacher takes one group. Both groups are taught the same thing but in a different way.
- Alternative teaching. One teacher handles a larger group of students. Meanwhile, the other teacher works with a small group on a different lesson or gives more support to struggling learners.
What to Watch Out For
Co-teaching doesn’t always work perfectly. Teachers may disagree on the best strategy for teaching a topic or how to grade a certain student. Or one teacher may be more experienced working with students with learning and attention issues, so your child doesn’t get to know the other teacher as well.
But that also means you have twice as many people to turn to when you have concerns. If you have trouble communicating with one teacher, the other may be able to serve as a mediator. Get tips on how to talk to your child’s teacher about learning and attention issues. And explore self-advocacy sentence starters your child can use with his teachers.
Interested in learning more about educational strategies? See a chart that shows the difference between Universal Design for Learning and traditional education.