What is co-teaching? And how to organize it?

“Co-teaching is two or more people sharing responsibility for teaching some or all of the students assigned to a classroom. It involves the distribution of responsibility among the people for planning, instruction and evaluation”.

Co-teaching “partners must establish trust, develop and work on communication, share the chores, celebrate, work together creatively to overcome the inevitable challenges” and celebrate the successes of the students. (Villa, Thousand, & Nevin, 2008, p. 5)

The term team teaching can also be used. “Team teaching is when more than two people do what the traditional teacher has always done – plan, teach, assess, and assume responsibility for all the students in the classroom. Team teachers share the leadership and the responsibilities” (Villa et al., 2008, p.21 ).

There are multiple ways for teachers to co-teach or team teach, but these models are a good example of the models I saw in different schools in the U.S. and which are widely used in Finland as well. Co-teaching models are mainly used by special education and content area teachers, but especially in the elementary grades you can see other combinations as well.

Model 1 One teaches – one assists
This is a model where one teacher is the main facilitator of the group and the other assists. The assistant may help the learners with tasks, answer individual questions from the learners, assist with classroom duties, implement behavior plans and so forth.

Model 2 Stations
In this model the classroom is divided into student groups. There are three or more students in one group and each teacher is responsible for the learning that takes place at their station. Depending on the number of stations, other stations are designed so that students learn independently. During the class, students usually rotate between the stations.

Model 3 Parallel
In this model, the classroom is divided into two parts. Each of the teachers is responsible for their own part of the learners. They both teach the same content to the students, but because there are two of them, they have less students to work with.

Model 4 Alternative
This is a model, where most of the students stay with one teacher in the classroom and another teacher takes a smaller group somewhere else. This can also be called a “pull-out” method. In this method teachers are encouraged to change roles and change the composition of the small group as they teach.

Model 5 Team teaching
In team teaching model both or all the teachers have the same tasks, roles and responsibilities in the classroom. This model requires careful planning and shared visions and goals, as well as trust between the teachers.
(Barger-Anderson, 2013)

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A co-teaching classroom in a Finnish elementary