9 Ways School Administrators Can Support Co-Teaching

What is Co-Teaching?

Co-teaching is where two (or more) Teachers pair up to teach specific lessons, curriculum, or activities. There are essentially seven co-teaching models, often referred to as co-teaching strategies.

    • One Teaching, One Observing: One Teacher gives the lesson to students while the other observes students formatively to provide feedback to the instructor.
    • One Teaching, One Assisting: One Teacher gives the lesson to students while the other circulates and aids individual students where needed.
    • Parallel Teaching: The class gets divided into two groups, and each Teacher gives the same lesson to half of the class.
    • Station Teaching: Teachers divide instruction into Part A and Part B. One Teacher instructs on Part A, then that group moves to the second Teacher for Part B. Usually done with small groups who also have student-centered stations.
    • Alternative Teaching: One Teacher instructs most of the students in the class while the other Teacher handles a small breakout group of students based on need.
    • Team Teaching: Both Teachers work together and directly deliver instruction to the class together. 
    • Platooning: Teachers divide the curriculum, and each Teacher instructs on their specific subjects. Students physically move between two or more classrooms. Teachers work together to plan and collaborate on cross-curricular lessons and integrated activities.
Co-Teaching for Classroom Management

How can school administrators ensure their team-teaching initiatives succeed in getting students up to grade-level proficiency?

Extensive research by the Texas Education Agency, the Meadows Foundation, and the Texas Center for Reading and Language Arts researched the ways school principals and other school leaders can support team-teaching and co-teaching. We posed their recommendations to veteran educators to get their tips on implementation.

9 Ways to Support Co-Teaching

Canva always seems to be in the mix when it comes to online worksheet makers. And it’s true, you can make beautiful worksheets and handouts for your classroom with Canva. But that’s where it ends. Canva has many themes and layouts for creating worksheets, but they are intended to be printed and copied. So it’s a solid option for making a worksheet but doesn’t fit the bill for interactive online activities. You might want to use it in conjunction with an app we’re going to mention in detail below. Read on. 

1. Provide time for Teachers to plan.

Schedule planning periods so co-Teachers can review the lesson plan, divide responsibilities, and check students’ progress. If possible, periodically hold structured meetings where Teacher teams can speak with each other to share challenges and successes.

2. Provide professional development opportunities for Teachers to learn about co-teaching, collaboration, and conflict resolution.

Ron Farrow, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction in DeSoto, MO, says, “Providing teachers with clear expectations and modeled training is crucial.  Teachers may need training on how to support one another in a co-taught classroom effectively, and effectively divide their support to support all students.” One veteran Teacher we interviewed said, “I find that this is lacking in MANY places. This is the “make it happen” mentality without providing the tools needed for teachers to be successful.”

3. Make resources (e.g., personnel, materials) available to help Teachers individualize instruction and address students’ needs.

All Teachers need resources to teach effectively, but when it comes to co-teaching, things like sharing student assignments and data between Teachers become especially important. This is one area where digital learning tools can be a big help.

4. Support general education Teachers when special education Teachers are not present.

For example, have instructional teams prepare versions of lessons so that general education Teachers can more easily provide differentiated instruction on their own. This is another area where digital lessons shine. If you follow the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) model, this is especially important.

5. Be aware of and be responsive to staff and student needs as they change over time.

Recognize that other service delivery options (e.g., pull-out programs), in addition to co-teaching, may be necessary to meet the individual needs of all students.

6. Schedule special ed Teachers into general education classes for blocks of time in which co-teaching will be most effective.

According to Farrow “Co-teaching can be most effective during the main content lesson for the day.  Students have the additional support for the new learning, and the Teachers can then divide to support small groups or individuals during group and independent practice.”

7. Pair general education and special education Teachers who can work together effectively.

Katy Mayer, a 10 Year+ General Education Teacher in San Diego, California, notes that it is essential that co-Teachers be trained to instruct students with specific learning differences. Also, it is helpful to check in and make sure the Co-Teaching team members feel like they are working together effectively.

8. Limit the number of students with special needs in general education classrooms, particularly when the special education Teacher is only in the classroom for part of the day.

Today’s educators sometimes question this recommendation. Dr. Samantha Fecich, Assistant Professor of Education at Grove City College, says “…if its in the student’s LRE, then they should be in the gen ed class.” With modern digital learning technology, fully inclusive classrooms – and even non-leveled classrooms where desired – are more achievable than ever before.

9. Ensure that parents understand the dynamics of co-teaching.

Sometimes parents have misconceptions about what co-teaching is and how Teachers use it. A letter home or email is a good place to start. Here’s some sample language for inspiration.

How can administrators support co-teaching?

So how can a school principal ensure co-teaching initiatives are successful? Fortunately, there is a lot of research on the subject and many things school leaders can do to support co-teaching. But doing co-teaching work in real life – while avoiding Teacher burn-out – is still a tall order. Digital learning software can help. It can make team-teaching more manageable and lighten Co-Teachers’ workload.

In most cases, Teachers know how to use co-teaching software. Any Teacher who taught remotely during the pandemic is familiar with at least one tool for creating digital lessons. As long as that tool has the right combination of capabilities that enable co-teaching, you have a powerful ally in your co-teaching efforts. TeacherMade is one of those tools:

    1. An easy way to create new digital lessons and activities. TeacherMade lets educators create new interactive lessons – or turn PDF assignments into interactive digital lessons – with a drag-n-drop interface.
    2. Data sharing. Any Teacher can invite collaborators to their TeacherMade account with Read-Only access to monitor student progress.
    3. Easy versioning of lessons & activities. Teachers can also invite collaborators with Full Edit access to create versions of TeacherMade activities with needed accommodations and scaffolding. 
    4. Team grading and feedback. Teachers with Full Edit access to another Teacher’s TeacherMade account can help grade assignments and give student feedback (including written comments anywhere on a student’s work, audio feedback, and virtual stickers).
    5. Auto-Grading. TeacherMade has 12 different auto-graded question types, making it easy to use frequent formative assessment. 
    6. Activity Sharing. Teachers and curriculum professionals can share their TeacherMade activities, so Teachers don’t need to re-invent the wheel.

Use any worksheet with TeacherMade.

TeacherMade’s best feature is that it is flexible. Use any worksheet with TeacherMade. You can use any paper copy, PDF, image, or DOCX file. The options are truly endless. Don’t be held back by limited features or being pushed toward paid assignments. Use the worksheets you have cultivated and vetted throughout your career. Try TeacherMade today, and see how easy and flexible it can be.