The Benefits of Co-Teaching

W. Stephen Parker
W. Stephen Parker
Middle/high school principal; M.A. in Educational Leadership
A smiling younger teacher helps a student while an older teacher helps students in the back of the classroom.

Co-teaching is an educational innovation that has been introduced previously. In fact, co-teaching has been around “officially” since the early 70s. Initially, co-teaching was used as a tool whereby a general education and special education teacher worked in collaboration to serve students in the same classroom.

What is Co-Teaching? 

Co-teaching, by definition, is a process whereby at least two teachers work together in lesson planning, instruction, and assessment of a group of students. Generally, the co-teachers work with one group of students at a time.

What are the Benefits of Co-Teaching?

The benefits of co-teaching are multiple. As stated above, co-teachers collaborate in every facet of education for a particular group of students. This collaboration allows for merging ideas and thought processes of two professional educators with one common goal. That goal is the best educational outcome for a particular group of students.

Not only does co-teaching allow for collaboration, but it also allows for more “one on one” time for individual students’ needs. Co-teaching also allows for a seamless transition from one objective to another, as teachers can simply trade places into a new subject area. 

Further, co-teaching allows one teacher to step out of the room without sacrificing student safety and monitoring. One teacher can easily go and make copies or pick up something to enhance student learning while the students are safe and sound and continuing to be on the current task. 

The old saying, “two heads are better than one” definitely applies in the area of co-teaching. Co-teachers can put their heads together in planning for future lessons. By collaborating in this way, co-teachers can be sure that they are giving their students the best possible lesson every time.

Co-teacher planning also helps by having frank discussions about what didn’t go well in a lesson and how to correct that for the future. Additionally, teachers can share the responsibility of direct instruction by co-teaching throughout the day. This realm of teaching can and does keep lessons fresh and hopefully inviting to the students throughout the day. It is also important as a “non-direct” teacher can monitor and help keep wayward students on task without stopping the lesson for correction.

Likewise, co-teaching helps in the assessment process by having another set of eyes on students during any assessment process. Again, as state earlier, while assessing students, there is also double the opportunity to help students with questions during the assessment phase.

Do Certain Grade-Levels Utilize Co-Teaching More than Others?

While co-teaching can be beneficial at any grade level and with any subject matter, some groups utilize this process more than others. Funding for co-teaching can be an issue, so over the years, schools utilize it where they see the most benefit can be had.

Younger grades, like lower elementary and special education have seen the most use of the concept. These are two areas that arguably would have the greatest need for multiple professionals in the classroom. 

Elementary School

Younger elementary students are learning basic skills that of course will build forward in the students’ educational career. Elementary school is the perfect time to have as many professionals with direct hands-on coverage as is possible. It has been well documented that younger students benefit greatly with as much one on one and small group activity as they can get.

Co-teaching allows for this in all aspects of the classroom. Additionally, it can also reduce the occasionally present personality conflicts that do arise from time to time. Often, a student with a conflict with one teacher, may flourish with the help of the other teacher.

Special Education

Special education is another area where co-teaching is used frequently. In fact, through the advent of “inclusion” in classrooms today, there is often a regular education teacher and a special education teacher in the same classroom. This sets up a natural co-teaching situation. While the special education teacher is primarily in the classroom for the special education students, they can also help with other students as well.

This co-teaching situation is a “win-win” for all students. This also helps alleviate the stigma attached to special education students in the regular classroom setting. Having a special education teacher co-teaching with all students provides a situation where all are helped, and none are left behind.

Co-teaching is a concept that creates a positive classroom flow and can greatly enhance the educational process. Teachers that are teaching collaboratively can help all students. This can help to reach all students where they are and help to grow them. Remembering that student growth in all areas of a student’s life should always be our first and foremost goal. Co-teaching gives us yet another avenue to help ensure educational growth of all of our students. On a smaller scale, the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child” definitely rings true for co-teaching. 

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