“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
I love this quote from Benjamin Franklin. Planning and preparation for co-teaching is, in my estimate, 80 percent of the work. Co-teaching is centered on rapport and relationship building between the co-teachers and their students. Be sure to invest time and energy into cultivating those relationships. Here are some tips and resources for co-teaching.
1. Establish clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations
Brené Brown says it best, “clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” We cannot expect people to know what to do, especially with something as complicated as co-teaching. Make sure everyone understands their role and responsibilities. These expectations should be reviewed monthly during team meetings to ensure consistency.
a. Special Education Teacher
The special education teacher’s role in co-teaching is to have knowledge about the students with disabilities, share the accommodations and modifications (if needed) that the students need, and provide specially designed instruction. The delivery of the specially designed instruction varies depending on the co-teaching model chosen.
b. General Education Teacher
The general education teacher’s role is to be the content expert and the one responsible for teaching the standards to all students. Similar to the special education teacher, the responsibilities vary depending on the co-teaching model.
c. Building Administrator
Building administrators play an essential role in ensuring co-teaching is successful on campus. Their role is to promote equitable learning environments for all students and provide the vision and mission for creating the culture. To do this, an administrator must ensure collaboration time is set aside and uninterrupted to promote effective planning. After sharing the vision for co-teaching, it is time to “inspect what you expect.” Frequent observations and feedback sessions allow building leaders and co-teachers to review the implementation of co-teaching and make adjustments as necessary.
d. District Administrator
The district administrator’s role changes depending on who initiated the goal to co-teach. Many times the idea of co-teaching originates from the special education director. If that is the case, this administrator has the responsibility to research and choose a co-teaching model or provide an offering. Once the co-teaching model(s) have been adopted, the next step is to provide intense professional development that offers continuous learning opportunities beyond the initial training. They should also ensure staffing allocations support collaboration and that staff have the time needed to meet for planning. Like the building leader, it is important for the district administrator to observe, provide feedback, and be part of the problem-solving and planning team. Co-teaching does not happen in isolation, and it takes everyone doing their part to be successful.
In my opinion, co-planning is the foundation of any successful co-teaching partnership. When co-planning is done well students require less support during class. See the resources below for lesson planning examples from Marilyn Friend. Make sure to infuse Universal Design for Learning strategies into your lesson plans to ensure the needs of all students are being met.
Co-teaching can honestly feel overwhelming to start and maintain. You do not need to do it alone, here are some resources for teachers and leaders:
- High Leverage Practices for Collaboration
- Council for Exceptional Children Co-Teacher
- Standards from Council for Exceptional Children for Leaders
- Book source for leaders
- Marilyn Friend’s website with lesson plan examples
Use the tips and resources provided above to ensure successful co-teaching. At the heart of co-teaching is quality planning and building relationships with co-teachers and students alike. Implementation of co-teaching must be treated like any change initiative. Thoughtfully planned for; including the implementation dip when everything seems impossible. Change requires a clear vision with a relentless focus on improvement. Stay with it and watch teacher efficacy increase and student outcomes improve.
Want to read more?
Friend, M. (2022, January 6). Co-teaching. Council for Exceptional Children. Retrieved January 30, 2022, from https://exceptionalchildren.org/topics/co-teaching