Tobin (2005) describes the co-teaching approach as “a restructuring of teaching
procedures in which two or more educators possessing distinct sets of skills work in a coactive and coordinated fashion to jointly teach academically and behaviorally
heterogeneous groups of students in integrated educational settings” (p. 785). Coteaching has become a popular model in many schools due to shortages in classroom
space and the inclusion of special education students in the regular education classroom.
In addition, co-teaching provides teachers with the opportunity to collaborate more
effectively, develop assessments of learning for all students in the classroom, and follow
closely the testing modifications prescribed in Individual Education Plan or Section 504
plan for students with disabilities (Wischnowski et al., 2003).
Research Findings:
Most research on co-teaching has been found in the exceptional student education
literature. Murawski & Swanson (2001) analyzed research on teams of special education
and general education teachers and found significant gains in reading, math (for students
with learning disabilities), and minimum competency tests. Similarly, Chalfant & Pysh
(1989) found comparable data in their analysis of teacher assistance teams. Preliminary
data indicated that student performance and behavior were enhanced, behavior problems
reduced, and more support was provided for students and professionals in school settings
where general education and special education teachers work together. Furthermore,
several surveys conducted on students, parents, or teachers revealed satisfaction and
reported positive outcomes associated with co-teaching. More positive perceptions were
also associated with administrative support, additional planning time, similar beliefs
about teaching, and mutual respect of one another. However, Weiss and Brigham (2000)
listed several overall problems with co-teaching research, including the following: 1)
omitting important information on measures; 2) interviewing teachers only in cases in
which co-teaching is successful; 3) finding in many cases that teacher personality was the
most important variable in co-teaching success; 4) lacking a consistent definition of coteaching; and 5) stating outcomes subjectively. Furthermore, some predictable sources of
conflict have been identified among co-teachers, including different positions regarding
instructional beliefs, use of planning time, parity between teachers, agreement on
classroom routines, and rules about confidentiality, noise, and discipline (Cook & Friend,
Implications for Instruction:
When implemented carefully, co-teaching can help schools create inclusive
classrooms for students with special needs and also improve learning and address the
classroom shortage problem. Piechura-Couture et al. (2006) provides a three-step process
that is helpful in setting up effective teaching teams. The first involves matching
compatible pairs of teachers using philosophical and learning styles inventories. Leahy's
Educational Philosophy Inventory may be used by administrators to identify the
philosophical orientations of the teaching pairs. This inventory was developed to identify
six of the most prominent perspectives in education philosophy: essentialism,
behaviorism, progressivism, existentialism, perennialism, and reconstructionism. The 36item inventory contains a series of statements about the aims of education and explores
teaching, learning, curriculum, and governance. Knowing the learning and teaching style
of each partner can help create a balanced classroom for both teachers and students.
The second step entails teaching teaming strategies that have been identified as
successful in co-taught classrooms. Vaughn, Schumm, and Arguelles (1997) describe five
basic models of co-teaching. The first, "one teach-one assist," requires both teachers to be
present with one teacher taking the lead in delivering instruction; the other teacher
monitors or assists students individually. In the second model, "station teaching," each
teacher takes responsibility for teaching part of the content to small groups of students
who move among stations. Teachers divide students into three groups, two working with
teachers and one group working independently. Students rotate among the three stations
over a pre-determined block of time. With the third model, "parallel teaching," teachers
plan instruction together but split the class and deliver the same instruction to smaller
groups within the same classroom. With the fourth model, "alternative teaching," one
teacher works with a smaller group of students to re-teach, pre-teach, or supplement the
instruction received by the larger group. Finally, in "team teaching," the fifth model, both
teachers share the instruction of all students at the same time.
The third step includes reducing obstacles and barriers before implementing the
co-teaching model. The following barriers were identified by school administrators
during a co-teaching workshop and may be used by schools as discussion starters: staff
development, division of labor among teams, getting teams to “share the load”,
integration of various teaching and learning styles, lack of training on the part of teachers
and administrators, compatibility of personalities, fear of change, control issues between
teachers, need for additional planning time, sharing of resources, parent perception, and
student confusion.
Chalfant, J. C, & Pysh, M. V. (1989). Teacher assistance teams: Five descriptive studies
on 96 teams. Remedial and Special Education, 10(6), 49-58.
Cook, L., & Friend, M. (1995) Co-teaching guidelines for creating effective practices.
Focus on Exceptional Children, 20, 1-2.
Murawski, W. W. & Swanson, H. L. (2001). A meta-analysis of co-teaching research:
Where are the data? Remedial and Special Education, 22(5), 258-267.
Piechura-Couture, K.., Tichenor, D. T., Macisaac, D., & Heins, E. D. (2006). Coteaching: A model for education reform. Principal Leadership, 6, 39-44.
Tobin, R. (2005). Co-teaching in language arts: Supporting students with learning
disabilities. Canadian Journal of Education, 28, 784-803.
Vaughn, S., Schumm, J. S., & Arguelles, M. E. (1997). The ABCDE's of co-teaching.
Teaching Exceptional Children, 30(2), 4-10.
Walther-Thomas, C. S., & Carter, K. L. (1993). Cooperative teaching: Helping students
with disabilities succeed in mainstream classrooms. Middle School Journal, 25, 3338.
Weiss, M. P., & Brigham, F. J. (2000). Co-teaching and the model of shared
responsibility: What does the research support? In T. E. Scruggs & M. A.
Mastropieri (Eds.), Advances in learning and behavioral disabilities (vol. 14, pp.
217-245). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science.
Wischnowski, M. W., Salmon, S. J., & Eaton, K. (2004). Evaluating co-teaching as a
means for successful inclusion of students with disabilities in a rural district. Rural
Special Education, 23, 3-15.