Collaboration and co-teaching are essential components of a successful learning environment. These teaching techniques can be difficult, hard work and require give and take between teaching professionals (Webster, 2010). Yet each of these are also essential to the implementation of differentiated learning (Thousand, Villa & Nevin, 2007).
Co-teaching has significant benefits for students, educators and the schools. Some of these advantages are intuitive to instructors such as a teacher -student ratio, having alternative teaching methods, using a variety of teaching methods and assessment techniques as well as dedicated individualized attention for more students. Other benefits are that learning opportunities are provided to every student regardless of their placement on the learning spectrum. Having more teachers in the classroom also allows teachers to focus more on content and less on individual problems, making co-teaching time effective. Additionally, teachers can focus on their content area expertise (Barrier, 2010). Additionally, students who learn in co-teaching environments tend to retain more information and are more successful academically (Abdallah, 2009). “Co-teaching also allows teachers to respond effectively to the diverse needs of their students, provides another set of hands and eyes, lowers the teacher-student ratio, and expands the professional expertise that can be directed to student needs” (Friend & Cook, 1996, p 1).
Administrators need to carefully evaluate the resources needed to sustain this method of teaching. Teachers also need to be sensitive to the roles of co-teaching to not relegate one professional or another to the background. “To keep co-teaching relationships and instructional arrangements fresh and effective, teachers should consider trying several of the approaches and altering their co-teaching methods regularly” (Friend & Cook, 1996, p 2). This teaching method has the capability to create a positive learning environment for every student in applying differentiated learning in the classrooms.
Abdallah, J. (2009). Benefits of Co-Teaching for ESL Classrooms. Retrieved from www.academicleadership.org/emprical_research/532.shtml
Barrier, H. (2010). Co-teaching. Retrieved from wik.ed.uiuc.edu/index.php/Co-Teaching#Advantages_for_Regular_Education_Teacher
Friend, M & Cook, L (1996). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals. White Plains, NY: Longman Publishers.
Thousand, J., Villa, R. & Nevin, A. (2007). Differentiating instruction: Collaboratively planning and teaching for universally designed learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Webster, J. (2010). Collaboration – – Essential for Success in a Full Inclusion Classroom. Retrieved from specialed.about.com/od/integration/a/Collaboration-Essential-For-Success-In-A-Full-Inclusion-Classroom.htm
By Tracy Harrington-Atkinson
Tracy Harrington-Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education, a master’s in higher education and continued on to a PhD in curriculum design. She has published several titles, including Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.