Co-teaching: It takes two (or more) to tango!


Co-teaching is when teachers are paired together in a classroom and they share equal responsibilities for planning, instructing, and assessing students. The most common way of co-teaching is when general and special education teachers are paired together in order to create a more inclusive learning experience.

Co-Teaching is defined as two teachers (teacher candidate and cooperating teacher) working together with groups of students; sharing the planning, organization, delivery, and assessment of instruction, as well as the physical space. (Bacharach, Heck & Dank, 2004).

Text by: Tanya Livarda

We normally think that co-teaching means that two teachers teach the same group of students but on a different day. However, it is more than this. Friend and Cook (1996) presented different models of co-teaching. These are:

  1. One teaching, one observing. One is teaching and the other one is observing the lesson. The teacher can ask the observer to participate in a task. This could be also another way of conducting observations in a non-threatening way.
  2. One teaching, one assisting. One teacher is teaching the lesson, while the other assists students if needed. This might be particularly beneficial if there is a novice teacher or when a particular student needs specific help.
  3. Parallel Teaching: The class is divided into two groups, and the two teachers teach simultaneously in different classrooms. This might be useful with large classes and groups.
  4. Station Teaching: Both teachers are involved in instruction and the students are moving from one task to another (stations). This seems to be a student centred learning environment and the teachers are seen as facilitators. On the other hand, it takes more time to plan and organise the materials needed.
  5. Alternative Teaching: One teacher is responsible for the instruction and the other one provides extra support to a specific group of students.
  6. Team Teaching: Both teachers teach at the same time to the same group of students. I found this to be extremely beneficial for both teachers and the students. On the other hand, both teachers should be willing to share their practices and collaborate.


Why is co-teaching challenging?

When two teachers share the same classes, then problems may arise. For example, how we are going to explain to the students that there are two teachers, or when we will plan or what approach we are going to follow? Furthermore, things are getting difficult when the two teachers do not find a common ground and they provide excuses in order to please their clients but without being truly concerned about their students.

Co-teaching can also be time-consuming especially when it comes to planning. Effective co-teaching also requires that both teachers have significant content, curricular and pedagogic knowledge.


How to co-teach?

  1. Respect each other. I cannot stress enough the importance of taking the other person into account. I always believe that everyone can teach you something. So, even when you have to collaborate with a novice teacher, listen to this teacher.
  2. Define roles/responsibilities. This makes things clearer to everyone, even the students.
  3. Be flexible. You can start by trying out one new thing. If this does not work, you can try a different one.
  4. Plan the lesson.
  5. Communicate/Discuss
  6. Need a shared vision for how the lessons will unfold.
  7. Both need to agree on what type of interruptions are welcome.
  8. There is no lead teacher and both of them are equal.


In a nutshell, I believe that co-teaching might be a useful tool when done properly.



Cook, L., & Friend, M. (2004, April 29). Co-Teaching: Principles, Practices, and Pragmatics. Participants Guide. Paper presented at New Mexico Public Education Department Quarterly Special Education Meeting, Albuquerque. Santa Fe, NM: New Mexico Public Education Department. 

Cook, L. & Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practices. Focus on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 1-17.

Washut Heck, T. & Bacharach, N. (2010). Mentoring Teacher Candidates Through Co-Teaching. Teacher Quality Enhancement Center. St. Cloud, Minnesota.



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