Collaboration and Co-Teaching: What is it and why is it important for EL Learners?

ImageFirst of all, what is collaboration?  There are many definitions.  My favorite is from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, where collaborate means “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”  We collaborate all the time – in everything from car-pooling to planning a holiday party. How does it look in the teaching profession?

What do you need to be successful?

According to Honigsfeld and Dove (Collaboration and Co-teaching, there are four essentials to setting up a collaborative team.

Collaboration must include:

  1. Teacher participation must be voluntary.
  2. Teachers must share a common goal.
  3. Teachers must be willing to participate in interdisciplinary endeavors.
  4. Teachers must be willing to find multiple creative solutions.

What is the difference between collaboration and co-teaching?

Co-teaching is defined as the collaboration between teachers.  Why is co-teaching such an exciting opportunity?  Co-teaching provides rich resources and learning opportunities for a diverse group of students.

Teacher collaboration, collaborative team teaching, and co-teaching in the context of ESL students.

According to Andrea Honigsfeld and Maria Dove, collaboration “for the sake of English language learners may be new in many schools” (Collaboration and Co-Teaching, 5).  Having more than one teacher in the room is an exceptional opportunity for ELLs.  A content specialist with and ESL specialist creates a scenario where the content is the vehicle for learning both content and English.  But you have to have a plan.

What are some Collaborative Planning Strategies?

  • Collaborative Planning strategies – ESCROW (developed by Honisgfeld & Dove)
    Establish and stick to set meeting times
    Start by discussing big ideas and setting essential learning goals
    Concentrate on areas of special difficulty for ELLs:  scaffold learning, adapt content modify assignments, and differentiate tasks
    Review previous lessons based on student performance data
    Overcome the need to always be in control
    Work toward common understanding of ELLs’ needs
  • What must be in place for Collaborative Teaching and Planning to be successful? (developed by The Teacher’s Toolbox for Differentiating Instruction, Linda Tilton)
    • Both teachers teach.
    • Both teachers are in the room.
    • Both names are on the list.
    • Both teachers attend Open House.
    • Both teachers volunteered.
    • Both teachers have equal status.
    • Both teachers invest time in the process.
    • Both teachers are flexible.
    • Both Teacher commit to planning collaboratively.
    • Both teachers focus on the positive.

Wow, this is a lot to consider! Underscoring this is the commitment of time.  This is necessary in terms of developing lessons and curricula, process and reflect, course to do the work of collaboration.
Who has time?  How do we find the time?

Sample Time Frames for Collaborative Purposes

Purpose Type of Collaboration Time Frame
Examine beliefs and assumptions about ELLs Finite Single-meeting framework after school: Full-faculty meetings; Department meetings
Improve instructional planning for ELLs Ongoing
  1. Team meetings during the school day
  2. Voluntary in-person meeting after school
  3. Use of online or Web-based resources beyond the school day
Adapt resources for test preparation Finite or Ongoing Congruent preparation periods
Lesson Preparation and planning for co-teaching Ongoing
  1. Scheduled collaboration period during the school day
  2. Use of online or Web-based resources beyond the school day
Identifying obstacles to collaboration scheduling Finite Single-meeting framework after school: Full-faculty meetings; Department meetings
Resolving issues in collaborative practices Ongoing
  1. Team meetings
  2. Scheduled collaboration periods

Co-teaching and collaboration for ELLs is an exceptional opportunity.  To have two teachers in the room is more than 1 + 1 = 2.  It takes time, commitment and a willingness to try out something new.  As John F. Kennedy once said, “we don’t do it because it is easy, we do it because it is hard” (1962 speech).  And because it will make a difference.

Lisa Pye
Mid-State Regional Bilingual Education Resource Network (RBERN)

One thought on “Collaboration and Co-Teaching: What is it and why is it important for EL Learners?

  1. Pingback: Are We On The Right Path? | The East Side Monday Focus

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