Teachers are scurrying to set up their classrooms and prepare for another year of learning with a new group of students. As I recently had the pleasure of working with a group of teachers getting ready to launch a successful year of co-teaching for students with disabilities, I am reminded of what it takes for high-impact co-teaching.
Let’s face it. There is mixed research out there on the effects of co-teaching. Some studies have shown high levels of success, while others have demonstrated little impact on student learning. So, what makes the difference?
One of the most important factors identified in the research and confirmed within my own experiences is the adult. John Hattie’s meta-analysis in Visible Learning reminds us that teachers have a significant impact. But teachers have lots of choices, so what choices do highly-effective teachers make that create the difference? One of the determining factors the research points to for successful co-teaching is collaboration. Adults in a high-impact co-teaching situation choose to collaborate. And collaborate well.
For some co-teaching pairs, developing a strong professional relationship is an easy task. For many, however, this requires careful attention and negotiation on critical classroom issues. Before stepping up in front of students, teachers must deliberately take the time to develop a shared philosophy of teaching and learning, a shared set of core beliefs about the ways for teaching and learning to occur, about student behavior, and about professionals’ responsibilities. Co-planning that includes clearly defined roles and responsibilities for both educators, clear expectations shared by both, transparent communication, compromise, and celebration are all vital components to a strong, effective co-teaching partnership.
There is a variety of topics imperative for co-teachers to discuss in order to strengthen the partnership, start the year on solid ground, and avoid miscommunication. Here are just a few of those topics that co-teachers must collaboratively discuss and negotiate:
- Parity in the Classroom: How will teachers communicate to each other, to students, and to parents? How will both adults present themselves as equal teachers within the classroom? Click here for a short self-assessment on parity.
- Division of Labor: Who will be responsible for taking daily attendance? Grading? Providing accommodations? Changing bulletin boards? Parent communication? Click here for a Responsibility Checklist.
- Organizational Routines & Classroom Management: What are the classroom rules and consequences? What routine are students expected to follow when they enter the classroom? What do students do with completed assignments? Do students need to ask permission to use the restroom or do they pick up a pass? Click here for a planning tool to discuss shared beliefs on Classroom Rules and Routines.
- Check out this Topics to Discuss tool for a collection of other important topics for co-teaching teams to discuss.
- Use Susan Fitzell’s Are You Ready for Your Co-Teaching Experience discussion points with your partner as a readiness check for starting the new school year off right with co-teaching.
Are you ready for an awesome year of co-teaching? What topics would you add to the list of crucial items to be discussed by co-teachers? Please add your thoughts to starting off a great year of co-teaching!
Special Education School Improvement Specialist