Saturday, April 9, 2011

Tips on Co-Teaching

There are many complicated things about teaching sex education but the most difficult for me has been learning to work with other people; other people that have different ideas about what education looks like. This is something that teachers no matter what they teach face when they are co-teaching. It takes a special set of skills to work with someone you do not necessarily agree with on a regular basis. 

There are a lot of times that co- teaching can be advantageous to both the students and the teachers. The students can learn from two or more teachers that may have different ways of teaching the same material. The teachers have more support when co-teaching. They are able to share both their success on their good days and their hard days (Hurley-Chamberlain & Friend, 2010). To figure out how to co-teach effectively you first have to know what co- teaching is not. The first being the most obvious co-teaching is not a process where each teacher teaches a different subject and there is no communication between the two teachers. 

It is not co-teaching when one teacher’s ideas and thoughts are the only ones used in teaching the students. This has a tendency to happen when one of the co-teachers is older and has been teaching the topic longer than the other teacher (Hurley-Chamberlain & Friend, 2010).  This is an example of a power dynamic that is not helpful to the co-teaching process.  

So now that we have touched on what co-teaching is NOT we need to look at what it really is. Co teaching is two or more teachers that are sharing the responsibility for teaching one group of student’s specific content. There is a need for communication and trust in order for co-teaching to be a successful venture.
Cook (2004) came up with some elements to the cooperative process of co-teaching. The first element is Face to face interactions. Co-teachers have to decide when where and how often they are going to meet. They are also going to have to decide how much of that meeting time will be during school hours. They also need to develop a way to communicate between meetings. 

                Positive interdependence is also something that is essential to the cooperative working of co-teaching. There needs to be a feeling that the teachers are each individually responsible for all of the students learning and that they are pooling their knowledge and skills for the benefit of the students that they are teaching. 

                Interpersonal skills include the both the verbal and nonverbal components of communication and of trust-building. They are also useful skills in conflict management and creative problem solving. Effective co-teaching and any partnerships in general encourages each member to improve their social skills. Without this development co-teaching would be at a disadvantage.

                Monitoring the progress is important in any partnership and any teaching adventure. It is equally important when dealing with co-teaching because both teachers have to be on the same page about improvements in the classroom. 

                Individual accountability is very important because each person has to be personally accountable for what they have agreed to do and contribute to the learning process for these students. 

I believe that if some of these elements are taken into consideration then co-teaching can be a great experience and be great for both the students and the teachers, but if they are not then I think a co-teaching experience can be very draining and unproductive.  (Hurley-Chamberlain & Friend, 2010)



cook, L. (2004). Co-Teaching: Principles, Practices and Pragmatics. California State University , 2-33.

Hurley-Chamberlain, D., & Friend, M. (2010). Is Co-Teahcing Effective? Retrieved April 9, 2011, from Council for Exceptional Children:


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  2. Lindsay,

    Great topic! I was guest lecturing in an Intro to Human Sexuality class the other week and the professor and I were talking about how wonderful it would be to be able to co-teach the course. We were specifically thinking about the fact that we each have different strengths in our expertise that could be beneficial to the class. I think, if nothing else, co-teaching also just helps to keep the class interesting and engaging. Unfortunately, it isn't the most cost-effective means of instruction and therefore something I know I don't get to experience it very often.

    The other piece of co-teaching that I find challenging, is avoiding stepping on the other person's toes. It's really easy to jump in too soon or take a discussion down a different path and derail the topic from what your co-facilitator was trying to get to. This is even more challenging when one facilitator has a big personality and another is more reserved. It can very easily turn into a lead facilitator and their assistant rather than a truly shared level of contribution.


  3. Hey Lindsay. Very Informative. I echo Alison's issue with stepping on people's toes. One thing that we talked about in our practicum class is having a kind of signal to let the other teacher know that you want to make a comment, that way, when the person that is presenting is done, they can hand it over, without it looking awkward or being annoying.

    ~Rachel Girard

  4. I have had a long history of co-teaching in various arenas. From my experience when paired up with a person who compliments the other, co-teaching has been very rewarding. Depending on the way the student learns it might be more effective to have more than one style in the classroom. When one persons' style does not reach the learner they have another opportunity to learn because there is another teaching style available. This also reminds me about an earlier blog...when co-teaching we need to keep our own baggage in check. There is room for more than one diva on stage.
    Even in American Idol the top 10 get to go on tour. So, there is room for us all.

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  7. Lindsey great topic! I have been thinking about this topic because it came up in my practicum class. Co-teaching is something I rarely do because I rarely meet a Latino that is a sexuality educator but when I have the opportunity to co-teach I am very clear from the beginning about who I am and what kind of educator I am. I think besides being professionals educators need to communicate and be dependable. Knowing each others strengths and weaknesses is also key so that they can work together and back each other with the purpose of delivering a lesson plan. I also want to mention that some people do not know how to be leaders at times and followers at others, this brings conflict because when one is co-teaching you will have to play both roles at some point. Overall, being clear from the beginning about the expectations and the guidelines for all educators working together has worked for me in the past and has proven beneficial and conducive to a positive and productive teaching environment.

  8. I use to be on the fence about co-teaching, but I have to say I've grown to enjoy it. I co-facilitate a group on Friday evenings and I have learned that when planning takes place in advance and you are excited to work with the person you are paired with it can be advantageous.

    When I think about co-teaching the first thing that comes to mind, like any relationship, is a good team! To be the best team possible you've got to practice, motivate or cheer each other on, support one another, play to each other's strength, and be willing to share the victory. Teaching can be a difficult task on it's own so sharing the responsibility with another individual can be beneficial and the final results can be extremely rewarding. Also just having positive feelings about co-teaching can lead to better outcomes.

  9. Thanks for your post, Lindsay!

    I have been gaining some co-teaching experience with my community partner project--turned practicum (which I have only just registered for, but have been volunteering my services since September).

    There are typically two presenters that work together as a team and usually there are under twenty students in the classroom. We have been going into third grade classes to teach sexual abuse prevention for a total of four 45 minute sessions held once per week. I have helped out with only a couple of these sessions thus far, but I'm scheduled to co-present for the entire month of May.

    I'm a bit nervous, of course, but one thing I have found helpful is all of the preparation work that our group has done to get ready for these sessions. Working together as a team, I believe, is an absolute essential part of co-teaching. Communication, as you mentioned, is imperative. The more prepared both teachers are in terms of their roles, responsibilities, and with the content of the lesson, the better the outcome. I also agree with you that the experience of co-teaching can be great for both the teachers as well as the learners.

  10. Indeed, co-facilitation can be challenging, but I believe that reframing is in order here. Often times in the past when I realized that I would have to co-facilitate I would begin to conjure up all the reasons it was going to be a bad idea. When I finally decided to be honest with myself and allow my Prima Donna to take a seat somewhere, I realized that co-facilitating gave me some of my best presentation experiences, in and outside of the classroom.

    I think that as an educator, I was married to the idea that I was the best one for the job only to find out that there were many other people who were just as good, if not better than I was at delivering information. It was here that I said, "Shay, if you begin to think of this experience in a more positive manner, surely it will be amazing for the audience and yourself." Once that happened, many of the hangups that happen in co-facilitation melted away. I still had to do make a conscious effort to work with my co-presenter, instead of working against them by compartmentalizing the experience we were charged to deliver. After all, who wants to be labeled as a "ball-hog" during the game?


  11. Co-teaching is definitely an emotional topic for some people. One reason why so many have negative reactions to it is that when co-teaching goes well, you don’t really think too much about it. However, when co-teaching goes wrong, you definitely remember it. I’ve done a lot of co-teaching and about 98% of it has gone very well. The times when it hasn’t I definitely remember. When that happened, it was a result of a lack of preparation. We were prepared with the material, but we did not know each other well and did not meet to discuss how we wanted to present.

    I really appreciate LaShay’s point that, when co-teaching, the ego needs to take a back seat. This could be said for all teaching, but it is especially relevant with co-teaching. For example, if you are leading a discussion and your co-teacher jumps in and makes a point that you were going to make, just let it go! If you get upset or become passive-aggressive with your co-teacher, chances are the audience will notice and it will distract from their learning.

    There’s a lot to keep in mind for effective co-facilitation. Thanks for the post, Lindsay.

  12. My best experiences in co-teaching have been when my collaborator and I can plan out lessons together and allow each other to use our strengths. We take turns leading activities, and while one person is teaching, the other is gauging the room or preparing for the next part. It is also great to have two minds in the room to answer questions and figure out how to address any concerns of the learners.

    My worst co-teaching experience was when I was asked to be a replacement for someone, and come in and teach her lesson using her activities. Although I was knowledgeable on the topic, I was not familiar with the specific activity and did not feel comfortable doing it at all. I would have much preferred that I could have been given freedom to create my own so that I could have felt more comfortable.

    For me though, co-teaching has more positives than negatives and I would appreciate more opportunities to collaborate in this way,