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Successful Co-Teaching Strategies

Seminar Summary

Christina Thurston
Blue River Special Education Cooperative

Date: May 18, 2006

Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Speaker: Dr. Marilyn Friend
Sponsor: Bureau of Education and Research

Dr. Marilyn Friend is an experienced general and special educator

who is currently on staff at the University of North Carolina. After
her career turned toward the training of professional educators her
focus became inclusion and co-teaching. She is the co-producer of a
collection of videos called “The Power of Two” and she co-authored the
book, Interactions: Collaboration Skills for School Professionals. In
the fall, her new book, Co-Teach, will be available. Dr. Friend is an
enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker who gave actual advice, laced
with humor, and gave everyone in the audience a better grasp on co-
teaching and a desire to experience it firsthand.
The seminar began with Dr. Friend asking the audience our areas of
concern regarding co-teaching. The main concerns were:
• Power struggles
• Shared planning time
• Getting adults on board
• Fairness of responsibilities
She then asked the group for a breakdown of our experience. Most of
the attendees were elementary teachers and most specialized in special
education. All levels of education, however, were represented by both
general and special education teachers and three principals were in
Before beginning her presentation, Dr. Friend wanted us to know up
front that the research shows that co-teaching, when done properly,
does work. The research is all relatively new, but is showing better
and better results. The main facts the research is showing currently
is that:
1. Co-teaching does not impede average to above-average learners
2. Co-teaching assists at-risk students.
3. Co-teaching assists most students with disabilities.
4. Achievement outcomes have statistically been better in co-taught
She also stressed that eight out of ten students with IEPs do not have
any valid reason to fail achievement tests. Of the eight, most are LD,
a few are EH, and the rest are OHI (for the most part) and these
students do not have an IQ that is so much lower as to impede learning.
Finally, she stressed the fact that teachers MUST be de-labeled in co-
taught classrooms. One cannot be introduced as the teacher and one as
the “special ed” teacher. Both are teachers and that fact must be
stated and kept in place. Once these facts were in place, it was time
to get down to business.
What Co-Teaching Is
• Service delivery option
• Definition: Two licensed educators presiding over a classroom.
It is not a teacher and a paraprofessional.
• shared purpose instruction
• Both teachers are engaged in teaching.
• Single group of students (“our kids”, not “yours” and “mine”)
• Single classroom – no pull out
• Joint accountability (Both names should appear on report cards!!)
• Participation may vary, but special education teacher must be
responsible for some large group instruction or credibility is

What Co-Teaching Is Not

• Team Teaching

**Two critical differences between co-teaching and team teaching.

1. Team teaching has two teachers with similar backgrounds. Co-
teachers have different areas of expertise. One is a general
education teacher with mastery of the content/pacing/
classroom management and one is a special education teacher
with mastery of the process of
2. Teacher/Student Ratio – In team teaching this does not
change. You have two teachers teaching double the kids. In
co-teaching this ratio goes way down. It is still the same
number of kids with twice the professionals.
• A general education teacher with a highly paid/highly skilled
aide. If the special education teacher is acting as an aide,
then co-teaching is not happening.

****It was at this point that Dr. Friend mentioned “inclusion”, stating
that it is a belief system, must be school wide, and the more it’s
mentioned, the less it’s being done.

Why Co-Teach?

1. increased options for students

2. less fragmentation
3. less stigma
4. teacher support
5. access to the general education curriculum
6. increases chances of reaching AYP
7. two or more highly qualified professionals
Key Components of Co-Teaching

1. Shared philosophical basis

- Both teachers should share similar educational philosophies.
- Both must learn what to embrace in each other and what to
let go.
2. Prerequisite knowledge and skills
- Personal needs and characteristic must be discussed (Both
professionals must be willing to relinquish control.)
- Both teachers must have similar pedagogical knowledge and
skills (be able to relate to kids the same way.)
- Both teachers must have professional knowledge and skills
(know your stuff!).
3. Collaboration
- There must be parity, clear communications, respect, trust,
and commitment to building and maintaining the professional
- This relationship is a “professional marriage”, but not one
from the 1950’s, where the dad (general ed) did the work
and the mom (special ed) fixed the “boos boos.” It should
be a modern marriage, with shared roles and
4. Classroom Dynamics
- clear roles and responsibilities
- specific approaches
- instructional flow while meeting individual needs
- efforts are monitored
5. External supports
- administrative support (A must!)
- professional development

Co Teaching Approaches

1. One Teach – One Observe (Should only be used 5-10% of the time
and should be for data collection only.
2. One Teach – Once Assist (Should be used less than 20% of the
time and should never be the primary approach. Also, do not
talk to a student at their desk. This links adult contact to
3. Station Teaching (30-40% of the time and make sure the stations
are not interdependent)
4. Parallel Teaching – (This should be used about 30% of the time
and is when teachers teach the same material to two different
5. Alternative Teaching - (This should be used 20-30% of the time
and occurs when one of the teachers takes a small group that
needs remediation on a topic. The groups should be ever-
changing, not the special ed kids all the time)
6. Teaming – (20-30% of the time/both teachers deliver instruction
at the same time – “tag team” teaching) This truly requires a
good teacher/teacher relationship.

***At least three of these methods should be used on a regular basis.

Once a team is experienced, all six methods can be used.

Planning Time

Everyone wants more, but much of it is not used wisely. Use short
periods when available, like prep or even before the class begins, once
the basic plans are in place. Dr. Friend suggests 2 or 3 half-days to
co-teachers as a way to plan. She said not to plan in the afternoon,
as folks lose drive by them. Another suggestion was to use part of a
PBA day for co-teacher planning.

Be sure to know the difference between modifications and

Modifications: Significant portions of the curriculum are removed.

This is an educational right under IDEA for grades K-12 (or age 21 if
still in school).

Accommodations: ways to help (“ramps for the brain”) – These are civil
rights and last a lifetime.

***Accommodations have no impact on grading. Here are Dr. Friend’s

suggestions for modifications:
K-3 Give an A
3.5 No A’s – Period
6.8 No failures if student is trying
9.12 Not an issue in that most students have a determined
curriculum and to gain credit a full curriculum and accurate
grades must be given.

**Notes to Building Administrators:

• Don’t shuffle teachers. Give teams a chance to get to know each

• Both names on report cards
• Promote this and make the expectations clear.