Co-Teaching Through Collaboration
Lauren Ebert, Danielle Jones, Tara Lloyd, and Chelsea Panse

Introduction and Historical Perspectives on Co-Teaching

Co-teaching is a collaborative model of teaching that is a “special education service-delivery model” (Kloo & Zigmond, 2008, p. 13). In this cooperative teaching method, a general educator and a special educator work together in providing instruction. Together, the two certified professionals plan, deliver, and evaluate instruction for a diverse group of students (Kloo & Zigmond). This group of students typically includes some students with disabilities learning in an inclusive classroom. Including a wide array of students in a classroom that is taught by both a general educator and a special educator is beneficial because this allows for legislation mandates like those laid out in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to be fulfilled (Friend, Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010). Specifically, this method allows students with disabilities to receive the type of instruction that they need including accommodations and modifications (Friend et al.) within the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) (Kloo & Zigmond) as laid out in each individual student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). With the ability of fulfilling the legislative requirements through incorporating the necessary standards with co-teaching, the use of this method has increased since 1995 for inclusive classrooms (Kloo & Zigmond).

The development of co-teaching began as a team teaching model. This method began in the 1950s and had similar implementation styles in the United States and England (Friend, Reising, & Cook, 1993). In this form of teaching, general educators would bring their classes together to allow the expert among the teachers to present to the students on a provided topic (Friend et al.). In some cases, the class size for the expert’s lecture could have “100 or more students” who would afterward break off into smaller groups for “discussion, follow-up assignments, and assessment” (Friend et al., p. 13). Prior to LRE requirements and other federal mandates, team teaching became a model for mainstreaming individuals with disabilities in order to allow them educational time with peers without disabilities (Friend et al.). In today’s model, co-teaching is used more as an effort to bring together students with varying abilities and ensure that students are learning in the LRE by providing more individualized instruction through small groups and using multiple methods that some students need. The special educator can help put into place support measures that will help all students, not just students that need special education accommodations and modifications. The premise is that when a teacher implements accommodations and modification, all students in the classroom benefit. For example, by explaining material in one way and then presenting the information in another way allows all students to hear the material twice, but one form may be more beneficial for a particular student to be able to retain the information better.

As a form of instruction, co-teaching should be “dynamic, deliberate, and differentiated” (Kloo & Zigmond, 2008, p. 16). Co-teaching is a beneficial form of instruction because it allows both the general education teacher and the special education teacher to be experts in their fields. The general educator “understands the structure, content, and pacing of the general education curriculum,” while the special education teacher “identifies unique learning needs of individual students and enhances curriculum and instruction to match those needs” (Kloo & Zigmond, p. 13). This benefits all the students in a co-taught classroom. This allows all students to be taught by the general education teacher who remains the expert on the content information, while the special educator is able to provide ideas on instruction that allows all students access to the material. Furthermore, by including two educators in the classroom, the student-teacher ratio is reduced to allow students to receive more individualized instruction. As well, by providing instruction in an inclusive setting, the legislative mandates are fulfilled by including students of all abilities in one classroom, rather than sending students with disabilities to classrooms to only learn with other students with disabilities. With this grouping of students, social stigmas are reduced because students are unable to differentiate between students that are receiving specialized support because all students are receiving attention in a more individualized fashion (Kloo & Zigmond, p. 13).

The benefits of co-teaching are seen in the increased achievement by students who receive instruction in a co-taught classroom. Kloo and Zigmond (2008) cite Klingner, Vaughn, Hughs, Schumm, and Elbaum’s (1998) research that identified students with disabilities who increased their reading achievement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year with co-taught instruction. Further research found that the students who were on IEPs, were able to surpass the goals set for them on both reading fluency measures and word recognition assessments (Kloo & Zigmond).

Kloo and Zigmond (2008) identify two mnemonic devices for the role of the special educator in a co-teaching method. For a teacher in lower grade levels as the special education teacher in the co-taught model, their role is to TEACH. In this method, the special educator would:
• “Target the skills and strategies that a particular student needs to learn,
Express enthusiasm and optimism,
Adapt the instructional environment,
Create opportunities for small-group or individual, direct, intensive instruction, [and]
Help student[s] apply skills learned to content classes” (Kloo and Zigmond, p. 15).

Further information and a mnemonic device is provided for the role of a special education teacher as the support person in a content-based class, likely found in the middle school grade levels. In this format, the special educator is responsible for the role of SUPPORT person in which they:
• “Study the content,
Understand the big ideas,
Prioritize course objectives,
Plan with the general education teacher,
Observe the students in the class as they listen to instruction,
Rephrase, repeat, and redirect, [and]
Teach your co-teacher to do it all on his or her own” (Kloo & Zigmond, 2008, p. 16).

There are six commonly known models of co-teaching. These include: One teach/one observe, One teach/one drift, Parallel teaching, Station teaching, Alternate teaching, and Team teaching. Each of these methods has varying roles for the teachers and provides benefits for the students when implemented in classrooms. In most models, the teacher roles for both the special education and general education teachers are interchangeable. This means that the teachers may have to resign their typically held involvement in the classroom to fit the model that they are working in.

The Six Models of Co-Teaching

(Friend, Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010)

One Teach/One Observe
This co-teaching model should be used, but not excessively. It can be used as a model for new co-teaching situations or for when specific observable data is needed.

Role of Teacher 1: This teacher will take the primary role in delivering instruction and implementing the lesson for the class. Responsibilities include managing the whole class behaviorally, leading large group instruction and monitoring academic progress of students.

Role of Teacher 2: This teacher will take responsibility of passively observing and taking data in the class. Types of data that this teacher will take should be discussed prior to instruction to make sure that both teachers agree on the appropriate data taking strategies. This data should be gathered to assess academic, behavioral or social situations of individual students or the whole class. Examples of important information that could be recorded are whether specific students are: asking questions, staying engaged, participating, taking notes, etc.

How Students Benefit: Most students can benefit from the One Teach/One Observe co-teaching model. Because of an increase of data collecting in classrooms, this gives teachers the opportunity to specifically focus on collecting appropriate data. Gathering this data will better benefit the students to make sure they are positively progressing academically, behaviorally and/or socially. If the students are not making adequate progress, the data that is collected during the One Teach/One Observe model can possibly be used to see where the student is having difficulty. More steps can be carried on from there. This model is also beneficial to students in special education. IEP goals are made for the students and data needs to be collected to see if the individual students will meet their annual goals. One Teach/One Observe gives the teachers the opportunity to collect data for these students.

This is a clip of the One Teach/One Observe co-teaching model, developed by the Georgia Department of Education.
One Teach/One Drift (Assist)
This co-teaching model is similar to the One Teach/One Observe, and it can be used for several reasons. It is also a good model to use for new co-teaching situations. The model allows for the teachers to become familiar with each other and their teaching strategies. One Teach/One Drift is a good model to use when one teacher has more expertise in the material that is being taught, such as in a content specific setting. This may be more comfortable for one teacher to deliver instruction while the other helps students during the lesson. Another reason to use this model is when specific students need close monitoring during instruction. This may be for academic or behavioral purposes.

Role of Teacher 1: This teacher will take the primary role of delivering instruction to the whole class. Responsibilities include managing the whole class behaviorally, leading large group instruction and monitoring academic progress of students.

Role of Teacher 2: This teacher will take the responsibility to drift around the classroom and help students as needed. Responsibilities include rotating around the room, keeping students engaged and working, and helping individual students if they have questions or difficulties or if they need attention. Individual or small group assistance and facilitating classroom behavior should be the focus of Teacher 2.

How Students Benefit: Most students can benefit from the One Teach/One Drift co-teaching model. Students who need more specific attention or instruction will benefit from the drifting Teacher 2 as they will receive more individualized assistance. This allows Teacher 1 to continue with the lesson. If a few students are confused with the material, Teacher 2 can focus on these students while the lesson progresses. This will help these students stay caught up on the material. Students in special education can also receive more attention and individualized instruction from Teacher 2 in this model. This model is positive for students’ behavior as it is another set of eyes that can help manage classroom behavior and expectations.
The last two models were paraphrased from the articles by Friend, Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Shamberger (2010) and from the SERC website.

This is a clip of the One Teach/One Assist co-teaching model, developed by the Georgia Department of Education.

Parallel Teaching
In this model of co-teaching, the class is divided into two fairly equal parts and both educators teach the same content simultaneously in the same room. In parallel teaching, a common strategy is to have the two groups of students face opposite directions. Students should be focused to where their teacher is presenting. With two teachers instructing at the same time, there may be noise and movement distraction in the room.

Roles of Both Teachers 1 & 2:
Teachers must plan the instruction together to ensure that both are presenting the same material in the same way. Although the teachers will address the same content, they are also able to address different learning goals and cater to the specific levels of understanding of the students in their groups. Because both professionals will participate in planning, the relationship should be highly collaborative and good communication is key. In this model, the general educator may bring to the relationship content knowledge, while the special educator can bring forth knowledge about accommodations and modifications that could be useful for all students. Teachers must also have scheduled time to meet to discuss planning. It is important that both teachers be comfortable and confident with the content so that they deliver it in similar ways. This co-teaching method should not be used for initial instruction.

How Students Benefit:
Parallel teaching may be beneficial to some students primarily because of the smaller group size as compared to whole group instruction. This method may be particularly helpful when working with students who may: struggle with attention concerns in large group instruction, need more behavioral supervision, or could benefit from more direct teacher support. The Parallel teaching model also allows students a greater opportunity to participate and practice, and therefore receive direct teacher feedback and error correction. Grouping of students (mixed or similar abilities) within this model are also flexible based on student needs and content of the lesson.

This is a clip of the Parallel co-teaching model, developed by the Georgia Department of Education.

Station Teaching
The Station Teaching model of co-teaching can be characterized by the division of labor that occurs between the teaching partnership. Not only are the students divided, but also the content.

Roles of Both Teachers 1 & 2:
In Station Teaching, each teacher presents a part of the content to one part of the group, and then repeats that lesson to the other group. In addition to the two teacher groups, there may also be a third group of students who are working independently. Although collaboration about the lesson topic is necessary, both teachers can also take responsibility for planning their portion of the lesson, and may do so independently. Teachers may also find that they are spending less time preparing the lesson, as each is responsible for presenting a smaller portion of the overall content.

How Students Benefit:
Students may benefit in this method of co-teaching as a result of the smaller group setting. Because of the small group size, students with disabilities may have an easier time integrating into this setting, as it is more similar to the resource room structure, which they may have had previous exposure to. Students will be working with both the special and general education teachers in small groups, which may allow them to form better relationships with both teachers, thereby giving the student more support resources. Teachers who use station teaching are more responsive to individual student needs. Because the two groups of students will likely be engaging in different types of learning (i.e. independent practice, partner work, whole group activity, instruction) at different times, this model may present noise and movement distractions. Teachers should keep this as a consideration when implementing this form of co-teaching.
The last two models were paraphrased from the Special Connections website, compiled by Kansas University, and the SERC website.

This is a clip of the Station co-teaching model, developed by the Georgia Department of Education.

Alternate Teaching
The alternate model of co-teaching involves one teacher taking a smaller group of students to another room or location for a period of time for more individualized instruction. Typically the special education teacher is the one working with this small group of students. In most models of co-teaching, special education teachers are not able to provide individualized instruction frequently because whole-class teaching is the norm. In this model, however, both of the teachers are able to provide more individualized instruction because special education teachers help those students who are behind or need a slower pacing and general education teachers can help those students who would benefit from continuing at a more regular pace.

Role of Teacher 1: The special education teacher is required to take the group of students that require more explicit instruction. Therefore, modifying the general educator’s lesson plan is required. Depending on what the special education teacher is going to teach (i.e. pre-teaching, re-teaching, or supplementing instruction), a lot of planning time is required. In addition, the special educator must have a good understanding of the content area knowledge that he or she is teaching. Both teachers in this model need to screen and progress monitor frequently in order to make sure students are in the appropriate groups.

Role of Teacher 2: Both teachers must have enough time to spend together in order to plan accordingly for the instruction of the two groups. In the classroom, the general education teacher can deliver Tier 1 instruction to the rest of the class that is not in the special educator's group of students receiving Tier 2 instruction. The general educator needs to make sure that she is taking enough data to ensure that the students in her group are still benefiting from her instruction. If the students are not progressing and need additional support, they will need to move to the other group (Note: the special educator's group of students receiving Tier 2 support should not just be students with special needs).

How Students Benefit: All students, with and without disabilities, will benefit from smaller group sizes and more explicit/individualized instruction. Smaller groups allow the teachers to monitor student engagement frequently, and also provide students with more opportunities to respond. By dividing the groups, students in the larger group will benefit from a faster pace of instruction. This allows Teacher 1 to meet the needs of the students in Tier 2 without moving too quickly for students who need more help, while Teacher 2, instructing those in Tier 1, may find that she is able to move at a quicker pace.

This is a clip of the Alternate co-teaching model, developed by the Georgia Department of Education.

Team Teaching
The “Team Teaching” model of co-teaching means that both the general education and special education teachers share equal responsibility for planning and delivering instruction. This is a more interactive approach since both teachers lead instructional activities. This model is more beneficial if the teachers have been teaching together for 2-3 years

This paragraph is paraphrased from the Special Connections website, compiled by Kansas University.

Roles of Both Teachers 1 & 2:
For team teaching, both teachers need: a thorough understanding of the content area knowledge, a common planning time, and a common teaching philosophy. This may look like one teacher instructing while the other teacher models or demonstrates. This model of co-teaching requires a lot of planning time, as well as high levels of trust and collaboration between the two teachers.

How Students Benefit:
In addition to a smaller teacher to student ratio, students will also benefit because both teachers are able to blend their styles and areas of expertise. If a student does not respond well to one teacher’s style of instruction, he or she may benefit from the other. Another benefit to this model is that teachers are able to share the responsibility of classroom behavior management and planning. Students will benefit from this because problem behaviors will decrease with more adults in the room monitoring their engagement and behavior. Additionally, teachers can brainstorm while planning to hopefully come up with creative ideas and methods for reaching all of their students, thus strengthening the content and pedagogy of lessons.

This is a clip of the Team co-teaching model, developed by the Georgia Department of Education.

Positive Collaboration and Co-Teaching

While it may be easy to identify agreed upon models for co-teaching, less concrete are the ideals that make co-teaching successful for both teachers and students. “Co-teaching may be popular, but it does not always come naturally” (Ploessl, D., Rock, M., Schoenfeld, N., & Blanks, B., 2010). A positive and successful co-teaching experience for both teaching partners and students is built on the premise of collaboration.

"Collaboration Involves:
  • Shared responsibility: Maintaining mutual responsibility for the students in the class; territorial boundaries ('my students' - 'your students') are not prevalent.
  • Reciprocity of ideas and teaching: Sharing in planning, instructing, evaluating, and decision-making; each professional has an equal voice.
  • Problem-solving: Developing a variety of possible solutions by using reciprocity and shared responsibility.
  • Interactive communication: Using techniques such as active listening (e.g., paraphrasing), speaking in common nonjargon language, and employing positive nonverbal communication to increase productive interactions.
  • Conflict resolution: Engaging in a process used to address issues; conflict is neither 'good' nor bad,' but inevitable" (Texas Education Agency Division of Special Education, 2000).

As described by Kansas University the keys to effective co-teaching fall broadly around three areas: Planning, Disposition, and Evaluation. In reviewing several additional resources including strategies for before, during and after co-teaching,five keys to co-teaching, and practical techniques to enhance co-teaching the following suggestions for effective co-teaching have been established around these three issues.

  • Determine a specific time in which planning will occur and develop a protocol and agenda for each planning meeting since time is likely of the essence.
  • Designate equal space in the classroom. Since co-teaching is a joint effort, it is important that the classroom is boundless and both teachers feel comfortable in all of the spaces of the classroom.
  • In addition to having equal space in the classroom, teachers must SHARE. Just like students are told throughout early education, teachers must also learn to share. This means space, materials, responsibility, successes, and disappointments.
  • Identify which students would benefit most from a co-teaching model. Once students have been identified, determine their specific areas of need (academic skills, specific subjects, behavioral, organization, social interaction) and which co-teaching models may be most beneficial for them.
  • Establish shared classroom expectations, norms, and rules to enforce with all students. Both educators should take part in establishing these classroom guidelines and take equal part in enforcing these expectations and discipline for all students.
  • Before conflict arises, establish a procedure for dealing with it. How will the other teacher know when their partner is unhappy? How will each teacher approach the other about things that are bothering them? What steps will the two teachers take together to find a resolution?
  • Prepare students to participate in co-teaching by letting them know there will be two teachers present in the classroom and that students are expected to treat both equally.
  • Design lesson plans together. By collaborating about the content and instruction of the lesson together, teachers are able to share their strengths (general educator- content, special educator- accommodations, modifications, and behavior management) and be better in tune with what to expect from each other during instruction.

Two teachers planning.

Co-teaching is often times described as a “professional marriage” (Ploessl, Rock, Schoenfeld, & Blanks, 2010). “To effectively provide special education services, co-teachers must work closely together, combining their techniques, goals, and curricula in a way that not only meets their students’ unique academic and behavioral needs (Bauwens & Hourcade, 1997 and Friend & Cook, 2007) but also rejuvenates the teachers’ professional passion and commitment (Arguelles, Hughes, & Schuum, 2000; Reinhiller, 1996).

  • Identify teacher roles in each of the co-teaching models and within the classroom environment. Who will teach when and what? Who is responsible for each of the classroom tasks (e.g. taking attendance, distributing work, monitoring behavior, writing on the board, etc)?
  • Be fair to one another, follow the age-old golden rule: Treat others the way you wish to be treated. Both the special educator and general educator are equals in this relationship and neither should be “taking directions” from the other.
  • Communicate with your teaching partner, not only while teaching in front of the students but also prior to instruction. Share with your partner your strengths, weaknesses, preferences, pet peeves, individual teaching styles, philosophy of education, etc.
  • Now that the plan for dealing with conflict has been established, address conflicts that will inevitably arise immediately- don’t let issues or concerns build up to the point of explosion over something small.

In order to ensure that co-teaching is effective teachers must collect data. In collecting data it is important that both educators: know what types of information they want to collect, how to collect it, and how to share it with the other teacher. Procedures should be set up for each of these processes.

  • As students progress through the semester, teachers should jointly share in grading because each has had unique experiences with the students and the students' growth.
  • Communication within the school and to parents should be done jointly by both educators because again both are important to the child’s learning and progress.
  • In order to facilitate stronger and maturing co-teaching models and relationships, partnerships should continue to attend workshops and professional development about co-teaching and observe others engaging in effective or ineffective models.
  • After co-teaching takes place, it is important that both teachers: evaluate their own participation in the model, their partner’s efforts, and the overall effectiveness of the instruction for the students so that they are able to continue to improve.
  • Teachers should evaluate how their relationship with their co-teaching partner is going, while keeping in mind that co-teaching takes work and is not something that will come naturally at first.

Negative Collaboration and Co-Teaching

There is limited research available that evaluates ineffective uses of co-teaching; however, one study, titled Co-Teaching in Inclusive Classrooms: A Metasynthesis of Qualitative Research (Scruggs, Mastropieri & McDuffie, 2007) discussed interviews on compatibility of co-teachers. There are four common themes from the interview answers, which alluded to misuses of co-teaching:

Being “possessive” of your classroom
When special education teachers enter the general education classroom, the two teachers may become “territorial.” Some general education teachers reported having felt the need to keep control of their classroom by giving special educators a more limited role of minimizing problem behaviors, re-directing attention, and modifying worksheets (Scruggs, Mastropieri & McDuffie, 2007). Among the quotes that were evaluated, there appeared to be a common theme of control in not only how the lessons should be taught, but also when and what the special education teacher is allowed to do. Here are some example quotes from this study:

“I mean, if you’re talking, I try to let you finish what you’re doing. And then I’ll contribute. I try not to bump in. Well, she told me I was barging in on her. So it was like, ‘You will please not talk in my classroom.’ And I was like, well, maybe I’ve got to be able to say something. It got to the point that I was raising my hand to talk. I thought, if this isn’t stupid. But yeah. She really had trouble with somebody else in there.” -Middle school special education teacher
“Okay, well first I would be in charge...And I would let her first observe me. And then I would invite her to perhaps try a couple of lessons and see how she does. And then perhaps now we’re establishing a better rapport with each other and I am beginning to trust her, to trust her to teach in the way I am expecting the children to be taught, allow her to gradually take over some lessons.” -General education teacher

This is not a good philosophy to have when leading a co-taught classroom because it implies to the students that the special educator is inferior to the general educator. This does not model good teamwork or leadership skills for students, nor does it allow for the potential instruction that both teachers could bring to the classroom. Research suggests that students benefit from both teachers, but if one teacher does not keep an open mind about the others’ instructional practices, then the students will suffer in the end.

Unsupportive of each other
When the two co-teachers of a classroom do not get along, it can affect their respect and support of one another during instruction.

“[The special education teacher] tried to tell me how she wanted the discipline to run. And she brought in a chart and said, ‘Now when [Jeanie] does this, you put a star here. When [Tim] does this, you put a circle here.’ And I said, ‘Well, OK.’ But, I never did it because that’s not the way the discipline in this class runs.” -5th grade teacher
Problems such as this can cause tensions in the rapport between the two teachers when one feels that their suggestions are essentially being ignored. Effective co-teaching requires the two teachers to trust each other and at least try each others' ideas to see if they work. Undermining each others' authority and refusal to try a different instructional approach will result in poor leadership of the classroom, which will be evident to the students.

Not enough planning time
According to a qualitative study, a common concern that teachers had for co-teaching was the lack of planning time allotted for the teachers to collaborate. In the Hazlett (2001) study, the co-teaching pairs were given 40 minutes scheduled planning time per week. However, teachers met on an ongoing basis in addition to this 40 minutes because they felt that this amount was not sufficient. Teachers in this study often related the amount of planning time to administrative support (Scruggs, Mastropieri & McDuffie, 2007). In addition to planning time, it is noteworthy to mention that teachers also did not receive enough professional development about how to effectively implement co-teaching. These two factors could be major contributors to ineffective co-teaching because if teachers are not given the support to implement this with fidelity, then the teachers will be ill-prepared for lessons. Professional Development on co-teaching would also be helpful for teachers to realize what their roles should be within the different models. Based on the other concerns with misuses, it may also be beneficial to have Professional Development to help scaffold for teachers about how to have professional, yet meaningful, discussions when concerns or conflicts arise.

Not utilizing both teachers to their full potential (subordinate roles)
In many cases, the special education teacher is seen as the teacher of lesser status in the room. Rarely are special education teachers seen delivering whole-class instruction (Scruggs, Mastropieri & McDuffie, 2007). The special education teacher’s “subordinate role...appeared to reflect the relatively greater content knowledge of the general education teacher” (p. 407). Therefore, higher degrees of content knowledge for the special education teacher are associated with more responsibility in the co-taught classroom. Limited obligations for the special education teacher are not recommended because it does not use both teachers to their full potential. The article by Kloo & Zigmond (2008) describes one such situation:

“First teacher teaches the lesson; second teacher records attendance or completes other clerical duties.
First teacher teaches the lesson; second teacher works with students outside of class, runs an errand, or leaves to get or copy materials” (Appendix A; p. 18).

The key to co-teaching is collaboration and equal status of teachers, and when any of these four factors becomes an issue, it interferes with that. According to the article Co-teaching Revisited Redrawing the Blueprint, even Professional Development will not necessarily help the co-teachers run the classroom effectively when students with learning and behavioral disorders are in the class (Kloo & Zigmond, 2008, p. 14) if the teachers do not collaborate well and maintain equal roles. According to this article, alternative teaching, parallel teaching, and station teaching are the best ways to ensure that this occurs. But no matter which model is used, special educators and general educators need to ensure that they take an equal part in planning and delivering instruction.

This table shows “What Collaborative Teaching Is Not” (left) and “What Collaborative Teaching Is” (right):

Areas of Future Research

One of the most essential concerns for collaborative teaching is the need of more research and quantitative data. The area of co-teaching needs more evidence-based, quantitative data that shows how co-teaching affects different variables such as grades, subjects, genders and disabilities. Without this data, it is not possible to set clear expectations of the roles and responsibilities of implementing co-teaching, or see the outcomes of the implementation.

Administrator, teacher, student and parent perceptions are useful as qualitative data, but it does not create a sufficient amount of evidence-based data for the implementation of co-teaching. Murawski & Swanson (2001), in their study of meta-analysis of co-teaching research, found few studies that provided sufficient quantitative data on the outcomes of co-teaching. The few articles they did analyze suggested that the implementation of co-teaching showed a positive student outcome. Although these articles provide evidence and support of the use of co-teaching in classrooms, there is an insufficient amount of quantitative data that is found in other studies. Very few authors of the 89 articles Murawski & Swanson studied provided experimental data.

More quantitative studies and collections of data are needed to support the outcomes of co-teaching. Schools and teachers can gather this kind of data by looking into scores of high-stakes tests, curriculum-based measures, discipline referrals, suspensions, attendance, and other outcome date (Friend, Cook, Hurley-Chamberlain, & Shamberger, 2010). Gathering and documenting both qualitative and quantitative data will provide a better guide to understanding how co-teaching can meet the needs of all variables (i.e. grades, genders, disabilities) and students in a general education setting, especially students with disabilities (Murawski & Swanson, 2001).

"Qualitative Research: involves analysis of data such as words (e.g. an interview), pictures (e.g. video), and or objects (e.g. an artifact).
Quantitative Research: involves analysis of numerical data"

* For further information on qualitative and quantitative research click here.

What Co-Teaching Means

Some considerations must be made in implementing a co-teaching structure. First, school administrators must make decisions about starting co-teaching partnerships in their school. When planning to implement a co-teaching model into a school, planning may be necessary even a year ahead of time in order to work out all of the logistics (Walther-Thomas, Bryant, & Land, 1996). An important factor for schools to think about is the cost of co-teaching. Providing two teachers to teach a group of students is expensive because two individuals are being paid where there was previously a single teacher educating students (Friend, Reising, & Cook, 1993). Along with this concern for cost is scheduling because resources, in terms of available professionals in the building, may be changed to create a partnership, but support may still need to be supplied where the special educator may have previously been. The recommendation to ensure implementation of this partnership in a way that justifies the cost is to provide teaching methods that would not normally be achieved with one teacher in the classroom (Friend et al.). For this to occur, the two teachers should both have an active role within the classroom. The teachers should coordinate their involvement so that one teacher is not in the classroom just as a helper to the other. In this model, schedules must also be coordinated in order to allow teachers to have planning time together. By providing teachers with the necessary time they need in order to plan their joint efforts in teaching, the co-teaching experience for both teachers and students will benefit.

Teachers must understand that combining two individuals’ jobs in one classroom, which traditionally was taught by a single professional, can be difficult (Walther-Thomas, Bryant, & Land, 1996). Teachers who are used to being the only person instructing in their classroom may have difficulty combining their efforts with another person’s in co-teaching. Coming to a professional, working partnership that runs smoothly may take a great deal of time, and may require changes throughout the process. Much like the first years of teaching where an educator makes mistakes and figures out their methods for teaching and building lesson plans to implement year after year, co-teaching partnerships may take a few years to become effective. Materials and practices along with the team relationship may take some time to figure out. Continual evaluation of the instruction processes and methods should occur. Once a school has co-teaching partnerships in place, administration should provide continual professional development for teachers to learn and update their co-teaching methods (Walther-Thomas et al.). For teachers to be effective in the co-teaching model, they must be “open, confident, and eager to try new ideas” (Walther-Thomas et al., p. 259). Furthermore, both teachers must commit to the time commitment and schedule, communicate effectively, and work towards a shared goal (Walther-Thomas et al.).

Teachers that were considered effective partners in their co-teaching process explained five planning themes that benefited their coordination (Walther-Thomas, Bryant, & Land, 1996). These beliefs included:
  • “Trust[ing] the professional skills of their partners.”
  • “Design[ing] learning environments for their students and for themselves that demand active involvement.”
  • “Creat[ing] learning and teaching environments in which each person’s contributions are valued.”
  • “Develop[ing] effective routines to facilitate their planning.”
  • “Planners become more skilled over time” (p. 259)

Additional Resources

The Access Center: Improving Outcomes for All Students K-8 website provides educators (both teachers and supervisors) with training modules and PowerPoint presentations regarding best practices in co-teaching. Within the handouts link, forms are provided that new co-teachers can use in developing their successful partnership including teaching inventories, descriptions of co-teaching, questions to ask, planning forms, and suggestions.

The Texas Education Agency Division of Special Education has compiled this booklet of strategies that special educators, general educators, administrators, and all others involved with the implementation of co-teaching can use to ensure quality co-teaching is taking place to meet the needs of all learners. Although the booklet was designed specifically in regard to reading supports, it is applicable across most co-teaching settings. Information includes: the models of co-teaching, steps to take to get started with co-teaching, lesson plan examples, suggestions for administrators, and more.

The Council for Exceptional Children offers this short article by Marilyn Friend and DeAnna Hurley-Chamberlain, which details information about the effectiveness of co-teaching.

The National Education Association (NEA) provides 6 Steps to Successful Co-Teaching. Additional resources and articles are provided on the right-hand side or can be found with a search.

Marilyn Friend is a leading researcher on co-teaching at the University of North Carolina. Many articles were cited on this wiki from her. Here is her page, which provides helpful information and resources.

This article may serve as a reference for how to implement co-teaching in the secondary level. Included are definitions of roles of teachers, principals, and administrators and strategies to help foster effective co-teaching.

This PDF is an example of a co-teaching rubric that educators might use to evaluate their own effectiveness as co-teachers or other teachers who are implementing the model. Schools and individual teachers could adapt this form to meet their specific needs.

Another form that may be used to evaluate the effectiveness of co-teaching.

The Power of 2 website is excellent website from which to obtain professional development and training on co-teaching. Handouts and other links are also included.

This site links to the National Institute for Urban School Improvement’s interactive module on co-teaching. Within the module “working together,” strategies and co-planning using state standards are addressed.

The National Institute for Urban School Improvement has created a document to help educators find more time for co-planning and how to make the most out of the time that they do have.

Kansas University has put together a comprehensive website that not only explains co-teaching, but also provides information about cooperative teaching, teams, adjusting and the benefits for students in this model, and working with paraeducators. From this link, information and modules about instruction, behavioral plans, and assessment can be accessed. Each main topic breaks down information further into the areas of teacher tools, research articles, case studies, and online collaboration about the topic. An excellent resource for any special educator!


Friend, M., Cook, L., Hurley-Chamberlain, D., & Shamberger, C. (2010). Co-teaching: An illustration of the complexity of collaboration in special education. Journal of Educational & Psychological Consultation, 20(1), 9-27.

Friend, M., Reising, M., & Cook, L. (1993). Co-teaching: An overview of the past, a glimpse at the present, and considerations for the future. Preventing School Failure, 37(4), 6-10.

Kloo, A. & Zigmond, N. (2008). Coteaching revisited: Redrawing the blueprint. Preventing School Failure, 52(2), 12-20.

Murawski, W. (2008). Five keys to co-teaching in inclusive classrooms. School Administrator, 65(8), 29.

Murawski, W. & Dieker, L. (2008). 50 ways to keep your co-teacher: Strategies for before, during, and after co-teaching. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 40(4), 40-48.

Murawski, W. W. & Swanson, H. L. (2001). A meta-analysis of co-teaching research: Where are the data? Remedial and Special Education, 22(5), 258-67.

Neill, James (2007, February, 28). Qualitative versus quantitative research:
 Key points in a classic debate. Retrieved from

Ploessl, D., Rock, M., Schoenfeld, N., & Blanks, B. (2010). On the same page: Practical techniques to enhance co-teaching interactions. Intervention in School and Clinic, 45(3), 158-168.

SERC (2007, October 5). Teaching and learning initiative six approaches to co-teaching. Retrieved from

Scruggs, T., Mastropieri, M., & McDuffie, K. (2007). Co-teaching in inclusive classrooms: A metasynthesis of qualitative research. Exceptional Children, 73(4), 392-416.

Special Connections: connecting teachers to strategies that help students with special needs access the general education curriculum. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Texas Education Agency Division of Special Education. (2000, August). Coordinating for reading instruction: General education and special education working together. Retrieved from

Walther-Thomas, C., & Bryant, M., & Land, S. (1996). Planning for effective co-teaching: The key to successful inclusion. Remedial and Special Education, 17(4), 255-64.

Zink, Diane. Virginia Council for Learning Disabilities (2007). Collaborative working relationships: Instructional roles of co-teachers. Retrieved from