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Strategies and Technology Supporting for Effective Co-Teaching

Author: Nicholas Jay Hoekstra; info@ciddl.org

In the March, 2022 CIDDL Research and Practice Brief, we interviewed Dr. Peggy Weiss to discuss strategies and technologies that can be used to support effective co-teaching. Dr. Weiss is associate professor in the Division of Special Education and Disability Research in the College of Education and Human Development at George Mason University.

The Problem Addressed in This Brief

On the surface, co-teaching seems an obvious method for providing students with disabilities education in the least restrictive environment while ensuring access to the general education curriculum and highly qualified instructors. Unfortunately, many teachers enter the field unprepared to engage in the type of close collaboration that is necessary to make co-teaching really work. In this brief, Dr. Weiss discusses the strengths behind co-teaching: how it can bring together two professionals who lend their unique expertise toward creating the most inclusive classroom possible. As Dr. Weiss points out in her interview, co-teaching is about more than just rearranging students into groups; it’s about both professionals taking an active role in developing a quality education.

The Three Elements

Co-teaching can be thought of as a sum of three stages: co-planning, co-instruction, and co-assessment. Co-teachers must understand the role they will play in each of these stages. According to Dr. Weiss, there has been a misunderstanding that both teachers should serve an identical role in the classroom. However, this can put special educators at a disadvantage as they have unique training that is distinct from general educators. 

To provide a framework to help ensure quality co-teaching happens, co-teachers can consider three important elements. These include quality general education instruction, making the general education curriculum accessible, and inclusion of specially designed instruction for students with disabilities. Teachers who follow this framework have found that it helps them better collaborate and find their role within the co-taught classroom.

Putting Technology in Co-Teaching

In the brief interview, Dr. Weiss also provides multiple suggestions about how technology can be used to facilitate and support co-teaching both in synchronous and asynchronous settings. For example, shared docs/presentations and learning management systems offer flexibility and opportunities for co-teachers to collaborate when planning class or assessing student work. This is especially great for teachers who cannot find a common block of free time during their busy schedules.

During the pandemic, teachers found that online classes allowed co-teachers to strategically group students into breakout rooms. These rooms minimized distractions while allowing teachers to privately lend students extra support when needed. At the same time, the ability for both teachers to host a class together allowed one teacher to demonstrate important strategies, such as note taking, while the other teacher taught. As Dr. Weiss explains, technology has expanded the potential for co-teachers to plan, instruct, and assess. It just requires that teachers develop clear routines. 

Tell Us Your Co-Teaching Tips

Have you had a positive experience with co-teaching? A negative one? How have you blended your expertise with a partner to manage a classroom? Visit the CIDDL Community and tell us about your personal tips and strategies.