Co-op Teaching

There are plenty of ways to teach, but if your teaching co-op, this is a list of techniques with the level of difficulty (co-ordination, belief, action). “Team teaching” is often uses as a catch-all to describe attempts to teach numbers +30 students, typically combining two or more classes. Some schools have partitioned walls to do this – often Kindy and Year 1 – but it tends to drop off over time. Other schools use ‘open space’ or as they used to be called ‘learning commons’.
To date, research on the effectiveness of co-teaching as a mode of instruction (for children with or without disabilities) has been scant, and has yielded mixed results. However, to combat falling into what I’ll call a low-modality of teaching block scheduling (in which classes are typically longer) may be most effective in facilitating co-teaching and similar practices, by allowing more hands-on instruction, active learning, and processing time. (medium and high).
But this isn’t just a teacher task. Administrators should strive to design a schedule that will permit regular co-planning time during the school day as scheduling may be problematic for teachers not just at the planning level, but also at the instructional level. Teacher belief and preferences towards their methods as well as their interest in other subjects, willingness to participate in activities they didn’t create etc., all add to the complexity of co-op teaching.
I propose that lessons (or missions, quests) etc., are clearly defined such that teachers understand the modality of the lesson – and most importantly the assessment that should be taking place alongside verbal and written feedback.
I cannot stress enough here, how much the the learning environment matters in terms of design and infrastructure. Low level co-op is pretty easy to do, however moving beyond it – flipping the classroom, creating learning stations, putting kids into autotelic patterns of learning etc. requires higher commitment and levels of digital skills and knowledge of blended learning and instructional design.
  • One Teach, One Observe: One teacher observes specific student characteristics while the other teaches. (low)
  • One Teach, One Drift: One teacher presents material to the class, while another circulates and provides unobtrusive assistance. (low)
  • Parallel Teaching: Teachers present material simultaneously, dividing the class into two groups. (low)
  • Station Teaching: Teachers divide content and split class into two groups. Each teacher instructs one group, and then the other.  (medium)
  • Alternative Teaching: One teacher instructs a large group, while another works with a smaller group needing specialised attention. (medium)
  • Team Teaching: Both teachers work together to deliver content to the entire class at the same time. (high)
Studies indicate that students generally have a positive response to co-teaching, while teachers’ opinions tend to be mixed. Developing a sustainable framework for co-op teaching cannot be effectively built around ‘what the syllabus wants’ but around what the space, technology and people can achieve – which according to the scant literature on this is – variable in terms of academic results, but much more positive in terms of peoples’ emotional response.