Co-teaching: leveraging collaboration in teacher training and support

September 22, 2016

Co-teaching students

With the new ways that teacher effectiveness is being assessed, faculty and staff of the Center for Educator Preparation in Colorado State University's School of Education needed an innovative way to both train teacher candidates and support classroom teachers. Ann Sebald, assistant professor and co-chair of CEP, and Jody Drager, field placement coordinator and instructor, helped to implement co-teaching into field experiences and student teaching. Sebald is working to support the expansion of the co-teaching research, and Drager collaborates and coordinates with teacher candidates, school personnel, and university supervisors. They recognized that, as the stakes were raised for classroom teachers' evaluations, teachers would be less likely to take on a teacher candidate. Co-teaching offered a solution to this impasse.

Co-teaching occurs when two or more teachers work together in a classroom, collaborating on "everything from the planning to the delivery of the lessons, to individualized work with kids, to assessments," explains Drager. Historically, co-teaching has been used by general education teachers working with special education teachers. CEP has implemented the co-teaching model by pairing teacher candidates with classroom teachers who opt into the experience as a way to provide classroom teachers with more support, and to offer teacher candidates with more hands-on experiences and direct feedback. CEP is also implementing the co-teaching design in training opportunities that teaching teams can attend before they begin co-teaching together. "Not only are we teaching the co-teaching models, but we're demonstrating the co-teaching models as well," says Drager.

The CEP co-teaching model is based on the work of Teresa Heck and Nancy Bacharach of St. Cloud State University's Academy of Co-Teaching and Collaboration. CEP faculty and staff attended training at the Academy in order to incorporate the co-teaching model into CEP's Professional Development School model. "This is helping us establish our foundation moving forward, so that we can build our capacity to connect research and practice," says Sebald.

Through the implementation of the co-teaching model, CEP has developed strong relationships with local school districts. The Video Production Department within Thompson School District in Loveland has collaborated with the CEP to record effective teaching teams, in order to build a library of example videos that show some of the teaching strategies for various age groups and subjects. Collaboration with Poudre School District in Fort Collins is geared toward studying the impact co-teaching has on K-12 student learning. Drager has provided co-teaching workshops to faculty at both Fort Collins High School and Shepardson Elementary School.

The co-teaching collaborative work between Poudre School District's Blevins Middle School and CEP was highlighted in the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education's monthly newsletter. This national recognition prompted discussion on what in the co-teaching model works and how to implement co-teaching elsewhere. Sebald's diligence in exploring the data behind co-teaching has also been recognized; she is now the president-elect for the Topical Action Group on Co-Teaching in Clinical Practice within the AACTE. She envisions the opportunities co-teaching offers and is excited to begin delving into research, through last spring's pilot study of CEP teacher candidates and classroom teachers, to learn for whom co-teaching is beneficial and under what conditions. In October, Sebald and Drager will present their preliminary findings at the first National Conference on Co-Teaching in Bloomington, Minnesota.

At this early stage, the preliminary data was analyzed this summer, with data collection scaling up during the fall to include everyone who participates in co-teaching at CEP. Thus far, the research suggests that co-teaching may be beneficial for teacher candidates, cooperating teachers and classroom students; that co-teaching strategies used in elementary classrooms may be different than secondary classrooms; and that strategies learned during trainings may be implemented with classroom students beyond the student teaching experience. Co-teaching is valuable in bridging the gap between teacher candidates and schools who are reluctant to take on teacher candidates because student grades are tied to teacher evaluations. Sebald says, "How do we advocate for the future of the profession if we don't have that connection?" Despite the challenges, Sebald and Drager, along with rest of the CEP faculty and staff, are committed to changing the way teacher candidates have been taught for over a century (Guyton & McIntyre, 1990). With so many potential avenues of research and the attention of a national audience, this project has the potential to truly change the field of education.

Contact:  Melissa Pickett

Telephone:  (970) 491-3167