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Collaborative Co-teaching: Educational Best Practice to Support all our Learners
Jacob Martin, Director of Teaching and Learning

At ISZL we strive to use relevant research to drive improvements in teaching practices within classrooms. We consider the outcomes from a vast number of research papers alongside our curriculum and decide which initiatives to implement without overburdening teachers and confusing students. 

In 2017, a leading educational researcher John Hattie, collated a mass of research and published a list of 252 educational techniques ranked by their effectiveness. He summarised the outcomes and created a Top 20 list of pedagogical practices. An area, which ranks highly in that list, is Collective Teacher Efficacy. At ISZL we call it Collaborative Co-teaching and it is at the heart of what we do. 

Collaborative Co-teaching, is where teachers collectively believe in their ability to positively affect students through collaboration. This means working together on planning, sharing goals in professional learning communities and teaching alongside each other in the classrooms.

Co-teaching is when two or more people share responsibility for teaching some or all of the students assigned to a classroom. Teachers distribute responsibility for planning, instruction, and evaluation for a classroom of students. For example, when a classroom teacher works together with a special educational needs teacher.

The ISZL English as an Additional Language (EAL) team regularly adopt co-teaching methods to support students within the classroom. Hattie showed ‘Interventions for students with learning needs’ are among the most important effective educational techniques. 

“In EAL, I can get help from [both] my teachers and have fun and become smarter.” Christian, Grade 3

Being in a co-taught classroom has many benefits. Students can spend more time with a teacher and it is easier for teachers to work effectively with small groups of students who, as a result, receive more individual attention. 

Co-teaching has another advantage, students receive of two different styles of teaching and can benefit from two different, but complementary knowledge bases. This can mean it is easier to adjust the teaching to suit individual students or groups of students with different needs in the classroom.

As Villa, Thousand and Nevin (2008) discuss, “Co-teaching is innovative. It is about knowledge and skill exchange, it reduces the student-to-teacher ratio, and enables more students to benefit from different instructional support. This dynamic way of working means different types of teaching can occur that meet the individual needs of students.” 

At ISZL we implement Collaborative Co-teaching in a number of different ways to support different learning needs. Here are some of the collaborative methods our teachers are using: 

Team Teaching: Two teachers plan lessons and work together to teach students together in the classroom.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed the implementation of the team teaching technique in our Theory of Knowledge (ToK) classroom. As someone who learns best in small classrooms, with the most teacher assistance possible, I have experienced increased personal engagement due to team teaching. Furthermore, having two different perspectives has promoted a classroom in which various opinions are better received and thought about, where these opinions may not be explored as in-depth in a larger classroom." Joao, Grade 11

Teacher with Assistant Teacher: One teacher teaches while another assists and/or observes. Having one teacher actively teaching frees up the other teacher to assist and give individual help as needed.

Teacher with Teacher Observer: An observing teacher collects information about how a child responds to different teaching approaches and about his or her attention and behaviour.

Station Teaching: Teachers take responsibility for different parts of the lesson plan. This allows them to play to their teaching strengths. Students are divided into groups and move from one station to the other. Or the teachers rotate from group to group.

“I really love it when we get to do a number of different things in class and there are teachers to help with each of the things, I learn better and I learn quicker too!” Grade 7 student

Parallel Teaching: The class is split in half and each teacher takes one group. Both groups are taught the same thing but in a different way. In some areas of the curriculum, where students are actively encouraged to develop and explore different perspectives and opinions, this can be an excellent strategy.

“I like that due to the different backgrounds and different knowledge, [having two teachers] gives us the opportunity to hear more than one opinion and lets us explore the different perspectives.” Alessia, Grade 11

It is also an excellent way to differentiate instruction in the classroom.

“I have recently been co-teaching in Grade 4 German classes. One class are native speakers and another is a mixed languages group. We realised that some students have stronger understandings of particular grammar points where others are far less advanced in their understanding. We have, for certain sessions, regrouped the classes and are explicitly teaching sentence structure to each group through a joint plan.” Josephine Burn, Primary School German Leader

Alternative Teaching: One teacher handles a larger group of students meanwhile, the other teacher works with a small group on a different lesson or gives more support to students with different learning needs.

“In Grade 1 the Student Support team and the co-teaching they provide allows for tremendous support to our students. They meet weekly with each Homeroom teacher to reflect on the past week and discuss the learning objectives and experiences for the coming week, thinking particularly about modifications to help all students take an active role in their learning. Their time spent supporting individual and small groups of students has meant individualised support in a manner that would not be possible without them.” (Joy Walker, Grade 1 Teacher)

Some of these models exist in all classes in certain year groups as an example we have committed to assistant teachers for all Early Years and Kindergarten classes. Others appear where appropriate in the programme or where the student need arises.

The IB Middle Years Programme also encourages opportunities for teachers to collaboratively teach an investigation together across more than one subject discipline and this has recently happened in Grade 6 with Mathematics and Science.

“This project highlighted the importance and dependence of knowledge from one subject towards the success of another and how subjects being taught in ISZL are not in isolation but are linked and are part of a larger pedagogy.” Stephen Boyd,  Middle School Science Teacher

At the High School, we have school designed courses to support all learners in addition to IB and AP classes and one of these is the Global Innovations course designed for entrepreneurial-minded students who want to make a positive impact in the world.

“Co-teaching this class allows us to take students on a journey which helps them to tap into their unique potential. Because each project is unique, the course requires highly individualised instruction. Having two teachers in the room with different backgrounds and perspectives allows for richer conversations and better outcomes.” Chris Koch and Gina Ayon, High School Global Innovations Teachers

Collaborative co-teaching can be found in many different areas of ISZL and in many different ways. We believe this to be a very important addition to our programme which, as well as helping to build and maintain teacher collective efficacy, also provides much better support to our students with different learning needs.

  • Villa, R.A., Thousand, J.S. and Nevin, A.I (2008). A Guide to Co-Teaching. Corwin Press, California, USA.
  • Skrtic, T. (1991). Behind Special Education: A critical analysis of professional culture and school organization. Love: Denver CO, USA. 
  •  Hattie, John, and John Hattie. Visible Learning plus, Evidence into Action. Cognition Education, 2014
  • Haynes, J. (2007). Collaborative Teaching: Are Two Teachers Better Than One?. Essential Teacher, Volume 4, Issue 3.
  • McClure, G. & Cahnmann-Taylor, M. (2010). Pushing Back Against Push-In: ESOL Teacher Resistance and the Complexities or Co-teaching. TESOL Journal, March 2010.
  • Eells, Rachel Jean (2011).  Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Collective Teacher Efficacy and Student Achievement Dissertations. Paper 133.
  • Morin, Amanda. Collaborative Team Teaching: What You Need to Know.
  • Curriculum
  • innovation

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