3 Tips for Effective Co-Teaching Implementation


The enactment of recent legislation, including No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), put team or co‐teaching in the spotlight. A popular strategy for educating students with special learning needs, this instructional method is used to adhere to the IDEA requirement that children with disabilities be educated in the least restrictive classroom environment possible.

As a result of these legislative mandates, the number of schools implementing co‐teaching has increased, as has the number of students with disabilities that are educated alongside their typically developing peers. But, what is co-teaching, and how can districts effectively implement this instructional technique to best impact student achievement?

What is Co-Teaching?

Broadly, co-teaching may be defined as a mode of instruction in which two or more educators, or other certified staff members, share responsibility for a group of students in a single classroom or workspace. Co-teaching is not necessarily collaborative, nor is it synonymous with traditional team teaching, which generally does not alter the student-teacher ratio and does not blend multiple approaches to teaching.

By contrast, “co-teaching draws on the strengths of both the general educator, who understands the structure, content, and pacing of the general education curriculum, and the special educator, who can identify unique learning needs of individual students and enhance curriculum and instruction to match these needs.”

How Can You Implement Effective Co-Teaching Policies?

Educators and administrators should consider a number of variables that influence the effectiveness of a co-teaching program. The following recommendations are derived from the report Effective Practices for Co-Teaching in Elementary Schools, available for download at the form below.

Teachers should have at least 45 minutes of co-planning time four to five times per week.

Other recommendations range from 10 minutes per lesson to 60 to 90 minutes per unit. While the specific time allotted varies by situation, research emphasizes the need for co‐planning to be an ongoing process that allows teachers to review progress on a regular basis, make adjustments, evaluate students, and develop strategies to address problems either in discipline or learning.

Co-teachers need professional development that addresses effective teaching strategies, appropriate accommodation of students with special learning needs, and collaboration.

Teachers need their practice to be grounded in a knowledge of and fluency in proven teaching methods. Schools should therefore provide professional development opportunities that equip teachers with the skills needed to team effectively.

Schools should employ both short-term and summative evaluation techniques to assess program strengths and weaknesses.

Program evaluation, both periodic and annual, is a crucial component of effective co-teaching implementation.  Information gleaned from these evaluations should inform redesigns or adjustments to co‐teaching programs. Assessment tools may include student pre‐ and post‐tests, student satisfaction surveys, student behavior reports, and teacher satisfaction surveys.

Applying best practices and conducting recurring evaluations when implementing a co-teaching program equips administrators and teachers with the information needed to help their students, regardless of ability level, succeed in the classroom.

Learn more about how to implement effective co-teaching practices by downloading Hanover’s free report. 


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