Which co-teaching models are most effective at the elementary and secondary levels and why?

  • How can an Administrator Support Teachers? On the Same Page?
What co-teaching models do we use?

Effective Co-teaching Models

Which Co-teaching Model Should We Use?

Which co-teaching model you should use depends on the goal of the lesson, as well as a variety of other factors. There is no one most effective model. For example; let’s look at parallel teaching. This approach allows teachers to split the class in half. Group size is smaller, allowing greater supervision by the teacher. While teachers are teaching the same information with this approach, working with a smaller group allows them to identify students who may be having difficulty understanding. In a larger class setting, identifying these students is much more difficult.

Dealing with Large Class Sizes When Co-teaching

There are teachers out there – I hope you are not in this situation – who are, literally, teaching classes of 45 students. I’ve sat in these classrooms as an empathetic coach wracking my brain for solutions to the teacher’s daily challenge. Parallel teaching can make the group smaller. Even if you’re teaching 20 students, using parallel teaching to make the group smaller can be effective in reaching more students.

Alternative Teaching aka Big Group Small Group

Alternative teaching (Big group/Small group) is an option in which you divide the class into two groups – one advanced and one at class level, or one large and one small – and each group, at any given time, might be taught by each teacher. Then, the students switch teachers. However, the groups need to vary. If you always have the students with special needs in the same small group, everybody will know, “Oh, those are the SPED students.” That stigma kills their spirit.

Alternative Teaching aka Teach-Half-Then-Switch

A variation of alternative teaching (teach-half-then-switch teaching) is to divide the class in half. With this model, co-teachers can capitalize on their teaching strengths and preferences. For example; one teacher may prefer to teach poetry while the other teacher feels very competent teaching grammar. Each teacher can teach half the group skills based on their teaching strengths while students benefit from having multiple teaching styles in the classroom.

Station Teaching

There are significant advantages to station teaching, flexible grouping, a type of center teaching that I’ve called Fitzell Acceleration CentersTM, as well as team teaching – where you can’t tell who distinguish between the general education and special education teacher.

One Teach One Support

And, of course, one teach while one supports – the most common attempt at co-teaching – can be a successful co-teaching approach when done well. I’ve seen the greatest success with co-teachers who vary these approaches in the classroom while Chunking Lesson Plans®.

How to Choose the Best Co-teaching Model for Your classroom

No one approach works every time, all class period, in all classes. Co-teaching requires teachers to know their students and to know *each other*. Knowing your co-teacher, understanding his or her personality, and maximizing individual teacher strengths yields the greatest results. I speak from not only being a co-teacher myself starting in 1993, but from the experience of coaching co-teachers in a multitude of demographics and environments for the past 13 years.


Do you co-teach? If so, what co-teaching models to you prefer? Why? Do you find that the models need to change based on what you are teaching? What positive advice can you give other co-teachers?


Co-teaching and Collaboration in the ClassroomFor more information on co-teaching and co-teaching models, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Co-teaching and Collaboration in the Classroom. Available in both print and electronic versions!

We also offer a Professional Development Kit for Co-teachers, with a Graduate Credit Option!

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Featured seminarCo-teaching and Collaboration


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By | 2017-06-02T18:56:37+00:00 March 14th, 2013|0 Comments

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