Which Co-teaching Approach is Right for You?

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There are many different approaches that can be used when co-teaching, and in order to choose the one that works best for both co-teachers and students it is important to understand how each approach works.

Co-teaching models

Choose your co-teaching approach

Co-teaching Approaches:

One Teacher, One Support Teacher

In this approach, the subject expert is often the lead teacher, while a specialist is often the support teacher.  This approach requires plenty of planning and collaboration time outside of the classroom to fully benefit students and co-teachers.

Parallel Teaching

The classroom is divided in half and each teacher teaches the same material to each half.  While this approach can greatly benefit students, who receive closer attention with the smaller group size, it is important that each group contains a variety of students who can work well together and that teachers collaborate to insure that the material being taught is consistent between each group.

Alternative Teaching, AKA Teach-Half-Then-Switch or Big Group-Small Group

The classroom is divided into one large group and one or more smaller groups.  The smaller groups can focus on different learning material, or be used to help struggling students by differentiating or slowing down instruction.  This approach can also help to eliminate some of the stigma of students with learning disabilities always being singled out.

Teachers might also divide the class in half, yet, unlike parallel teaching, each teacher teaches something different, thereby maximizing on their professional expertise as well as making the best use of time. Co-teachers teach half the class then after 15-30 minutes they switch with the other half of the class: teach-half-then-switch teaching.

Team Teaching

When team teaching, both teachers work together to teach the entire class.  Many see this situation as the ideal; however, it requires two teachers who are compatible in personality style, commitment, and teaching philosophy, and who are also given the time and support to plan together.

Station Teaching

This approach is one of the most effective formats for addressing a wide range of abilities in the general education classroom, as students are divided into small, flexible groups that can be used to differentiate instruction and teach separate learning material.

Station teaching can include Fitzell Acceleration Centers, flexible grouping, rotating stations, or four corners.

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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By | 2017-06-02T18:46:10+00:00 January 5th, 2014|3 Comments


  1. cheryl Boden January 8, 2014 at 11:05 am - Reply

    I taught 5 th grade for six years in a successful co – teaching environment and the best model was always questioned by administration for all their co – teaching classes. We often did team teaching but varied at times. The best teaching model is the one whereby the teachers working together feel most comfortable and the students are happy and thriving socially and academically.The results in a co – teaching environment show whether the model being followed with two teachers is the right one.

    • Susan Gingras Fitzell M.Ed., CSP January 8, 2014 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Hi Cheryl. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I could not agree more. The right one is the one where students are thriving academically. That is the key. I rarely see 1 teach one support used continually to be an effective model unless there’s a lot of differentiation happening in the classroom. When I do see a certain model/approach being used solely, the one question I ask is: Are the students achieving, making gains, and thriving. If students who are not truant are failing, or if they continue to perform poorly on state tests with no gains, then the model is not working. The proof is with the students’ success.

  2. […] There are many different approaches for co-teaching, and in order to choose the one that works best it is important to understand how each approach works.  […]

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