Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Co-Teaching in a Teacher Education Classroom: Collaboration, Compromise, and Creativity

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

Co-Teaching in a Teacher Education Classroom: Collaboration, Compromise, and Creativity

Article excerpt


The call for reform of teacher preparation programs by Arne Duncan (2009), U.S. Secretary of Education, has the potential to be the catalyst for a re-emergence of co-teaching in higher education. According to Duncan:

America's great educational challenges require that this new generation of well-prepared teachers significantly boost student learning and increase college-readiness (para. 14). . . If teaching is-and should be-one of our most revered professions, teacher preparation programs should be among a university's most important responsibilities (para. 34).

Duncan argues for the need to implement innovative preservice teacher education strategies that will result in an increase in K-12 student achievement. One such strategy that has been shown to impact K-12 student achievement is co-teaching (McDuffie, Mastropiere, & Scruggs, 2009). There are many benefits of co-teaching including opportunities to vary content presentation, individualize instruction, scaffold learning experiences, and monitor students' understanding. Co-teaching in its most effective form can promote equitable learning opportunities for all students. Preparing preservice teachers to be effective co-teachers needs to be a significant component of teacher education curricula in higher education. Although co-teaching is not a new phenomenon in higher education (Dugan & Letterman, 2008), the experiences of faculty who co-teach in teacher preparation programs have not been extensively studied (Cruz & Zaragoza, 1998; Jones & Morin, 2000; Kluth & Straut, 2003).

With this in mind, we set out to explore our own co-teaching and collaborative planning experiences in an undergraduate, second language acquisition course, Language Acquisition, Development, and Learning. To illustrate our experiences, we include in this article selected artifacts such as a course description and journal reflections. The institution and the school of education in which the course is offered are new, only five years old. Innovative, new practices are encouraged and expected of faculty. The co-taught course was supported by the administration with the idea that co-teaching could become a common practice at our college.

Co-Teaching in K-12

There is a wealth of information on co-teaching in K-12, including the importance of understanding the teaching approach of one's partner (Keefe, Moore, & Duff, 2004; Murawski, 2003), determining readiness to co-teach (Bradley, King-Sears, & Tessier-Switlick, 1997; Murawski & Dieker, 2004), clarifying roles, responsibilities, and expectations (Friend & Bursuck, 2002; Murawski & Dieker, 2004; Murray, 2004), scheduling shared planning time (Friend & Cook, 2002), and effective communication, including constructive dialogue and conflict resolution (Wood, 1998).

Cook and Friend (1995) proposed a continuum of co-teaching strategies for inclusive practices that is commonly used today across various programs. Figure 1 presents Cook and Friend's six types of co-teaching strategies and applications. Several of these strategies were used during our co-taught course such as: one teach, one observe; one teach, one assist; station teaching; and parallel teaching.

Co-teaching has become a common strategy in K-12 for addressing the increasingly diverse learning needs and academic levels of students in one classroom. One third grade classroom, for example, could potentially have students with reading levels ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade. Co-teaching between special and general educators is now a common approach to effective inclusion in K-12 schools. Public Law 94-142 (1975) and the Individuals with Disability Education Act (1997) are legislative policies that lead to a plethora of inclusive practices that are used today to educate students with diverse cognitive, processing, sensory, and/or physical disabilities in the same general education classroom. While co-teaching in elementary schools is more common than in secondary schools, there has been an increase at the secondary level, especially across disciplines (Rice, Drame, Owen, & Frattura, 2007). …

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