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Co-teaching is a teaching process in which two or more certified and competent professionals agree to perform an instructional role for one group of students, primarily in one classroom or workplace, for specific objectives or contents, with joint accountability, mutual ownership, and pooled resources. Co-teaching allows for more teacher focus and alternate tasks in small-group events, which benefits students across all academic levels and across all subjects. Additionally, co-teaching allows for more individualized and intense instruction in the general education environment, thereby increasing the students' access to the curriculum of general education while reducing the stigma among the students with special needs (Abdulaziz, 2016). Co-teaching offers the students an opportunity to improve their understanding as well as respect for each other. It also gives the students with special needs a greater opportunity for instruction continuity while the teachers benefit from the teaching practice exchange as well as professional support as they work in collaboration (Pratt, 2014). This paper seeks to explore the co-teaching practice with the focus on describing some of the co-teaching models as well as addressing their unique strategies, advantages, and disadvantages.
There exist several models of co-teaching. However, this paper seeks to describe three co-teaching models which include One Teach, One Observe; one Teach, one assist; and station teaching.
One Teach, One Observe Model
In ‘One Teach, One Observe' co-teaching model, one teacher leads the entire group as the other teacher observes and collects information. The model allows for more detailed observation of students regarding their engagement in the learning process (Fahim & Eslamdoost, 2014). Additionally, with ‘one teach, one observe’ approach, the co-teachers can make decisions in advance regarding the various specific observational data to collect during instruction as well as agree on a data collection system (Fahim & Eslamdoost, 2014).
The One Teach, One Observe co-teaching model, is applicable when the teachers need to observe the approach of the students regarding specific lessons, tasks, or projects. It is also applicable when the teachers need to take observational notes for the future student's meeting relating to Individualized Education Program (Pratt, 2014). Teachers also employ the use of One Teach, One Observe co-teaching model when gathering information regarding students' Functional Behavior Assessment or Behavior Intervention Plan. The teachers can also use the approach in collecting information relating to the students' participation and interaction (Pratt, 2014).
One of the advantages of One Teach, One Observe co-teaching model is that it allows one teacher to make a back step from everyday teaching duty so as to collect essential information regarding what happens in the classroom from a different perspective, without necessarily stepping in and supporting. Additionally, it allows the teachers to carefully observe the students' behavior in class, thereby increasing the students' concentration and understanding (Fahim & Eslamdoost, 2014).
However, One Teach, One Observe co-teaching model also has some disadvantages. One of such disadvantages is that the observing teacher plays a passive role and may feel less involved in the teaching process. Additionally, the model gives the leading teacher more power in the classroom than the observing teacher, a situation which can create an unnecessary power imbalance in the classroom. Effective use of One Teach, One Observe co-teaching model requires the model to get used specifically and sparingly (Fahim & Eslamdoost, 2014).
One Teach, One Assist Model
In One Teach, One Assist co-teaching Model, one teacher leads the entire group as the other teacher provides support to individual students within the entire group. In other words, one teacher keeps primary teaching responsibility while the assisting teacher goes around the classroom providing unobtrusive assistances to individual students. Since the One Teach, One Assist Model gives more powers to one teacher than the other in the classroom; the approach should get used sparingly and only when there is an absolute need for its use. It should therefore not be used as the primary co-teaching model (Baeten & Simons, 2014). However, One Teach, One Assist Model is of great importance if used when only one of the teachers feels contented or comfortable with the curriculum. The approach would allow such a teacher to lead the class as the other teacher provides assistance. The approach is also beneficial in cases where various students need individualized attention, which would require one-on-one support from the assisting teacher throughout the lesson (Baeten & Simons, 2014).
One Teach, One Assist co-teaching Model, may also be used in other different circumstances such as when introducing a new unit as well as when demonstrating a strategy or method with which only one of the teachers is familiar. Besides, it is a useful approach at the initial stages of co-teaching. Another advantage One Teach, One Assist Model is that it is a simple model that requires limited teacher planning and allows teachers to check in with various students to improve their understanding of the concepts taught in the classroom (Addulaziz, 2016).
The main disadvantage of One Teach, One Assist Model, is that it offers the leading teacher more powers than the assisting teacher in the classroom. Additionally, the practice of providing assistance to individual students one at a time can sometimes be ineffective. It is advisable to switch the role of the lead teacher as frequently as possible and ensure that the assisting teacher also gets the opportunity to lead the class as a way of maintaining equal leadership within the classroom (Abdulaziz, 2016).
Station Teaching Model
In Station Teaching co-teaching model, the teachers split the students into small groups within or around the classroom. Each teacher gives instructions regarding the lesson contents to one group and repeats the process to other groups. In some cases, some of the stations may get handled by a teacher while some may undergo the learning process independently. Additionally, some stations may employ the use of technology (Gurgur & Uzuner, 2011). The use of Station Teaching Model is highly appropriate when there is a need for a smaller student-to-teacher ratio. The approach gives each group of students an opportunity to rotate through each station. However, each group does not necessarily need to do the same activity or lesson when in the same station (Gurgur & Uzuner, 2011). Station teaching forms an excellent approach to use when differentiating a lesson since it allows the teachers to present the same material to various learners or groups. Additionally, the Station Teaching Model might be used for differentiating by math strategy preference, differentiating by learning preference, as well as differentiating by reading level while maintaining the content (Gurgur & Uzuner, 2011).
One of the advantages of Station Teaching Model is that it embraces teacher parity since all the students receive instructions from both the teachers thereby allowing the teachers to reinforce their equality in the classroom (Pratt, 2014). Besides, every group can receive teacher instructions on their own grade level without the other groups detecting the differentiated instructional level. The transitioning from one station to another also allows the students with difficulties in paying attention to remain active and shift their concentration to new learning activities without losing focus. It also allows for flexibility in grouping the students and enhances the students’ understanding of the content (Pratt, 2014).
Despite such benefits, Station Teaching Model also has various disadvantages and one of such disadvantages is that the teachers can find it exhausting when repeating the same lesson. Some students may also find it difficult to remember their groups or their next station due to the several rotations involved (Gurgur & Uzuner, 2011). Additionally, some students can find it frustrating to rotate when they are not fully through with the assigned activity or task. Besides, both the teachers and the students have to manage the noise levels in every station and some students working at independent stations may find it difficult to maintain focus (Gurgur & Uzuner, 2011).
Regardless of the approach or model used, co-teaching provides an effective means of improving both the students’ concentration and understanding regarding the concepts taught in the classroom. Additionally, co-teaching is essential in creating a close relationship between the teachers and the students as well as among the students themselves. Co-teaching also gives the teachers an opportunity to closely monitor the behavior and ability of the students thereby allowing them to offer necessary support so as to improve the students' performances. Co-teaching is, therefore, an essential tool in ensuring the improvement of the students' high classroom participation and performance.
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Fahim, M. & Eslamdoost, S. (2014). Critical Thinking: Frameworks and Models for Teaching. English Language Teaching, 7(7). http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/elt.v7n7p141
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