Co-Teaching: General Guidelines and Procedures

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Co-teaching: Benefits, Problems, Solutions

“When one teaches, two learn”

“I can’t say it works everywhere but it works for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Is it easy? NOPE! It took a lot of hard work, relationship building and there were snags along the way but so far it is working!”

“I have a good friend and we share all the time. She rocks at assessment I rock at presentation. We meld our lessons and constantly trade information and lesson plans. What comes out in the end is great lessons and great assessment.”

2 native English speaking teachers  (2006)

This paper  will explore the collaboration and relationship between Native  English Speaking  teachers (NESTs) and Korean English teachers (NNESTs). It isn’t always easy but with a little knowledge, most teachers can adapt and succeed as co-teachers. Two heads are definitely better than one!

1.   Why co-teach?

There are significant benefits to co-teaching which have been researched and validated. The benefits include those for both teachers and students.

Co-Teaching Benefits

ü      better student to teacher ratio and more individual attention (especially helpful to lower level students.).

ü      a wider use of instructional techniques, to better student learning

ü      more and better critical, planning and reflective practices by teachers

ü      social skills improvement / better classroom management.

ü      a more “community” oriented classroom

ü      increased score results.

Benefits for Teachers

ü      Teacher training in-house. The Korean English Teacher betters their own language skills while teaching.

ü      Both teachers develop new instructional techniques while teaching and sharing.

ü      New teachers can be given guidance and mentoring.

ü      Effective modeling for students.

ü      NESTs > less cultural adaptation.

2.        The 4 “Knows” of Successful of Co-Teaching:

  • Know  Yourself - Teachers that know their own teaching style, their own beliefs and teaching philosophy are more successful at co-teaching.
  • Know your co-teacher – Teachers who spend time to get to know each other BOTH socially and professionally, have more success at co-teaching.

  • Know your students – Co-teachers should discuss students regularly and this will allow a common point of reference on which to build a successful relationship.

  • Know your “stuff”- Teachers who are motivated to grow professionally and who make a concerted effort to learn on the job are more likely to be successful at co-teaching.

Keefe, Moore, Duff, (2004)

3. The  Personal Qualities of a Successful Co-Teacher

  • Professional Respect / Rapport:  Sharing and helping each other.
  • Adaptability:  Able to change, accept criticism and feedback
  • Belief in Inclusion:  student centered philosophy, every student counts.
  • Humor:  don’t sweat the small stuff! It’s cross cultural!

Sturman, (1992)

4. What things should co-teachers do

The first thing co-teachers need to do (above and beyond getting to know each other) is to discuss their roles and responsibilities in their classroom. Each co-teacher should fill out the S.H.A.R.E. co-teaching questionnaire individually (see the appendix) and then allow their co-teacher to read their thoughts. Finally, discuss together and go through each item individually.

The 3 Keys to Co-teaching:   Planning / Disposition /  Evaluation

1 ) Co-teachers need to plan regularly together (Sileo, 2003). Planning is crucial to any successful co-teaching. You should set up a weekly planning session or if that isn’t possible, plan and communicate through email or messenger.

2) A teacher’s “personality” should be one that is flexible and good social skills are a primary feature of successful co-teaching questionnaire.  Be prepared to “wear several hats” and to adapt your personality for each co-teacher.

3) Teachers with similar teaching philosophies and beliefs are also highly successful (see the Stages of Co-teaching diagram). This also goes for beliefs regarding evaluation (how, how often, type).

3 Warning Signs to look out for…..

If you are co-teaching and the following situations seem familiar, you should be taking steps to change things. This might include talking to your co-teacher(s) and school administration or taking your concerns to your district supervisor.

1. The foreign expert.

Foreign teachers are viewed as “all knowing”. This creates an imbalance in the classroom and eventually resentment. There must be a shared power in the classroom. There is no expert or rather, a Native expert and a Foreign expert. Each have their particular skills and experience and relevance.

2. The “walking tape recorder”.

In this case, the Korean teacher feels that the foreign teacher lacks instructional skills  and uses the NEST as a kind of puppet, only good for pronunciation and laughter, cultural communication.

3. The “token foreigner”.

Here, the NEST is only there to give the school pride as being progressive. They aren’t used as teachers. They are just a symbol of being “international” and progressive.                                                                  (P. Struman, 1992)

A Teacher’s Model for Co-Teaching


The members of successful co-teaching teams share several common beliefs that constitute a philosophy or a system of principles that guide their practice.


Individual teachers voluntarily bring certain characteristics, knowledge, and skills to the co-teaching situation.

A.         Co-teachers have personal characteristics that enable them to work effectively with another adult.

B.         Co-teachers have sets of common knowledge and skills.

C.        Co-teachers have discipline-specific knowledge and skills.

D.        Co-teaching is voluntary (NOTE:  This teacher perception is not

recommended  practice for long-term program success).


Co-teachers have unique professional relationships.

A.         The professional relationship is built on parity, communication, respect,

and trust.

B.         Co-teachers make a commitment to building and maintaining their professional relationship.


The interactions in a co-taught classroom are unique to this teaching arrangement.

A.         Co-teachers clearly define classroom roles and responsibilities.

B.         Co-teachers’ instructional interactions reflect their professional relationship.

C.        Co-teachers successfully maintain the instructional flow of the whole class by providing support to individual students.

D.        The curriculum in co-taught classes explicitly addresses academic, developmental, compensatory, and life skills and reflects the needs of students in the class.

E.         Co-teachers monitor their efforts.


External support facilitates successful co-teaching.

A.         Administrators support co-teaching

B.         Appropriate professional development activities enhance co-teaching.

Co-teaching Types and Instances

1.         One Teach, One Observe. One of the advantages in co-teaching is that more detailed observation of students engaged in the learning process can occur.  With this approach, for example, co-teachers can decide in advance what types of specific observational information to gather during instruction and can agree on a system for gathering the data.  Afterward, the teachers should analyze the information together.


  • In new co-teaching situations
  • When questions arise about students
  • To check student progress
  • To compare target students to others in class


  • Low

2.         Station Teaching. In this co-teaching approach, teachers divide content and students.  Each teacher then teaches the content to one group and subsequently repeats the instruction for the other group.  If appropriate, a third “station” could give students an opportunity to work independently.

  • When content is complex but not hierarchical
  • In lessons in which part of planned instruction is review
  • When several topics comprise instruction


  • Medium

3.         Parallel Teaching. On occasion, students’ learning would be greatly facilitated if they just had more supervision by the teacher or more opportunity to respond.  In parallel teaching, the teachers are both teaching the same information, but they divide the class group and do so simultaneously.


  • When a lower adult-student ratio is needed to improve instructional efficiency
  • To foster student participation in discussions
  • For activities such as drill and practice, re-teaching,  and test review


  • Medium

4.         Alternative Teaching: In most class groups, occasions arise in which several students need specialized attention.  In alternative teaching, one teacher takes responsibility for the large group while the other works with a smaller group.


  • In situations where students’ mastery of concepts taught or about to be taught varies tremendously
  • When extremely high levels of mastery are expected for all students
  • When enrichment is desired
  • When some students are working in a parallel curriculum


  • High

5.         Teaming: In team teaching, both teachers are delivering the same instruction at the same time.  Some teachers refer to this as having “one brain in two bodies.”  Others call it “tag team teaching.”  Most co-teachers consider this approach the most complex but satisfying way to co-teach, but it is the approach that is most dependent on teachers’ styles.

  • When two heads are better than one or experience is comparable or complementary
  • The teachers have a high sense of comfort and compatibility
  • During a lesson in which instructional conversation is appropriate
  • When a goal of instruction is to  demonstrate some type of interaction to students


  • High

6.         One Teach, One Assist. In a second approach to co-teaching, one person would keep primary responsibility for teaching while the other professional circulated through the room providing unobtrusive assistance to  students as needed.


  • When the lesson lends itself to delivery by one teacher
  • When one teacher has particular expertise for the lesson
  • In new co-teaching situations–to get to know each other
  • In lessons stressing a process in which student work needs close monitoring


  • Low


Adams, L., Cessna, K., & Friend, M.  (1993).  Effectiveness indicators

of collaboration in special education/general education co-teaching:  Final report.

Denver:  Colorado Department of Education.

Bauwens, J. & Hourcade, J. J. (1991). Making co-teaching a mainstreaming strategy. Preventing School Failure, 35, (4), 19-24.

Cook, L., & Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practices. Focus on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 1-16.

Dieker, Lisa, (2003) An Introduction to Cooperative Teaching, University of Central Florida.

Friend, M., Reising, M., & Cook, L. (1993). Co-teaching: An overview of the past, a glimpse at the present, and considerations for the future. Preventing School Failure, 37(4), 6-10.

Gately, S., Gately, F., (2001), Understanding Co-teaching Components, Journal of Teaching Exceptional Children, 2 (3) 41-47

Keefe, Moore, Duff (2004), The 4 “Knows” of Collaborative Teaching, Journal of Teaching Exceptional Children, 4(3), 36-41

Sileo, J. M. (2003). Co-teaching: Rationale for best practices. Journal of Asia-Pacific Special Education, 3(1), 17-26.

Sturman, P., (1992), Team Teaching: A case study from Japan, Collaborative Language Learning and Teaching, Cambridge University Press, Nunan, D., 141-161

Walther-Thomas, C. , (1997) Co-Teaching Experiences: The Benefits and Problems That Teachers and Principals Report Over Time, Journal of Learning Disabilities

(Please see my Research folder at for these articles and many, many more on co-teaching. You might also look at my co-teaching recommendations for the ETIS program. Further, the Professional Development page on EFL Classroom 2.0 offers further material. Please check the forums there for many discussions on co-teaching). You might also find useful – . Please find the co-teaching discussion there.


Co-teaching survey: Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education

Native Speaking English Teachers


1. I can easily read the nonverbal cues

of my co-teaching partner.                      RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

2. I feel comfortable moving freely about

the space in the co-taught classroom.        RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

3. I understand the curriculum standards with

respect to the content area in the classroom.


4. Both teachers in the classroom agree on

the goals of the classroom                        RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

5. Planning can be spontaneous, with changes

occurring during the instructional lesson


6. I often present lessons in the co-taught

class                                                       RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

7. Classroom rules and routines have been

jointly developed.                                    RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

8. Many measures are used for grading

students.                                               RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

9. Humor is often used in the classroom.       RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS
10. All materials are shared in the classroom.    RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS
11. I am familiar with the methods and materials needed to teach the curriculum.


12. Modifications of goals for different level

students are incorporated into this class.    RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

13. Planning for classes is the shared

responsibility of both teachers.                 RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

14. The “chalk” passes freely between the

two teachers.                                         RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

15. A variety of classroom management techniques

is used to enhance  learning                    RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

16. Communication is open and honest.        RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS
17. There is fluid (changing) positioning of

teachers in the classroom                     RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

18. I feel confident in my knowledge of

the curriculum content                        RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

19. The administration encourages and

supports both teachers and co-teaching. RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

20. Both teachers share curriculum resources;

audio-video, books, tests, blackline masters


21. Students accept both teachers as equal

partners in the learning process            RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

22. Time is allotted (or found) for

common planning.                                RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

23. Behavior management is the shared

responsibility of both teachers.             RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

24 I feel happy about my relationship

with my co-teacher                             RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

25. We hold meetings and give honest

feedback about lessons                        RARELY  SOMETIMES  USUALLY  ALWAYS

SCORING:  RARELY = 1     SOMETIMES = 2        USUALLY = 3        ALWAYS= 4

< 50  =  a poor co-teaching relationship

51 – 75 = a satisfactory (but in need of improvement) co-teaching relationship

76 – 100 =  a healthy co-teaching relationship

Discuss afterwards with your co-teaching partner.  What differences did you see?

How can you improve those parts of your relationship?

State your future co-teaching goal

** In the future I plan on


to achieve a better co-teaching relationship.


Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

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8 Responses

  1. Lisa Word says:

    Hello. I am currently working on my doctorate, and my dissertation is on co-teaching. I would like permission to use your co-teaching survey. If permission is granted, I would also need information about the survey’s validity, reliability, and what population has taken the survey.
    Thank you in advance for your consideration.
    Enjoyed reading your website.

    Lisa Word

  2. I would definitely prefer the 6th approach that one teach and one assist. This will split the responsibilities of both and together they can concentrate more on there work. I must appreciate the writer for writing this post.

  3. Khanh says:

    I am also doing my research on team teaching like Lisa. I would be happy if we could discuss something about this research topic together. Apart from doing survey, do you use any other data collection tools? For me, I am conducting interviews and classroom observation.
    I very much enjoy reading your article.

  4. I have just had a cool co-teaching experience online with a facebook ELT colleague. I must show you this link to the pre-class blogpost.

    I will soon post about the experience on facebook and my website when It’s written up.

    This is a great article – although I spontaneously collaborated with Fluency MC in response to student requests; we had built up professional rapport via fb chat & I believe that the ingredients you mention above were just there….

    we are going to continue co-hosting ELT events online at

    Here’s my blogpost

  5. Tefl Jobs says:

    I used to co-teach in Japan on the JET programme with mixed results. Co-operation is always key, and when I worked together and planned in advance with the Japanese teacher it made for a much better lesson.


  6. Olga Swartz says:

    In briefly reviewing the information, experiences of some co-teachers, I have yet to read how they accommodate their other duties into their do-teaching schedules. When do they find time to evaluate, observe, collaborate with other resource teachers, e-mail, phone parents, etc., etc. THAT is what I would like to know.

  7. Olga Swartz says:

    Oh Yes, and what time is available for writing their IEP’s?

    (I am restricted to a rigid schedule)

  8. ddeubel says:

    Yep, that’s the reality that is often unrecognized and unplanned for. Co-teaching, even more so than regular classroom teaching, needs more admin time set aside for the teachers involved. Unfortunately, we focus on “filling a place” and not best practices.

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