Who Can be a Co-teacher?

In most situations, co-teachers are two licensed teachers who agree to work collaboratively within a shared space to achieve instructional effectiveness for their students. Equal status between the two collaborators is an important issue defining co-teaching so that each partner is recognized for bringing important training and skills to the interaction. 

The greatest shift in perception and recognition of co-teaching occurs when a student teacher (ST) is working as a co-teacher with a cooperating teacher (CT). Even in this instance, while one of the co-teaching partners is not yet a licensed professional, the philosophy, strategies, and implementation of co-teaching are much the same as in any co-teaching arrangement. 

The simple answer to "who can be a co-teacher?" is that co-teachers are any in-service or pre-service teacher who is willing to share instructional responsibilities and to collaborate within a shared space to maximize student learning.

What is Different When Co-teaching with a Student Teacher?

student teacherAs a result of NCLB, IDEA (2004), and RTI, co-teaching is one of the fastest growing inclusive teaching practices and is beginning to be incorporated into teacher education programs. But despite the increase in co-teaching, it is often poorly implemented in schools and not well understood by teacher educators working to infuse this approach into student teaching placements. For instance, we often see classrooms with one teacher playing a very diminished role while the other teacher is conducting the lesson. A situation such as that, played out over time, can lead to issues of authority and "ownership" often confusing students in the classroom and making pre-service teachers concerned about instructing in a co-teaching environment. To prevent this, lessons using a co-teaching delivery system must be carefully planned and executed with both teachers defining and establishing their supporting responsibilities for the students. When applied to working with a student teacher, co-teaching is an approach to developing a shared professional space that allows the pre-service teacher to practice teaching skills throughout the placement.

There are 4 essential differences that must be acknowledged when co-teaching with a student teacher:

  1. The CT is still the one who is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the classroom.
  2. The CT holds the permanent position while the student teacher is on a temporary assignment.
  3. The ST will still be evaluated as a pre-service teacher in order to gain formal recognition as a professional educator through licensure.
  4. The ST must still be given some time and space to try new things and to exert leadership within the (co-teaching) student teaching experience.

As all student teaching placements are somewhat individualized, be sure to consider the advantages and challenges of co-teaching with a student teacher before finalizing a clinical placement.