Resolve difficult situations -
strategies for co-teaching

The relevance of collaborative skills and planning cannot be underestimated for successful co-teaching, but even in the best situation, difficulties will arise that need the attention of both co-teachers. These tips will help you work through some common rough spots in co-teaching.

Tips for:

  1. Opening a co-teaching conversation
  2. Resolving differences
  1. Differentiating roles: Equalizing responsibilities
  2. What to do when co-teaching with a student teacher doesn’t work

a. Opening a co-teaching conversation

  • Set aside a specific time when there will be sufficient time and no interruptions.
  • Ask for a meeting by stating a positive outcome you expect from the discussion.  For example, rather than say, “We need to talk about your lack of positive feedback to the students”, say “We need to talk about how we can both use the same reinforcement system to support our students’ learning.

b. Resolving differences

  • Start conversations with a positive component and end on a positive note.
  • Reflect back to your co-teacher what you think you have both agreed to in the conversation:
  • When meeting to work out differences, develop a plan and share notes so you both have a copy of what was developed.

c. Differentiating roles: Equalizing responsibilities

  • Keep in mind that cooperating teachers and student teachers working in a co-teaching format still have different roles related to their status.  The cooperating teacher holds ultimate responsibility for student achievement and the evaluation of the student teacher.  The student teacher must demonstrate that he has met university and state standards for professional performance. The different roles can be achieved while working toward equal responsibility for organizing and implementing instruction when co-teaching.
  • Make sure that both co-teachers have a relevant role to play during each instructional period.  Using the “one teach-one support” option too often conveys the message that only one partner is the “real” teacher.
  • Consider the tasks that must be completed and divide them so that they balance the instructional responsibilities. Rather than assuming that one partner can’t do a task, discuss it and find ways to support each other.

d. What to do when co-teaching with a student teacher doesn’t work

  • While we are advocating the benefits of co-teaching with a student teacher, it is important to recognize when there are problems with this format. Bring issues up early so they can be resolved rather than waiting until the problem is too large.
  • Try to separate out whether the problem results from the co-teaching format, or if there are deficiencies that need addressing in the skills of the student teacher. 
  • Document problems being as specific as you can about what is occurring and what the consequences are.
  • Speak directly with the student teacher offering concrete examples and suggestions for improvement.
  • Notify the university supervisor and relevant faculty.  Everyone should be working together to find a resolution. 
  • Make sure that all supports that can be given to the student teacher are properly implemented.  The reality is that teachers in the future will increasingly work in collaborative settings so pre-service teachers need to have this experience before entering professional employment.
  • The classroom students’ achievement is the first concern for everyone. The intent of implementing the co-teaching model is to increase instructor impact.  If this is not the case, consider other models.