Across the nation, many districts have taken the initiative to transform their teaching methods. One of these new methods is co-teaching, wherein a general educator and a special educator who teach the same general curriculum put into action Individual Education Programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities. Before this implementation, students with disabilities were simply included in general education classes, but now with this new method, they will receive genuine opportunities to access and contribute to the curriculum. To provide these opportunities teachers will need to need to partner with another educator to plan, instruct and assess together.
Co-teaching will require your teachers to adapt their current teaching methods. Teachers will need learn to share the front of the room, teach in tandem, and carefully differentiate diverse learners. Make sure there is a clear definition of co-teaching understood across all levels including administrators, faculty, staff, parents and students. Provide examples of what co-teaching will look like and what will be involved so all parties are clear.
To maximize your resources, enlist the help of all your in-school expertise. If you need an outside opinion, then you should approach experts outside of your school and district. Once you have assessed the skills of your teachers, you should provide specialized professional development where you find necessary. Before you begin implementing co-teaching, ensure all of your teachers are familiar with the most common co-teaching methods including: one teach-one observe, one teach-one assist, teaming station teaching, alternative teaching and parallel teaching.
When planning a co-teaching curriculum, it is important you keep in mind the criteria necessary for fostering a genuine co-teaching environment. When creating a master schedule, start with the special education students. This will emphasize your effort in including them. Establish partnerships between a single general educator and a special educator. Co-teaching involves co-planning, co-instructing and co-assessing. Seeing more than one educator a day can make it difficult for a general educator to be co-plan with them. The last thing you want to do is burn out your educators. Make time for planning, you can do this by scheduling the same planning periods for your general educators and special educators.
Once you start partnering your general educators and special educators, gather their input to make beneficial pairings. Survey your teachers about their preferred teaching methods, skill sets, personal attributes and relationship dynamics. You can ask your teachers to volunteer and attempt to partner up on their own. Once you have volunteer partnerships, you can set-up a small pilot program to assess the co-teaching process. Set up fun events for teachers to interact with each other, like a small pizza party. This will help your teachers form their relationships naturally.
After partnerships have formed and co-teaching has begun, you will need to supervise and evaluate your teachers. Understand that many teachers are new to co-teaching and will need guidance. When you begin assessing co-teaching partners, be sure you understand the co-teaching principles and strategies, as well as the best practices of teaching. Observe your teachers together, as a partnership, instead of individually. Co-teaching is collaborative, and the evaluation process should reflect this. Setting up a co-teaching system isn’t a set task, it will require development over time. To ensure you do the best for your students and your teachers, gather input from parents, teachers, and students, to make sure no one is left out.
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