Co-teaching enables physically, mentally and emotionally disadvantaged students to be members of a mainstream classroom and to develop relationships with mainstream students. Co-teaching is designed to ensure that all students are held to the same standards and are required to meet the same learning objectives. The presence of two educators in one classroom allows teachers to provide added support to the students who need it. Still, there can be drawbacks as well.
This lower student-teacher ratio can be an advantage for not only exceptional education students but also for struggling mainstream students. A lone teacher is more apt to spread herself too thin while trying to meet the needs of all students in a class with 30 or more. Co-teachers have increased opportunities to develop student-teacher relationships because this education model facilitates teaching practices such as individual student-teacher conferences, teacher-lead small group activities and remediation sessions based on student need, whether exceptional or not. Though no student should be openly labeled as needing remediation or being a poor performer, children generally know why another student, or group of students is singled out. This individualized attention can present one disadvantage: Mainstream students grouped with exceptional education students sometimes resent being taught side-by-side.
Co-teachers should be equally responsible for lesson planning, discipline, grading, and instruction of all students in the classroom. Teachers sometimes dislike the fact there there is less room for individual instruction and distinct classroom management styles. Effective co-teaching necessitates extensive planning to ensure that co-teachers are in full agreement on all classroom policies and procedures. Since exceptional education students often need an increased level of structure and discipline, it is especially important that classroom standard practices be identified and consistent. Students have more opportunity to be distracted or to get off-task if co-teachers are planning or negotiating as they go.
Subject Matter Expert
A recognized disadvantage of using co-teachers involves the lack of subject matter expertise offered by the exceptional educational teacher. One co-teacher is typically certified in a core subject, such as English, math, science or social studies, and the other in exceptional education. In this teaching model, students might be working with a teacher who is not a subject matter expert. Careful planning can mitigate the problem, but time constraints make it difficult for an exceptional educational teacher to consistently study new material ahead of the students.
Preferred co-teaching models can facilitate the inclusion of exceptional education students. These models include team teaching, alternative teaching, station teaching and parallel teaching. However skilled the implementation of these co-teaching models may be, students with intellectual disabilities and emotional behavior disorders often cause disruptions in a mainstream classroom. Even with lower student-teacher ratios, classroom distractions can have a negative effect on the performance of mainstream students, who may be influenced by the behavior of others. While the co-teaching might elevate the performance of exceptional education students, it could impede the performance of mainstream students.
Belinda Tucker has been a professional writer since 1983. She has published articles in "Surviving Career Transitions," Healthy by Choice," Eleanor's Eyes" and "Congestive Heart Failure." Tucker holds a Bachelor of Science in industrial management from Georgia Institute of Technology.