50 Ways to Keep Your Co-Teacher - California State ... Ways to Keep Your Co-Teacher Strategies for Before,…

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  • General education teacher (overheard inthe hallway): Oh yeah, I used to have aspecial educator working with me in theclassroom . . . but I do not know whathappened to her!

    We know! Although co-teaching may behere to stay, co-teachers themselves donot always stick around. As researchers,teacher educators, and co-teachers our-selves, we are keenly aware of theissues related to obtainingand moreimportant, keepinggood co-teachingteams. In fact, educators frequentlyrelate co-teaching to a marriage; unfor-tunately, research clearly indicates thatmany co-teaching marriages result instruggle, separation, or even divorce.This article uses humor and mnemonicsto highlight the keys to effective co-teaching that research and literaturehave identified. Our purpose is to clari-fy the critical factors necessary fordeveloping and maintaining a success-ful co-teaching team.

    Clarifying Co-TeachingCo-teaching is a service delivery optiondesigned to address the needs of stu-dents in an inclusive classroom by hav-ing a general education teacher and aspecial service provider (e.g., specialeducation teacher, speech/languagepathologist, Title I teacher) teach

    together in the same classroom to meetthe needs of individual students. Fortrue co-teaching to occur, both profes-sionals must co-plan, co-instruct, andco-assess a diverse group of students inthe same general education classroom(Murawski, 2005, p.10). With the ongo-ing move toward inclusive education(wherein educators teach students withspecial needs in the general educationclassroom), co-teaching is a servicedelivery option that educators increas-ingly use to meet the needs of bothteachers and students (Scruggs,Mastropieri, & McDuffie, 2007).Although not all educators will experi-ence co-teaching, more teachers thanever before are looking for tools to helpmake them more successful (see box,What Does the Literature Say AboutCo-Teaching?).

    To rectify the problems associatedwith co-teaching, co-teachers shouldconsider the following suggestions forbefore, during, and after co-teaching.Because many of these tips overlap (forexample, issues related to planningoccur before, during, and after co-teach-ing is already in place), those interestedin co-teaching should read the entirearticle rather than using it as a step-by-step checklist. Also, the authors havebased all tips on their years of experi-ence, experiences of other co-teachers,

    and research conducted on co-teaching.Thus, some of the hints are evidence-based practices already supported in theresearch, whereas others are practicessuggested by experienced co-teachers.Following each tip is a question to askyourself, your co-teacher, or other stake-holders. We hope that the catchy phras-es will help ensure that you keep righton co-teaching and finding success forboth teachers and students.

    Before Co-Teaching

    1. Hop on the bus, Gus. Volunteer toco-teach before anyone tells you todo so. Inclusive education is notgoing away. Schools increasinglyrequire that teachers collaborate,many by some form of co-teaching,because of the changes in theIndividuals With Disabilities Educa-tion Improvement Act (IDEA) of2004 and changes related to thehighly qualified component of NoChild Left Behind (2002). Get aheadof the curve by volunteering andchoosing a compatible partnerbefore someone tells you that youmust co-teach.

    Ask yourself: Have I stepped up tothe plate and volunteered yet?

    2. Talk to the boss, Ross. Admin-istrators can help provide materials,

















    8. C




    8 C


    50 Ways to Keep Your Co-Teacher

    Strategies for Before, During,and After Co-Teaching

    Wendy W. Murawski

    Lisa Dieker

    Enhanc ing Student Success

  • resources, improved schedules, andmore. Furnish them with articlesthat clarify co-teaching, and discusswith them your particular needs.Some resources that you may findhelpful in sharing with administra-tors include Boscardin (2005),Murawski and Lochner (2007), Reaet al. (2002), Rea (2005), Walther-Thomas (1997), and Wilson (2005).

    Ask each other: Have you consid-ered what you need to create orimprove your co-teaching situationand how those needs will affect stu-dent outcomes? How will you com-municate those needs to youradministrator?

    3. Get trained, Layne. Co-teachers fre-quently cite the need for training incollaboration, co-teaching, and dif-ferentiation strategies (e.g., Mastro-pieri et al., 2005). Seizing opportu-nities for staff development in-serv-ice training and workshops is help-ful, as is reading books and articlesthat focus on the collaborative rela-tionship in inclusive classrooms.Ask whether you and your co-teacher can attend a workshop onco-teaching or inclusion together.(Speakers bureaus like the Bureauof Education and Research [www.ber.org] can provide high-qualitystaff development.)

    Ask your administrator: How canyou help ensure that we are welltrained in co-teaching before webegin?

    4. Make a new plan, Stan. Recognizethe importance of trying things in anew way. Beninghof (2003) statesthat one of the most common mis-takes of co-teaching is that neithereducator is willing to loosen thecorset and be more flexible in thisnew relationship. Both teachersneed to approach this new relation-ship with willingness to let go ofcontrol a bit and try new things.

    Ask each other: Are you game to trysomething new? What sacredcows are you willing to sacrifice?

    5. Keep the numbers low, Joe. Puttingtwo full classes together is not theanswer. One of the benefits of co-

    teaching is the lower student-teacher ratio (Friend & Cook, 2003).A good rule of thumb is to keep tothe natural proportions of individu-als with disabilities in societyabout 20%. If you need to clustermore, up to 30% of the studentsmight have a disability, but try toavoid having a class in which all30% represent the same type of dis-ability (e.g., a class in which 10%have behavioral disabilities and20% have learning disabilities,rather than a class in which 30%have learning disabilities). Too greata number of students with learningor behavioral challenges jeopardizethe benefits that you are hoping tosee. Make sure that your inclusiveclass does not become a place for allstruggling studentsthat is, inessence a special education classwith only a few general educationstudents.

    Ask each other: How many studentsin our co-taught class have identi-fied disabilities? How many are atrisk, are English language learners,are gifted, or are otherwise excep-tional?

    6. Prepare the class, Cass. Just as youprepare to work together as a team,make sure that you have preparedstudents to start working in a moreinclusive setting. Co-teaching isnot the only effective approach, andit is not necessarily the bestapproach for all kids (L. Cook, ascited in Spencer, 2005, p. 297). Con-sider which students need to be in a

    co-taught class, and then considerhow you will adequately preparethem for this transition.

    Ask the parents: Is your child pre-pared to be in a co-taught generaleducation class? What services andadaptations need to be in place toensure his or her success?

    7. Inform the parents, Clarence. Send aletter home to all parents to informthem that two teachers will be inthe classroom. It is not necessary tostate that one of you is a specialeducator and one is a general edu-cator. Simply state that two creden-tialed teachers will equally share inplanning, instructing, and assessingthe whole class (Murawski, 2005).

    Ask each other: Who will take thelead in parental contact, or will wedivide this task as a team?

    8. Share the news, Suz. Be certain thatothers in the school are aware thatyou are co-teaching. This prepara-tion helps ensure that administra-tors do not call either teacher awayon a regular basis for an emergencymeeting, to help with a behaviorproblem, or to talk to a parent.Parity is critical, as is the consistentpresence of both teachers in theclass. Co-teachers often report thatthey are unable to depend on eachother for planning and instructionbecause one is often out of the classfor a variety of reasons (e.g., for IEPmeetings, for behavioral issues, orto substitute in another class).

    Ask yourselves: Do the students seeyou both as the teacher, or do they


    What Does the Literature Say About Co-Teaching?Less than 10 years ago, little research on co-teaching existed (Murawski & Swanson,2001); however, recent studies have found that it can be a very effective method formeeting students needs (e.g., Magiera, Smith, Zigmond, & Gebauer, 2005;Murawski, 2006; Rea, McLaughlin, & Walther-Thomas, 2002; Scruggs, Mastropieri,& McDuffie, 2007). However, as with any paradigm shift, change is difficult and bar-riers are common. Teachers have reported a variety of frustrations with co-teaching;they include lack of training (Mastropieri et al., 2005), lack of administrative sup-port (Dieker, 2001; Rea, 2005), and a lack of parity in the classroom (Dieker &Murawski, 2003; Spencer, 2005). Dr. Lynne Cook, a noted expert on co-teaching,clarified that co-teaching is not simply having two teachers in a classroom with oneacting as a glorified paraprofessional or an in-class tutor for one or two students(Spencer, p. 297), and yet that is exactly what many teachers complain is occurring(Weiss & Lloyd, 2002).

  • see one as the real teacher andthe other as an aide who is in andout?

    Ask the administrator: Are you pre-pared to treat us both as real teach-ers in the room and avoid calling thespecial educator out for various rea-sons?

    9. Dont need to be coy, Roy. Make sureto communicate your pet peeves,preferences, strengths, and weak-nesses with your co-teacher beforethe start of the semester. Talkingabout these preferences will helpavoid personality conflicts and othermiscommunications. Use theSHARE worksheet in Murawski andDieker (2004) to facilitate conversa-tion about important areas of teach-ing on which you will need to agree.

    Ask each other: When can we sitdown and review our responses onthe SHARE worksheet?

    10. Drop off the key, Lee. Be willing toshare all materials. To ensure parity,do not allow students to think thatone teacher owns the materials orroom because the other always hasto ask permission to use items.Instead, demonstrate parity by cre-ating common materials and spaceand putting both names on theboard, the roster, the report cards,and any communications home.

    Ask yourselves: If we look aroundthe room and at our materials, dowe emphasize one teacher over theother? What can we do to remedythat situation?

    11. Commit to co-plan, Dan. Planningtogether is the most important partof co-teaching (Murawski, 2005).Before you enter the co-teachingrelationship, talk to your potentialpartners about how you will identi-fy time to get together to co-plan,especially when you are new to co-teaching. Dieker (2001) demonstrat-ed through research that veteran co-teachers only need about 10 min-utes to plan for a week; however,those teachers had previously co-taught. In new situations, overplan-ning is better than underplanning.Ideas for finding time to co-plan are

    available in Murawski and Dieker(2004). Two excellent resources tohelp structure co-planning to maketime and ensure consistency are TheCo-Teaching Lesson Plan Book(Dieker, 2006) and the Co-TeachingSolutions System (CTSS) TeachersToolbox (www.coteachsolutions.com; Murawski & Lochner, 2007).

    Ask the administrator: Are you will-ing to support our efforts by pur-chasing The Co-Teaching LessonPlan Book or CTSS Toolbox andhelping us find time to meet regu-larly to co-plan?

    12. Each take a piece, Reece. One of thebest things about co-teaching is theopportunity to shareresponsibili-ty, accountability, workload, andfun! Letting teachers know that theywill have someone else to help withplanning, obtaining materials, grad-ing, and other chores is one of thebest ways to attract interest in co-teaching. Ask each other: How will we breakup the load so that we both willbenefit?

    One of the best things about co-teaching is the opportunity

    to shareresponsibility,accountability, workload, and fun!

    13. Work where you are strong, Wong,and address where you are weak,Zeke. Being aware of each othersstrengths and weaknesses is manda-tory. Be honest, and share with eachother whether you are a procrasti-nator or a type-A control freak. Dis-cuss whether you love or hate toplan, grade, and take care of disci-pline and other aspects of instruc-tion. Although special educators donot need to be content experts, theyneed to be willing to expand ontheir content knowledge if that is anarea of weakness, especially at thesecondary level. General educatorsmay share that they feel comfortablewith the content and standards butmay be less familiar with individu-alizing strategies or ways to make

    content accessible to students whoare struggling.

    Ask each other: What are yourstrengths and weaknesses, and howdo they affect your teaching? (Per-haps you will find that you two willtruly complement each other. If not,you should discuss compromises.)

    14. Its OK to be trendy, Wendy. Readcurrent material on brain-basedlearning, and offer some teachingto the brain tricks as your role inthe co-taught class. Be aware ofother strategies, tools, and tech-niques that come from a variety ofsources (e.g., English languagelearning seminars, as well as litera-cy and mathematics coaches); andbe willing to use whatever mightmake a difference in studentengagement and learning.

    Ask specialists in your district: Canyou share any new strategies withus so that we can help our studentsincrease their academic, behavioral,and learning skills?

    15. Establish clear rules, Jules. The co-teachers need to discuss the waythat each person deals with behav-ioral issues before beginning co-teaching. Check to be certain thatyour rules are clear enough that youcan provide consequences in lessthan 3 seconds and that you bothare consistently acknowledging pos-itive behavior and not merely rein-forcing bad behavior.

    Ask each other: What are our rolesand preferences related to behaviorin the co-teaching setting?

    16. Always be fair, Cher. In a strong co-teaching climate, both teachersclearly understand that fair meansthat everyone gets what he or sheneeds (and that fair does not meanthat everyone gets the same or equalthings). In inclusive classroomswhere teachers are clear about fair-ness from the beginning and sharetheir philosophy with students, thisissue never arises. However, if theco-teachers do not share this con-cept early, students and teacherswill struggle to understand why


  • some students receive different sup-port than others.

    Ask yourselves: Do you both holdsimilar philosophies about fairness?If not, you need to discuss this issuein the first days of planning. Thistopic can make or break your rela-tionship.

    17. They are our kids, Sid. Effectiveco-teachers always talk about ourkids, not yours and mine. They donot differentiate students by label orassign them to one teacher or theother. Special education teachers orparaprofessionals do not hover overthe students with IEPs but are help-ing all students. Consider how youcan include students with specialneeds; is it that they are merelyphysically present, or do you andthe students truly include them inthe social and academic environ-ment?

    Ask each other and any paraprofes-sionals in the room: How have weensured that we meet studentsneeds without adults hovering overthem or placing them in small seg-regated groups in the back of theclassroom?

    18. Go to the Web, Jeb. Be certain tocheck for available resources on theWeb (such as www.powerof2.org,www.specialconnections.ku.edu,www.2TeachLLC.com) to find toolsto help you with your co-teaching.Also, blogs (online journals) canenable teachers to talk collabora-tively across schools and across thecountry.

    Ask any available special educationor technology specialists: What Web-based resources have you found tohelp support our co-teaching rela-tionship?

    19. Share your needs, Reed. Make surebefore you start that you discuss thebig ideas that relate to contentand curricula, as well as the indi-vidual needs of students with dis-abilities. Typically, the general edu-cator takes the lead on sharing thecontent, whereas the special educa-tor takes the lead on sharing indi-vidual student information; but

    both teachers information shouldbe equally valued. One teacher doesnot trump the other in power. Ifthis planning can happen beforeyou start to co-teach together, thenyou will have a clearer understand-ing of how skills, curricula, and stu-dents needs complement or clashwith one another.

    Ask the general educator: What cur-ricula will we cover during the firstsemester?

    Ask the special educator: Whatinformation do we have on the indi-vidual students so that we can bet-ter meet their needs within the con-text of our class?

    20. Hit the books, Brooks. A plethora ofavailable research describes theways that children learn. For exam-ple, one of our favorites is the workof pediatrician Dr. Mel Levine.Levine has written groundbreakingwork that does not rely on labels ordisability categories but that helpseducators and parents gain moreknowledge about how childrenlearn. Both co-teachers can read AMind at a Time (Levine, 2002); gothrough Schools Attuned training,which is a weeklong intensive train-ing program on neurodevelopmen-tal constructs and identifying stu-dents strengths to improve all areasof need; or visit www.allkindsof-minds.org so that they can begin touse similar language and strategieswhen working with strugglinglearners. Other excellent resourcesinclude those of Dr. Robert Brooks(www.d r robe r tb rooks . com) ,Richard Lavoie, and Carol Ann Tom-

    linson, as well as Margo Mastropieriand Thomas Scruggs.

    Ask your administrator: Can youobtain copies of recommendedresources for us to read or send usto specialized training?

    21. Talk about the grade, Wade. Toomany times, grading becomes anarea of conflict between co-teachers.Before the start of the semester,teachers should talk about the vari-ety of grading options and deter-mine the best collaborative option.After deciding, they should shareany adaptations to grading withindividual students and their par-ents. An excellent resource for a dis-cussion of various grading practicesis Struyk et al. (1995).

    Ask each other: With what types ofgrading adaptations are you com-fortable? With what adaptationswould you not be comfortable?

    During Co-Teaching

    22. Check your HALO, Jaylo. Through-out your lesson planning andinstruction, always check with eachother that you have adequatelyaddressed all learners in the class.You need to include students whoare H(igh achieving), A(verageachieving), L(ow achieving), andO(ther), (Murawski, 2005). If youhave addressed your HALO, youknow that you will have a differen-tiated lesson designed to improvelearning for all students. Anotherexcellent resource for helping withlesson planning is Building aStrong BASE of Support for AllStudents Through Coplanning(Hawbaker, Balong, Buckwalter, &Runyon, 2001).

    Ask your administrator: If you lookat our lesson plans, can you clearlysee that we address our HALO sothat the lesson is appropriately dif-ferentiated?

    23. Walk the talk, Jacques. Educatorsoften impress on students thatlearning to work together is a life-long skill; co-teaching gives you achance to model that skill. Considerhow you can demonstrate to stu-


  • dents that you are equals in theclassroom and that you can some-times agree to disagree. Use thecommunication and collaborationskills that Friend and Cook (2003)recommend.

    Ask the students: When we as co-teachers disagree, how do you thinkthat we should resolve our issues?What specific strategies can we useto better communicate with eachother?

    24. Circulate the room, June. When oneperson is leading, the other personshould be moving throughout theroom and making sure that the les-son is meeting the needs of all stu-dents (Friend & Cook, 2003). Whileone teacher is instructing the class,the other should not be gradingpapers, making copies, or catchingup on individualized education pro-grams (IEPs; Murawski, 2005). Dis-cuss your comfort level with move-ment in the classroom.

    Ask each other: What are someactions that one of us can do whilethe other is leading an activity orgiving a lecture?

    25. Slip out the back, Jack. A true bene-fit of co-teaching is the ability totake a much-needed bathroombreak. As long as it does notbecome a habit or a way to escapeclass, the option of leaving oneteacher in the room to facilitateclass while the other runs to thebathroom is a basic, but very val-ued, benefit to co-teaching.

    Ask each other: What nonverbalsign can we give to the otherteacher that indicates we are des-perate for a quick break?

    26. Give the brain a break, Jake. The lat-est brain research emphasizes theneed for brain breaks every 10 to12 minutes for students to chunkknowledge. This type of brain breakis especially important in a lecturetype of setting. Monitor each otherto see whether you are doing activi-ties that allow students to processand chunk information.

    Ask each other: Do we see the stu-dents self-initiating their own brain

    breaks (e.g., putting heads ondesks, doodling, or passing notes)?If so, we need to change what weare doing and discuss how to makesure that we are providing teacher-initiated brain breaks instead.

    27. Get them together, Heather. In allsettings, students need to feel val-ued. At the same time, teachersneed to use classroom practices thatare evidence-based. Cooperativelearning has strong research supportas an effective classroom practice(Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne,2000), and it also provides opportu-nities for positive peer interactions.When done well, students with dis-abilities not only receive help butalso have the chance to assist theirpeers in learning.

    Ask the students: Why do you thinkthat we sometimes place you ingroups to work? What are the bene-fits and challenges to this type ofactivity? Do you enjoy it, and doyou learn from it? How can weimprove this cooperative style?

    28. Create a great climate, Violet.Creating a positive climate for allstudents is critical. When teachersuse such tools as cooperative learn-ing or classwide peer tutoring, theyneed to be certain to allow studentsto assess their own behavior. Toolssuch as those that Dieker andOusley (2006) suggest can be veryhelpful in allowing students toassess group behavior.

    The bottom line is for the teachers toask each other: What did we dotoday to create an environment thatwas accepting of all students?

    29. Repeat and clarify, Ty. As all educa-tors know, repetition aids retention.This strategy is helpful for all stu-dents, not just those with disabili-ties. Co-teachers can collaborate sothat they can write information onthe board, repeat directions, andprovide verbal prompts throughoutthe lesson. These proactive strate-gies help ensure that fewer reactivestrategies (like pulling out orreteaching) are necessary.

    Ask each other as you review yourlesson: How does todays lessonmeet the visual, auditory, kinesthet-ic, processing, and behavioral needsof students?

    30. Take a group, Snoop. Instead ofassuming that all students can learnin the large-group setting, do not beafraid to take a small group out tolearn. As long as you do not alwayspull the same students out forreteaching (in essence, stigmatizingthem the same way that a pulloutclass would), the use of a smallgroup can be very beneficial. Inaddition, co-teachers can also takeout a heterogeneous group of stu-dents who might need more chal-lenges.

    Ask each other: On the basis of thecontent that we need to teach, doany of the students need reteaching,preteaching, or enrichment?


  • 31. Boring is bad, Lad. Differentiatinginstruction helps ensure that youare meeting more students needs(Tomlinson, 2005) and can involvemore interesting activities thanstraight lecture. Certainly, comingup with differentiated and motivat-ing lessons is much easier with twopeople. Two teachers means thattwo people can help figure out howto shake up the lesson and ensuremaximum student engagement.

    Ask each other: What are we doingto make sure that the class is notboring?

    Then ask the students (if you dare):Is this class boring? If so, what areyour suggestions for making it moreinterestingwhile still ensuring thatwe teach the content adequately?

    32. Plan to laugh, Taff. Make laughter apart of your classroom practice.Laughter reduces stress and canhelp encode learning. Think aboutbeing the cartoon or joke-of-the-dayperson. Having another adult in theroom who understands your jokes isnice, but the real challenge is find-ing humor that students under-stand.

    Ask yourselves: How have we incor-porated laughter or emotion intoour lesson for today?

    33. Keep standards high, Sy. Standards-based instruction is one of the stat-

    ed benefits of inclusive education;all students can have access tograde-level curriculum (Thurlow,2002). Do not water work down justbecause a student has a label.Consider identifying methods ofteaching to the standards that alsoenable students with special needsto succeed; one resource, for exam-ple, is the Kansas UniversityContent Enhancement and UnitPlanning strategy (www.specialcon-nections.ku.edu). This type ofresource can help take content andbreak it down into accessible partsfor all the students in the room.

    Ask yourselves: What strategies arewe using for the whole class thatwill really help struggling studentsat the same time? Also, are we bas-ing all accommodation and modifi-cation decisions on the needs of thestudents rather than on their labels?

    34. Ensure success, Jess. When you arein the co-teaching setting, remem-ber to plan for the range of needs inthe classroom, including studentswho have English language needs,students who are slow learners, stu-dents who have disabilities, stu-dents who are gifted, and studentswho fall into multiple or other cate-gories. Remember to think abouteach student as an individual andconsider the type of scaffolding orsupport that he or she might needso that you are challenging all stu-dents. Each student has the right tobe successful in your class.

    Ask each other: Which students dowe not seem to reach effectively?

    Ask parents: Do you believe that theclass is meeting your childs needs?If not, do you have suggestions orstrategies so that we can helpensure success for your child?

    35. Help students pay attention,Christian. Students with attentionissues in the classroom need to havestimulation that can help themfocus on the most important taskyour teaching. One of the benefitsnoted in the research is that teach-ers in co-teaching settings have todo less direct classroom manage-ment simply because two teachers

    are in the classroom (Murawski,2006). However, for some students,proximity will not be enough tokeep their attention.

    Ask each other: Have we incorporat-ed activities of high interest andmovement into our co-taught les-sons? Are our kinesthetic learnersable to stay focused?

    36. Break out the toys, Joy. Manyteacher-friendly manipulatives areavailable for students. They holdstudents attention, make a lessonkinesthetic, and help with activelearning. Although teachers may notbe able to buy all the materials theywant on their own, consider talkingto other teachers about sharingmaterials, asking district and schooladministrators what is available,and seeing whether communitystakeholders will provide financialsupport (many local businesseshave surplus that they are happy toshare).

    Ask your administrators: Can we getWikki Stix (www.wikkistix. com),Gelboards (www.gelboard. com),Play-Doh, or erasable highlighters touse in our lessons? What types ofmaterials are available for us to use?

    37. Take a time out, Scout. If a studentor group of students is getting onyour nerves, communicate yourfrustration to your co-teacher byusing a nonverbal signal andswitching roles instead of blowingup at them. Being able to take a selftime-out from kids for a moment orbeing able to switch student groupsis another benefit of co-teaching.

    Ask yourself: Have you ever had amoment when you just knew youwere going to lose it? Wont it benice to have a chance to avoid thatsituation?

    38. Dont disappear, Dear. Last-minuteIEPs, behavioral problems, and par-ent concerns can pull special educa-tors out of the co-taught classroomon a regular basis. Some administra-tors even have special educatorssubstitute for another teachersclass when a substitute is unavail-able. That strategy affects the conti-


  • nuity of instruction, impairs theteachers planning, and makes gen-eral educators begin to believe thatthey cannot depend on the co-teacher to be there for instruction.Administrators and both teachersmust commit to a continuing rela-tionship for at least the semester(preferably the year) to provide con-tinuity to students. In addition,administrators and other personnelmust understand that they shouldnot call either teacher out of classunless a true emergency hasoccurred.

    Ask each other and the administra-tors: Are we all committed to makethis work? Do we really understandwhat that commitment means? Howcan we communicate this to others?

    39. Dont be late, Nate. Even whenteachers are co-teaching with multi-ple people and going to separateclasses, it is important to start theinstruction with both teachers pres-ent and on time. Their collectivepresence sets a tone of parity andallows the class to start immediate-ly.

    Ask each other: Is tardiness anissue? What are our options to rem-edy this problem?

    40. Play some games, James. Multiusegames (like Jeopardy, Bingo, andWho Wants to Be a Millionaire) aregreat ways to reinforce concepts inan inclusive classroom. Studentsbecome more motivated to learnwhen they are enjoying themselves.Two teachers in the room can facili-tate and control games more easilythan one teacher.

    Ask students: What games do youlike to play? If we include theseactivities as an instructionalmethod, do we have your commit-ment to interact appropriately?What does that mean to you?

    41. Change your approach, Coach.Novice co-teachers often reportmainly using a one teach, one sup-port approach in the classroom(Weiss & Lloyd, 2002). Althoughthat approach is understandable,students do not receive the benefits

    of having two credentialed teachersin the classroom when co-teachersuse that approach. In addition, therole of the support teacher becomesmore like that of a paraprofessional(Scruggs, et al., 2007; Weiss &Lloyd). For improved student out-comes, it pays to do more regroup-ing and try a variety of approachesand strategies to make the most ofco-teaching.

    Ask yourselves: How often do weregroup students? Can we look atour lesson plans and see that we fre-quently vary our instructionalapproaches, rather than merely tak-ing turns leading the lesson?

    42. Address their MI, Guy. As a co-teaching team, consider how youcan plan lessons that address thevarious strengths of the learners inyour classroom. Educators too oftenfocus on the use of sight and sound(e.g., lecture and overheads), yetthese are the two areas in whichmany students with disabilities havelimited skills. Therefore, think abouthow to address in your lessons allthe multiple intelligences (MIs), aswell as the various ways that stu-dents learn (Stanford, 2003).

    Ask the specialists in your district:Does anyone have more informationon MI theory, and can you provideus with subject-specific strategiesthat we can use with our students?

    43. Address different learning styles,Giles. Recognize that only about50% of students have visual andauditory learning style strengths;the other 50% are typically kines-thetic/tactile learners. Teachers tendto be visual and auditory learnersand continue to teach in the waythat others taught them. Thismethod of teaching, however, doesnot match with many of the stu-dents learning styles in inclusiveclassrooms.

    Ask yourselves: How have weensured that we are teaching thesestudents in a way that connectswith their learning styles? Have weconsidered our own learning stylesand how they affect our teachingstyles?

    44. Dont depart, Art. Pulling studentswith IEPs away for testing is notalways necessary. Instead, allow allstudents to determine their learningstyle preferences, and let those pref-erences identify how you will testthem. Doing assessments in a vari-ety of ways can allow students todemonstrate their learning insteadof penalizing them for having a dis-ability. Look to the work of CarolAnn Tomlinson (e.g., Tomlinson,2005) for a plethora of ways to dif-ferentiate by product (in addition todifferentiating by content and byprocess).

    Ask students: On the basis of yourown learning style, would you pre-fer that someone read this test toyou or would you prefer to read ityourself? Everyone can choose hisor her own method for this particu-lar assessment.

    45. Record your voice, Joyce. Using lis-tening centers with tape recordersand headsets enables co-teachers toallow some students to work inde-pendently (e.g., in station teaching)while the teachers work with small-er groups. Tape recorders also are aperfect solution for students who


  • need tests read to them, since theco-teachers do not need to read atest multiple times for multiple stu-dents. Also, make sure that youradministrators know that you areusing this strategy and that studentsare not merely chillin out to theirfavorite band.

    Ask administrators: Are funds avail-able for purchasing blank tapes andtape recorders for us?

    After Co-Teaching Has Begun

    46. Collect some data, Jada. Having twoteachers in the room allows youboth to collect data on studentachievement, problem and positivebehaviors, and areas of need.Curriculum-based assessments,benchmark tests, Dynamic Indica-tors of Basic Early Literacy Skills(DIBELS), attendance information,data on academic engaged time, andclass grades are types of data thatyou can collect to demonstrate thesuccessor lack thereofof co-teaching teams. Make sure to worktogether to collect information sothat you can make decisions on thebasis of data rather than on thebasis of opinion or emotion. Anexcellent resource for collecting con-crete data on co-teaching actions isthe Co-Teaching Solutions Systems(CTSS) Observation System (www.coteachsolutions.com), created forobservers to document what isoccurring in the co-taught class-room. A highlight of the CTSSObservation System is a self-surveythat enables co-teachers to self-assess and then electronically com-pare their responses with theobservers feedback.

    Ask each other: What data areimportant to us? How will we collectour data, and who will do the col-lecting?

    47. Remember to evaluate, Mate. Havingothers provide feedback on your co-teaching, as well as conducting yourown self-evaluations, is important.Administrators or other observersmay want to start with the ques-tions provided in Wilson (2005) for

    outside evaluations. These ques-tions include the following:

    Are the roles of each teachermeaningful?

    Are co-teachers using strategiesto promote success with all stu-dents in the classroom?

    Does evidence indicate that suc-cessful learning is occurring inthe class?

    Although these questions provide astructure for outside observers, co-teachers should agree on a standardprocess and time to evaluate theirown teaching and the co-teachingrelationship.

    After you have a standard date onyour calendar (at least once amonth), we recommend asking twosimple questions.

    Ask each other: Is what we are doinggood for both of us? If not, what arewe doing that we could change sothat we both are happy with therelationship? Is our co-teachinggood for all students in our class? Ifnot, what can we do to ensure thatall students are benefiting from ourcollaboration?

    48. Avoid any blame, Ame. If any areasare not working, be sure that youand your co-teacher deal with themyourselves. Venting to others in theteachers lounge is a sure way toruin a potentially good co-teachingrelationship and does not remedythe situation. Instead, commit tohaving fair and open discussionsonly with each other about what isand what is not working.

    Ask each other: How do you preferfeedback, especially when one of usis not pleased? What type of a plancan we create to evaluate andaddress issues as they arise?

    49. Share your success, Bess. Be certainthat you tell everyone who will lis-ten what is working. Co-teachingoften spreads at a school whenteachers hear about the benefits andsuccesses of students and faculty.An inclusive school should includeall faculty, staff, students, and par-ents; it should not rely on only a fewpeople who collaborate successfully.

    Ask district personnel: How can weshare our successes across the dis-trict? Are there other co-teachingteams with whom we can commu-nicate to share tips, strategies andsuccesses?

    50. Let the celebration begin, Vin. Aspreviously mentioned, educatorsoften compare co-teaching with amarriage. If you and your co-teacherfollow these simple 50 tips, you willbe ready to pour the champagneand look forward to celebrating ananniversary. Congratulations on thiswonderful collaborationwe knewyou could do it!

    What question should you ask eachother: Would you do it all overagain? Of course!

    ReflectionWith each of these tips to keep your co-teacher, we provided questionsques-tions for you to ask yourselves, your co-teachers, your administrators, your stu-dents, your students parents, and otherpersonnel in the school and district.Asking these questions helps ensureongoing communication and treatmentintegrity (that is, the assurance that anyintervention is implemented as intend-ed). Too often, administrators throw co-teachers into an arranged co-teachingrelationship; and the co-teachers focuson their resentment that no one askedthem for their opinion, that they werenot trained, or that they do not knowthe content or the special needs of thestudents the way that the other educatordoes. The authors sincerely hope thatour tips and questions can enable co-teachers to avoid negative relationshipsand make the most of any situation. Bydoing so, they can focus on the positiveexperiences that they as teachers arereceiving and the academic, behavioral,and social benefits that the students areexperiencing.

    We have used tips that are based onresearch-based and practical strategies


  • to offer ways for co-teachers to obtain,maintain, or even improve their currentcollaborative relationships. Co-teacherscan and should reflect on each questionand determine where they need to dosome problem solving. Facilitators oradministrators engaged in supportingco-teaching can use these questions toguide their own co-teaching staff devel-opment.

    We have offered ways for co-teachers to obtain, maintain, or even improve their currentcollaborative relationships.

    Ultimately, in our own reflections,three important components to success-ful co-teaching emerged that permeateall 50 tips. For each of the previouslymentioned suggestions, please also keepin mind the following:

    Be willing to try new things.

    Be willing to be equals.

    Be willing to listento each other, tostudents, to parents, and to others.

    We are certain that those whoapproach co-teaching with a positivecan-do attitudejust like any otheraspect of teachingwill experience thetruly wonderful benefits that co-teach-ing has to offer . . . and better yet, thatthe students will as well!

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    Wendy W. Murawski (CEC CA Federation),Associate Professor and Graduate Coordin-ator, Department of Special Education,Michael D. Eisner College of Education,California State University, Northridge. LisaDieker (CEC FL Federation), Associate Pro-fessor and Lockheed Martin Eminent Scholar,Chair, Child, Family and Community SciencesDepartment, College of Education, Universityof Central Florida, Orlando.

    Address correspondence to Wendy W.Murawski, Department of Special Education,Michael D. Eisner College of Education,California State University, Northridge, 18111Nordhoff St., Northridge, CA 91330-8265 (e-mail: Wendy.murawski@csun.edu).

    TEACHING Exceptional Children, Vol. 40,No. 4, pp. 40-48.

    Copyright 2008 CEC.