Co-Teaching: Sharing is Caring

Today I want to talk a bit about co-teaching. I have already tweeted about it, and it seems like different teachers have a different understanding of what co-teaching is, so I decided to expand on it.

Based on my personal experience and some comments from other teachers on Twitter, I came up with this basic classification based on the nature of the actual teaching process (feel free to add more):
1. Independent
Two or more teachers share the same class/course, but teach different parts of it on different days. Quite popular in universities across the world. I had some courses like that (e.g., Scandinavian Historical and Cultural Topics or Scandinavian Literature) in the UoE. I guess the planning should be done collaboratively, but teaching is more or less independent, so that is why I called it that.
2. Passive
Two or more teachers share the same class/course, one is teaching, others are observing and probably making comments if asked. Never experienced it as a learner but did do it as a teacher. Even though the other co-teachers are present in the classroom, their roles are minimised; therefore, they are passive.
3. Symbiotic
Two or more teachers are sharing the same lesson. It means they teach the same lesson together swapping or sharing the stages. Experienced it as a learner during CELTA course and did it as a teacher last August and this week. This one is my ultimate favourite, so this entry will focus on it rather than the previous two.

Teaching Context
I am teaching within a unified curriculum which means that forty teachers are teaching the same lesson at the same time but in different classrooms to different students. Therefore, it is relatively easy to implement symbiotic co-teaching. While there is no opportunity for it during the semester, the so-called Repeating Course (RC) (a special course offered during holidays for those students who failed the regular course in the previous year) often involves classes being combined (due to low attendance) so teachers end up being assigned to the same – newly combined – class. While most teachers choose to implement passive co-teaching and teach every other lesson, my co-teacher and I went for symbiotic co-teaching and enjoyed it a lot.

What We Did
We had to teach the last part of the RC, i.e., five lessons. The first lesson was a review lesson, and since we were new to the students (the previous parts were taught by different instructors), we had to include a getting-to-know-you stage. The review lesson was followed by two regular lessons, one review lesson, and one final test lesson. We decided to do symbiotic co-teaching for the first review lesson, second review lesson, and final test lesson. Two regular lessons were co-taught passively (the main reason behind that decision was that we wanted to observe each other teaching a regular lesson from beginning till the end). Here is how our lesson outlines looked:


Review in a form of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” was our tech innovation. My co-teacher had a template with sound and animation, and we decided to try it out. I came up with some questions related to the skills we were teaching, and my co-teacher added some extra questions and inserted them into the template. For the activity, students were divided into two groups; each group had a small whiteboard, a marker, and a tissue. They would write the answers on the board trying to meet the time limit (5 seconds for easy questions, then 8, 10, and 15 upon achieving the threshold, i.e., the amount in white).
Fishbowl in Lesson 12 is an activity in which student observe each other and then give feedback to their peers.

For symbiotically co-taught lessons, we literally shared the stages and were giving instructions together. While students were doing the tasks, we were monitoring and then giving feedback adding to each other’s words. Together, we were able to give more accurate and detailed feedback.
Although our approaches to teaching skills were somewhat different, we did not have any conflicts or misunderstandings; instead, we managed to combine our strengths and techniques and deliver more effective lessons.
An important thing for co-teaching is for teachers to get along with each other both on a personal and professional level. It does not mean they have to share the same teaching beliefs and teaching principles, but they have to be ready to try new things and learn from each other. Only in this case, I believe, co-teaching will be beneficial for both teachers and students.