The scarcity of personal resources is a constant in educational centers. However, what does it mean to have more than one teacher in the classroom? Science has shown that it is not exclusively the presence of more teachers that improves learning, but the way in which they interact.
Co-teaching (or shared teaching) is the confluence of two teachers in the same classroom and session to develop common objectives. This co-education implies, in addition to joint action in the classroom, collaborative planning and evaluation.
That is, teacher and co-teacher do not only coincide in the mathematics class, but have previously coordinated how to work on the content, what activities to propose and the role that each one will play.
This is an organizational effort with great benefits in learning, as various studies have shown.
The current reality of centers presents a range of individualities (both in competencies and motivations) that require important and varied adaptations. As an example, in Spain, 11.4% of students are foreigners, 8.6% have repeated at some point, and 13.9% have specific needs for educational support. All of them are likely to require an adapted educational intervention.
The presence of two teachers in the same classroom reduces the teacher-student ratio and generates synergies that do not occur when the teacher works alone.
But the benefits of co-teaching go beyond the classroom context. Shared teaching improves teachers’ performance by generating structures of collaboration and mutual learning. The bureaucracy and whirlwind of the educational system often prevents us from finding those spaces for reflection and exchange that co-education offers us. And this joint learning has an impact, without a doubt, on the students.
Where is it most beneficial
The presence of two organized teachers in any subject and session is beneficial. However, there are certain situations that multiply the positive effects of this work methodology.
Having two teachers in a classroom and giving a master class (one teacher explains while the other observes) could be a loss of opportunities for interaction and meaningful learning.
The expert on this matter Teresa Huguet establishes different types of co-decency depending on the way in which the two classroom teachers organize their roles.
These different shared teachings range from the individualized work of the second teacher with a specific student (the traditional image of one teacher explaining and another sitting next to the student with more difficulties) to much more complex and innovative modes of organization, such as work through stations learning or flexible groupings.
So, can co-teaching be done in any learning situation? The answer is yes, but it would be especially recommended to work on more complex concepts. Active dynamics that require involvement and initiative on the part of students pose greater challenges for which adult support is key.
Co-teaching with experts in special education
It is true that the scarcity of personal resources in educational centers limits the possibilities of implementing shared teaching systematically and continuously. However, this does not make it impossible to create moments of co-education within the classroom.
Resource management by management teams, for example, can be key. In many educational centers, special education teachers carry out their sessions in the classroom with students. These specialist teachers have great potential as co-teachers, given their extensive specific training.
This organization facilitates the adaptation of the sessions to the diversity of the group (inclusion, in short). Thus, as opposed to the traditional removal of students from the classroom, for example, who present difficulties in communication, co-education can propose the organization of small scheduled debates in which this student participates with their classmates in functional interactions. Careful planning of the co-teacher dynamic can facilitate the inclusion in the classroom even of students affected by serious developmental disorders.
Volunteering and co-teaching
Another key aspect to assess in co-education is the involvement of people outside the center. Volunteering experiences are enriching and rewarding, both from a pedagogical and social and emotional point of view.
What teacher can help us explain the primary sector better than a farmer? Can’t people of different nationalities enrich our geography classes? And if these people are also members of the center’s educational community, we will be increasing their connection with the education of their children or grandchildren. Another predictor of educational success.
Add or multiply
Shared teaching is a methodology of collaboration, involvement and joint work by two people within the classroom. It allows us to focus our attention and intervention on the planning, implementation and evaluation of very rich learning situations.
It also makes it possible to focus on the integral development of the person and develop innovative proposals for which large ratios represent a barrier. Because, in education, having more teachers adds up; but having more teachers organized and working as a team multiplies.