Co-Teaching: Following the Yellow Brick Road

Collaboration Montage

Dr. Fran Rogers and Austin Greene continue their previous article on the various types of co-teaching with scenarios, solutions, and fluid coaching situations and approaches.


n our previous post, we revealed that the terrifying Wizard in The Wizard of Oz was nothing more than an elderly man behind a curtain, and likened it to our often unfounded fears of co-teaching. We explored the different co-teaching methods and recognized the intricacies of each model. Now that we have an understanding of the variety of co-teaching approaches, let's consider how coaching supports each model, with the understanding that co-teaching is described as two or more educators sharing instructional responsibility and accountability for a group of students.

In revisiting the Wizard of Oz, think of your coach as Glinda, the good witch. If you recall, Glinda engaged Dorothy in an exchange of questions and answers, essentially coaching her on how to make it back to Kansas. Glinda gave Dorothy a lesson on how to think versus what to think, which is the critical goal of coaching. In other words, Dorothy didn't have to do it alone.

Let's be real, everyone needs someone to support his or her growth and everyone deserves a coach. Partnering with a coach can provide student-centered support as teachers follow the yellow brick road to student success. Using a student-centered lens, let's explore how Diane Sweeney's coaching moves can complement each co-teaching approach.

Please remember that coaching is very fluid and complex in nature, and the coaching moves highlighted below are not restricted to a specific co-teaching approach. Our goal is to provide a few scenarios to get you thinking about how coaching can support the co-teaching models used in your building. Before implementing any coaching move, it's critical for the teacher(s) and coach to collaboratively plan the unit, inclusive of unpacking the content, creating the summative assessment, determining the success criteria, and designing lesson level objectives.

Co-Teaching Scenarios and Solutions

Parallel Teaching

Let's consider a situation where the teacher is intentionally working to monitor student learning throughout a lesson. The teacher expresses to her coach a desire to have support in collecting data, and then wants use the data to inform decision making. The coaching move to support this desire can be solved by "teaching in tandem."

Solution: Teaching in Tandem

During this process, the teacher and coach ebb and flow in delivering content and collecting evidence of student learning. Next, the follow-up discussion between the coach and teacher shifts the focus from teaching to learning by focusing on data collected during the lesson, as well as potential next steps.

Team Teaching

When using team teaching, a lesson lends itself to a one-on-one or small group instructional model. As an example, if the teacher is interested in how to differentiate small group instruction to be responsive to student needs, then a coach and teacher can "co-confer" with students to ensure each student's needs are met.

Solution: Co-Conferring

When co-conferring, the teacher and coach partner to confer with groups of students, or an individual student, to glean a shared understanding of student progress towards the learning objective. The benefit of this effort is that it allows for the coach and teacher to jointly determine next steps for instructional support to meet students' needs.

Alternative Teaching

When considering alternative teaching, let's explore a situation where a teacher has taught an initial lesson. After the teacher and coach analyze student work, as it pertains to the initial lesson, they identify five students with significant gaps in understanding. The teacher is still feeling uncomfortable using a specific alternative strategy to address these students' learning gaps. This desire can be supported through "micro-modeling."

Solution: Micro-Modeling

When micro-modeling, the coach intentionally models a portion of the lesson, while the teacher watches with intention. After the lesson, the coach and teacher analyze additional evidence of learning and discuss how the modeled behaviors addressed the needs of specific learners. When this approach is used, the teacher is able to see what's going on in the classroom and assess the effectiveness of the targeted strategies with the support of the coach.

Fluid Coaching Situations and Approaches

As outlined in the previous situations, some coaching moves align more so to specific needs; however, there are several fluid coaching moves that provide great coaching partnership entry points. The fluid nature of these approaches allows for relationship development and student-centered decision-making, providing a strong foundation for an ongoing coaching relationship. Over time, these moves encourage the teacher and coach to stretch one another's understandings and skills as they relate to content and student progress.

Utilizing any of these fluid moves provides an easy in to the teacher-coach partnership, allowing both parties to see the win-win nature and advantages. Below are a few examples of fluid coaching situations and approaches that support the development of a strong relationship between the coach and teacher.

Noticing and Naming

A teacher and coach work together during a lesson to focus on and document how students are demonstrating understanding towards the learning goal(s). The teacher and coach have discussions about student learning by noticing and naming what is occurring during the lesson.

Thinking Aloud

A teacher and coach deliver a lesson together. Throughout the lesson, the teacher and coach share their thinking aloud with one another. This thinking is focused on student progress towards the learning goal(s), including understandings and misunderstandings. This coaching move allows for immediate action during the lesson and a discussion after the lesson to inform instructional decisions.

You Pick Four

A teacher identifies four students for the coach to observe during the lesson. During the lesson, the coach intentionally focuses on documenting the learning of those four students to inform the next steps in their learning progressions.

Wrapping Up

The beauty of the coaching partnership is that it provides an avenue for counsel and intentional efforts to utilize teachers' strengths. In the same way that teachers work to harness this power in students, coaches work to leverage this power in teachers. Importantly, both parties are working towards equipping students for success and bettering the organization. Always remember that co-teaching is beyond co-delivering, modeling, and observing instruction; it requires a solid, student-centered partnership where all parties have a vested interest in student success. We urge you to shift your thinking and give co-teaching with a coach a shot!

About our Guest Bloggers

Dr. Fran Rogers is the middle level academic specialist for Greenville County Schools in Greenville, South Carolina. Prior to this role, Fran served as an instructional coach in two South Carolina school districts: The School District of Newberry County and Greenville County Schools. She has teaching and coaching experience at middle and high school levels, and has also served as an adjunct professor. Fran is passionate about equipping teacher capacity, generating shared ownership, and strengthening instructional leadership skills.

Follow Fran on Twitter @franguinnrogers!

Austin Greene is a Title I elementary math academic specialist for Greenville County Schools. Prior to this role, she was an instructional coach for Greenville County Schools and a math interventionist in Spartanburg District Five. She has classroom teaching and coaching experience at the elementary and district levels. Austin is passionate about developing servant leaders, building instructional capacity, and promoting self-efficacy.

Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinGreene5!

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