Several collaborative teaching approaches have proven to be successful to guide educators who work together in co-teaching partnerships to differentiate instruction. The approaches include:
- Supportive Co-teaching – where the one member of the team takes the lead role and the other member rotates among students to provide support
- Parallel Co-teaching – where support personnel and the classroom teacher instruct different heterogeneous groups of students
- Complementary Co-teaching – where a member of the co-teaching team does something to supplement or complement the instruction provided by the other member of the team (e.g., models note taking on a transparency, paraphrases the other co-teacher’s statements)
- Team Teaching – where the members of the team co-teach along side one another and share responsibility for planning, teaching, and assessing the progress of all students in the class.
Some co-teaching approaches (e.g., complementary and team teaching) require greater commitment to, comfort with, and skill in collaborative planning and role release (i.e., transferring one’s specialized instructional responsibilities over to someone else). It is recommended that collaborative teams select among the co-teaching approaches, as needed, based up the curriculum demands of a unit or lesson and student learning characteristics, needs, and interests.
When deciding which approach to use in a given lesson, the goal always is to improve the educational outcomes of students through the selected co-teaching strategies. Many beginning co-teachers start with supportive teaching and parallel teaching because these approaches involve less structured coordination among the co-teaching team members. As co-teaching skills and relationships strengthen, co-teachers then venture into the complementary teaching and team teaching approaches that require more time, coordination, and knowledge of and trust in one another’s skills.