Co-taught classes provide dual teaching styles and perspectives

by | November 13, 2017 | in Campus | No Comments

Two teachers, one classroom.

Currently, there are five co-taught classes in practice at PHS, ranging within each department.

Director of special education programs Julie Valdez said that PHS is interested in strengthening co-taught classes for upcoming years.

Valdez is pursuing a doctoral degree that includes studying the effectiveness of co-taught classrooms. She said the ideal co-taught classroom involves the cooperation of two teachers, one being a general education teacher for a given subject, and the other being a special education specialist.

“They partner together in equal capacity in the classroom, to serve a wide variety of students that are in that classroom,” Valdez said.

Currently, English teacher Ellen Walsh said that co-taught classrooms usually have a content teacher who might teach the general subject, and a resource teacher who provides any support for any students in the classroom that may need it.

“It’s nice because I don’t always have to stop and explain things is everyone else is on the same page and if just one kid has a question, then they can ask it to her,” Walsh said.

Walsh said that her teaching on any given subject may only reach certain students as students all reach different levels of understanding at varying times. She said the co-taught method allows the material to reach more effectively reach students.

“Ideally, [the classes] both look the same, they just have a different degree of access for some students who might require more avenues or more opportunities for differentiating instruction,” Valdez said.

Walsh said that her teaching on any given subject may only reach certain students as they all reach different levels of understanding at varying times. She said the co-taught method allows the material to more effectively reach students.

Biology teacher Uri Skowronski said that the co-taught environment makes breaking into two groups and providing more individualized attention easier.

“For a lot students, learning a piece of content from another teacher and maybe from another angle, totally works for them, so that’s really a benefit,” Skowronski said.

Valdez said that in the past, co-taught classes have been effective to varying degrees depending on the master scheduling component and whether co-teachers share a common prep period so they can plan.

“As someone who is trying to implement this for the first time, you have to be willing to try new things out and see what fits best for students,” Skowronski said.

Logistical challenges associated with teaching include coordinating with departments on content within courses and determining whether the co-taught course looks the same as the non-co-taught course, Valdez said.

“I think it’s hard because you have two teachers in the room so it is more resources on the school, and we need common time to work together to figure out what we’re doing,” Walsh said.

For example, Walsh said that if she wanted to change a lesson plan the morning before a class, it requires a lot more communication to ensure that they are both on the same page at all times.

“We are working as an administrative team to try to better understand our current practices with co-taught courses and how to improve those,” Valdez said.

Specifically, Valdez said that one of the big challenges to overcome moving forward is knowing the master schedule early-on so that teachers are provided with the time and training needed to teach a co-taught class.

“There’s also room for improvement in supporting teachers prior to them starting to work together and along the way,” Valdez said. “And I do think we are making progress in that direction.

Valdez said that feedback from students and departments is also really valuable in their quest to learn more about the effectiveness of co-taught classes.

Sophomore Lucy Barrett has been in co-taught classes since eighth grade, and said she likes them overall. She said she thinks co-taught classrooms can be beneficial because students are exposed to two different teaching styles of teaching that can help when trying to learn.

“I feel like it’s good that there is two of them so they can share both their ideas and try to make the class better,” Barrett said.

Barrett also said that co-taught classes also pose logistical-based drawbacks, in addition to the benefits.

“There are times it can be kind of hard because there are two teachers trying to control the classroom environment and sometimes it’s hard to focus on one,” Barrett said.

Valdez said that the teachers and administrators do not have all the answers yet. She will be working with the co-taught teams this year so that she and the administrators can work to implement the most ideal co-taught classroom.

“It is a model that is intended to provide more access for students,” Valdez said. “The best scenarios, it does that. In less effective scenarios, it doesn’t harm anyone, but it may not have as much of the added value that we are hoping for.”