Co-teaching Models that Work in an Inclusion Setting

Two teachers co-teaching in an elementary classroom

Similar to random seating on a flight, classroom assignments as a teacher can be unpredictable. Going into a new academic year, one of the most exciting parts is finding out team placements, and seeing who you will be working most closely with. If you’ve never taught an inclusion class before, seeing that placement can be nerve wracking, especially when you are paired with a co-teacher, who you have never worked with before. When it comes down to it, you have to make a choice in how to foster a strong relationship with your co-teacher, who will be your greatest asset for the upcoming school year.

Inclusion classrooms are mandated by the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). According to Art Shapiro on Education World, inclusion classrooms can benefit all types of learners when supports are in place. Shapiro told Education World that inclusion classrooms improve learning for both special education students, and students without learning disabilities. Being in a classroom with all types of learners helps to show students how to accept individual differences from an early age, as well as helps both types of students to develop new friendships. (Special Education Inclusion, n.d.)

What is Inclusion?

Inclusion refers to a classroom that has a diverse group of students with a variety of learning needs. Usually, inclusion can mean a mixture of regular education students with students with IEPs (Individualized Education Plan). It can also be regular education students with students who are English Language Learners (ELL), or English Second Language (ESL).  Inclusion classrooms are not fully special education classrooms, or fully ESL classrooms, and they are certainly not meant to be a placement solely for students who may have had issues with behavior. Normally, in an inclusion setting, there are two co-teachers to provide extra support for students who need it, or whose academic plan requires it.

Co-teaching is something that takes some getting used to. The most important part of working with a co-teacher is finding what model of co-teaching works for your classroom, in a way that will be best for your students.

How a Co-Teaching Relationship Works

There are many different models for co-teaching that work in a variety of settings. Finding out what will work for you and your co-teacher is a process of trial and error. Good practice suggests that the model of co-teaching you choose should change based on the content and lesson you are teaching that day. If you remain consistent in your classroom management and your classroom policies, switching the model of co-teaching can be beneficial based on your lesson plan. Once you get used to each other’s working style, this will create an efficient and fluid classroom when transitioning roles.  

Co-Teaching Models That Work

  1. Parallel Teaching: Parallel teaching refers to two teachers teaching the same content simultaneously in one classroom. The purpose of this model is to lower the student to teacher ratio while delivering the same content. (Co-teaching Connection, n.d.) This model of teaching can be beneficial to identify student need, and allow students a smaller setting to help create a higher comfort level among peers. Physical space can be a barrier in this type of setting, because sometimes having two people speaking at the same time can be distracting. A suggestion to alleviate this problem would be to teach the same content, but time the lesson so that the groups are on different schedules. For example, if one teacher is delivering content, the other teacher will have students work independently, and then switch.
  2. Station Teaching: Station teaching is when teachers split the content into different stations around the classroom. Each teacher becomes an expert in one piece of the content, and runs a station. Throughout the course of the lesson, the students rotate throughout the stations in order to receive all content they need. This model takes strong classroom management, for students are moving freely around the classroom while both teachers are working with small groups. One way to use this model effectively would be to create several stations that the students can work on independently to lower group sizes for the stations that the students will work with a teacher. (Co-teaching connection, n.d.)
  3. Alternative Teaching: Alternative teaching refers to when one teacher works with the majority of students in a full class setting, and the second teacher pulls a small group of students out of the classroom (or to an area of the classroom) to work together in a small group. In the small group, the second teacher can either teach the same content, while providing extra support to students who need it, or address individual student needs and academic gaps in content. (Co-teaching connection, n.d.) Something to keep in mind is that it is important that the students don’t feel singled out, and that they don’t feel like working with one teacher over another “labels them”. My co-teacher and I strategically switch groups and take turns working with smaller groups so that our students never feel that working in a small group has a certain stigma to it.
  4. One teaches, One Assists: This model works when content needs to be delivered to the class as a whole. As one teacher teaches the lesson, the other teacher walks around the room answering student questions, keeping students on task and helping individual students when needed. (Co-teaching connection, n.d.) A simple suggestion for this type of classroom would be to provide students with a sticky note at the start of class to write questions on while the lesson is going on. As the second teacher walks around, he or she can easily answer questions without interrupting the lesson.

How can we improve inclusion classrooms?

If inclusion classrooms are not run efficiently, or teachers are not well trained in providing support for students with special learning needs, these classrooms can become a place for behavior problems that can be obtrusive to learning. Although inclusion classes that have proper supports in place have been shown to be beneficial to learning, there is not enough research to show the long term benefits of having inclusion classrooms. (Special Education Inclusion, n.d.)

In order to provide all children with the education that they deserve, more research on inclusion in education is necessary. Not only do we need more research, but teachers need more training in providing support for students with different learning styles and individual learning needs. In particular, now that technology has more relevance in our classrooms, teachers needs more training and research on the benefits of using technology to provide individualized support in inclusion settings.



How IDEA Protects You and Your Child. (2014, April 11). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Special Education Inclusion. (n.d.). Education World. Retrieved December 1, 2015, from

Co-Teaching Connection – Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from


About the Author
Sari Goldstein

Sari Goldstein

Sari Goldstein is a graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in political science and a minor in psychology. She spent most of her 3.5 years in state college, PA, but also spent one semester studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. After graduating from college she began working for Teach for America in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system. She teaches middle school language arts, and is hoping to continue making a difference in the lives of students nationwide. Her passion is creating educational equity and higher literacy rates within Title I schools.