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Inclusion has been deemed an effective model, and more and more schools are adopting this teaching method. If you are new to inclusion and are just now starting to navigate the co-teaching landscape, you may have a number of questions.

This period of time, before the new year begins, is ideal to review some effective co-teaching models. These models require a lot of trust and collaboration. Classes with an inclusion component typically utilize a generalist and a special needs teacher.

The roles of both teachers are quite similar to each other with the main difference being that the special education teacher will work to implement Individual Education Programs (IEPs) for applicable students. They are both responsible for the overall management of the classroom, assessing the students’ progress and advancement, and completing lesson plans.

Co-Teaching Models

There are a number of different teaching models that you can adopt when working with a co-teacher to help you both feel empowered and necessary. Take a look at the overviews below and remember that you can switch between styles depending on the subject matter or lesson plan.

Supportive Co-Teaching

Supportive Co-Teaching is a model that sees one teacher leading the instruction from the front of the class while the other team member supports the students by rotating throughout the classroom.

Parallel Co-Teaching

Parallel Co-Teaching works when the classroom teacher and the special needs teacher each work with a sub-group of students from the class. This does not mean that typical students are separated from special needs students. The groups are divided up to include all types of students in each group.

Complementary Co-Teaching

Complementary Co-Teaching is when one teacher is at the front of the class, leading the lesson while the other provides supplementary support. This could be something like showing the class how to take good notes by writing them out on a transparency, or by rephrasing what the lead teacher is saying in a manner that all of the students can easily understand.

Team Teaching

Team Teaching has the co-teachers working alongside each other and sharing the duties of the classroom. This means that both teachers are working with all members of the class.


If you want to implement Complementary Co-Teaching or Team Teaching it is important to remember that there is a high level of commitment necessary for the success of these two modalities, even more so than the others. There is a lot of collaboration involved in these two methods and require that each member of the co-teaching team respect the abilities of all of the other members. This includes subject areas where your experience may be greater than that of the other team members.

It is difficult to start with either of these two methods, and most teams work up to Complementary Co-Teaching and Team Teaching after they have already established a history of co-teaching together.

Keep the end goal in mind

Whichever method the team believes will work best for the lesson plan should be used. Remember, co-teaching does not require that the team choose just one method and stick with it. There are many subjects or plans that lend themselves quite well to one method over the others. Make sure that the end goal is always in mind when determining which method to employ. The entire purpose of co-teaching is to provide improved outcomes for all of the students in the class.

At the start of the semester, the team may lean heavily on Supportive and Parallel Co-Teaching methods and then move on to the other two as they gain a more cohesive co-teaching relationship. Whatever method works best for the co-teaching team should be used, but it’s important to sometimes vary the method.

It is also key that members spend their time teaching. Not running intraschool errands, photocopying, or working on class materials. That type of situation may lead to resentment and a failure of the classroom’s co-teaching experiment.

Form collaborative bonds

Co-teaching is an effective way to make classrooms inclusive while ensuring that the educational needs of all the students are being met. Don’t be afraid to form collaborative bonds with other co-teachers as that will likely improve the effectiveness of these methods. Working with another teacher may take you out of your comfort zone and challenge you in ways that you never expected.

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