Co-teaching Model Offers Benefits for Students and Staff

Alexis Dobranowski, Manager, Communications
This is the first in a series of stories highlighting Greenwood’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research. The Centre ensures our teachers are challenged and supported throughout their careers. It’s also dedicated to identifying and implementing best practice when it comes to pedagogy, personalized learning, and professional development.

Christine Joannou and Krista Gilchrist have hit their stride.

Not only do the Greenwood teachers share an office and a love of math, they share a course, too. 

The pair co-teach Advanced Functions at Greenwood. Co-teaching means that two teachers are assigned to a class. It allows for more flexibility in terms of the delivery of lessons.

“While one person is teaching, the other personalizes the learning by answering questions and supporting student understanding and engagement,” Ms. Gilchrist said of one of the co-taught structures used in the classroom. “It also allows for breakout rooms, where we can support students who may need some extra guidance, or work ahead with others who need a higher challenge.”

The co-teaching model has benefits for both students and educators, Ms. Joannou said. 

“Students and teachers both get different perspectives and approaches to a subject or concept. Something Ms. Gilchrist says might really resonate with one student whereas my explanation or approach might resonate with another,” she said. “It’s helpful to experience different teaching styles and personalities.” 

Ms. Gilchrist agreed.  

“I see co-teaching as a great opportunity to learn from other teachers,” she said. “We get to see what others are doing, experience how others teach something and the tips/tricks they use or language they use to explain something.”

Both Ms. Gilchrist and Ms. Joannou participate in regularly scheduled professional development sessions as a co-teaching pair. Co-led by Mary Gauthier, Executive Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Research, and Heather Maxted, Instructional Coach in the Centre, the sessions provide resources as well as dedicated time for the teachers to reflect on their co-teaching practice. 

For Ms.Gauthier and Ms. Maxted, this time for reflection is crucial for a successful co-teaching relationship and program.

“Co-teaching is not just being in the same room. We really want to support staff in reflecting on their practice,” Ms. Maxted said. “It builds the relationship between the co-teachers to have these intentional practices.”

This is honouring teaching through a practice called Action Research, Ms. Gauthier added. 

“It is looking at your practice, examining what you see in your practice, and considering what changes you want to make or understand to improve your practice,” she said.

After a recent mid-year check-in, Ms. Joannou and Ms. Gilchrist shared their advice for any teachers entering into a co-teaching partnership.

“Be open-minded and flexible. Make time for planning with your co-teaching. And set clear expectations for that planning time,” Ms. Gilchrist said. 

“You have to read each other’s style and meet in the middle,” Ms. Joannou said. “You may, for example, have different approaches to planning. One might like to plan months in advance whereas the other is more day-by-day or week-to-week. It’s important to both be flexible. Through my co-teaching journey, I’ve learned to plan a little farther in advance, and that’s really helped me grow as an educator.”

“Also, be appreciative of the support of another teacher,” Ms. Gilchrist added. “I’m learning so much, all the time, every day. It’s great because so often we are teaching in the silo of our own classroom. It’s refreshing to have new ideas and breathe new life into a course through co-teaching and collaboration.”
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