Coteaching in Teacher Education: Innovative Pedagogy for Excellence

Coteaching in Teacher Education: Innovative Pedagogy for Excellence

by Colette Murphy, Ian Menter (Editor)


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This book provides a concise and comprehensive overview of the practice of coteaching, including its benefits and educational and social implications. Coteaching plays an important role in enhancing the experience and effectiveness of pre-service and in-service teachers during school experience at a time when teacher retention rates are a concern both nationally and internationally. Traditional practice in school experience, generally comprising observation followed by complete take-over of classes, has not altered in more than a century, despite significant changes in the role of the teacher, the needs of students, the learning environment and the functioning of schools. Coteaching provides a pedagogy which supports pre-service teachers more actively and promotes teacher professional development, as they work together in co-planning, co-practice and co-evaluating lessons during school-based experience. 

Co-teaching in Teacher Education is part of the successful Critical Guides for Teacher Educators series edited by Ian Menter.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781910391822
Publisher: Critical Publishing
Publication date: 10/10/2016
Series: Critical Guides for Teacher Educators
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 6.15(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Colette Murphy is a professor of science and mathematics education at the School of Education, Trinity College, Dublin. She has been a teacher educator for more than 25 years and has published two books and many articles on improving the experience of pre-service teachers in schools. Her research centres on science learning and teaching at all levels, and she is well known for her work on coteaching in initial teacher education.

Ian Menter (AcSS) is Professor of Teacher Education and Director of Professional Programmes in the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.  He previously worked at the Universities of Glasgow, the West of Scotland, London Metropolitan, the West of England and Gloucestershire.  Before that he was a primary school teacher in Bristol, England.  His most recent publications include A Literature Review on Teacher Education for the 21st Century (Scottish Government) and A Guide to Practitioner Research in Education (Sage).  His work has also been published in many academic journals.

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Coteaching in Teacher Education

Innovative Pedagogy for Excellence

By Ian Menter

Critical Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2016 Colette Murphy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-910391-84-6




What is coteaching, and what is its potential for improving initial and in-service teacher education?

What does coteaching look like in the classroom?

How does coteaching differ from other forms of collaborative teaching?


Coteaching serves as pedagogy to improve school-based experience for pre-service and in-service teachers. In coteaching, pre-service teachers (PSTs) and in-service teachers (ISTs) plan, teach and evaluate a series of lessons together (usually eight to ten). Coteaching has changed the face of pre-service teaching, which, it is argued, does not equip new teachers sufficiently well for twenty-first century classroom teaching (a good overview is presented in Bacharach, Heck and Dahlberg, 2010a). Currently, almost 40 per cent of teachers in the UK drop out within a year of qualifying (Weale, 2015). Attrition among new teachers is an international problem; reasons include isolation, pressure to be 'outstanding', excessive home-based workload and managing pupil misbehaviour. Other issues for new teachers in the UK reported recently by Weale (2016) are long hours, endless administration, angry parents, poorly planned change, constant criticism and the stress of Ofsted visits. Such increasing demands upon new teachers make many of them feel ill-equipped to take on the role when they start as a full-time teacher. The traditional practice in school experience for PSTs comprises a period of observation followed by complete takeover of classes. This practice has not changed in more than a century, despite significant developments in the role of a teacher, the needs of pupils, the learning environment and the functioning of schools. With coteaching, PSTs gain confidence rapidly, working alongside ISTs. ISTs gain both professional development and an expanded repertoire of teaching approaches and resources.

Sharing of ideas, experience and expertise lies at the root of coteaching, as PST and IST work together in coplanning, copractice and coevaluating for a short series of lessons during school-based experience. Coteaching bridges observation and solo teaching and develops coteachers' confidence as they share expertise and coreflect on their progress towards providing 'ideal' learning environments for pupils. Words ascribed to George Bernard Shaw illustrate the difference between sharing resources and sharing ideas, or expertise.

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

(George Bernard Shaw (as cited in

Sharing ideas and expertise is also an important element of twenty-first century pedagogy, which seeks to develop skills in pupils that equip them for a world in which most jobs require higher-order skills. The World Economic Forum (Soffel, 2016) has identified the ten top skills required for workers in 2015 and predicted those for 2020 as shown in Table 1.1.

Chapter 7 of this book discusses ways that coteaching supports pedagogy in twenty-first century classrooms.

This book provides a concise yet comprehensive guide to coteaching for teacher educators, ISTs and PSTs. Using research evidence, it illustrates how coteaching increases PST confidence during school experience, and as new teachers. It also shows coteaching as embedded professional development, which is heralded by OECD (2015) as the most effective form of teacher continuing professional development (CPD), and demonstrates how coteaching contributes to bridging the well-criticised gap between theory and practice in teaching.

Chapter 1 introduces coteaching in three main sections, describing the nature of coteaching, how it 'looks' in the classroom and comparing it with other forms of collaborative teaching.

The nature of coteaching

Coteaching is an innovation in teacher education programmes in which PSTs and ISTs plan, teach and evaluate a short series of lessons together; it is facilitated by teacher educators. It has been introduced in teacher education programmes to improve PST confidence and enjoyment of teaching by providing structured support in the classroom during school experience.

Coteaching involves two or more teachers planning, teaching and evaluating lessons together, sharing responsibility for meeting the learning needs of pupils and, at the same time, learning from each other. It is a pedagogical model, which has developed simultaneously in different parts of the world to address some common challenges, for example:

* PST anxiety during teaching experiences;

* the gap between theory and practice experienced by PSTs and ISTs;

* ineffective pupil learning as a consequence of inadequate PST practice;

* pupil disaffection;

* mainstreaming pupils with special needs;

* the difficulty of preparing teachers as reflective practitioners.

The essence of coteaching is sharing expertise; it values the knowledge, qualities and experience that both coteachers bring to the process. Coteaching promotes more equal roles in the classroom by supporting a less hierarchical model of teaching. Such a collaborative model gives coteaching a structure to develop teacher reflection on theory, praxis and practice. It also exemplifies co-operative and collaborative practice which learners can emulate.

The development of coteaching in teacher education

I start this section with a case study of how coteaching developed in Northern Ireland.

My work on coteaching began at a meeting 15 years ago with a teacher educator colleague and a school principal, at which we were discussing ways to enhance the development of science teaching in her primary school. The principal suggested that our science PSTs (BEd undergraduates) might work on science teaching with her own teachers – she said that both might develop more confidence – in science teaching and in teaching per se. What a powerful idea! In those early days, we called it team teaching and developed a proposal for funding, based on science students (PSTs) in primary schools (SSIPS). The SSIPS project attracted significant funding, on the proviso that we carried out the work in a minimum of 25 schools. This was a daunting prospect, as we had not done any research and development work of this nature before. We enlisted help from a group of school principals to advise us about introducing this form of coteaching in their schools and, most importantly, what problems could arise without careful planning. Stepping carefully forward, we spent a further day with the school principals, ISTs and PSTs from the 25 coteaching schools in which we carried out a series of activities planned by principals and the research team, to prepare for this new way of teaching a few lessons. At the end of the day everyone signed up to introducing coteaching in the schools, and we took it from there.

This early work provided the foundations for coteaching in the UK (Northern Ireland), and can be found in Murphy and Beggs (2006) and Carlisle (2008). On presenting our findings in the USA, we met colleagues who were working on a very similar model, which they called coteaching. Coteaching (without the hyphen) is distinguished from the hyphenated term 'co-teaching' (used primarily in special education), team teaching, co-operative teaching and collaborative teaching. Coteaching is the only one of these approaches that requires a commitment to coplanning, copractice and coreflection; it serves as a methodology for preparing teachers and a pedagogy for improving teaching, and is based on a sociocultural theoretical framework. The aims of coteaching include:

* reducing the theory-practice gap in teacher education;

* improving reflective practice in the classroom;

* developing teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK).

Our work progressed as coteaching, in an international collaboration between the UK, Ireland, and other European countries, USA, Canada, Australia and Asia.

Even in the earliest coteaching research projects, we came across several examples of reflective comments from both ISTs and PSTs on different ways that coteaching had developed their teaching. The following example describes how a primary school coteacher critiques her own practice when observing her coteaching PST as she interacts with pupils.

One of the main things that I gained was that you could sit back and watch your children responding to somebody teaching them ... You could see sometimes that there were children in the classroom continually getting the attention from the students [PSTs], because they were the loudest, always coming up with answers, always being funny. They were getting the attention and there were children who were being completely ignored ... because they were quiet and sitting not making a sound but not showing any interest. It made me aware that I'm probably doing that in my teaching ... To be able to see someone else teaching because you never do that ...

The comment that follows from a PST describes the difference between the experience of the more traditional 'teaching practice' and that of coteaching.

You come into school on 'teaching practice' and maybe you are sitting there observing the class when the teacher is taking the lesson. You see things and you want to say something or do something in response to whatever has gone on and you can't really. But with the coteaching you were really into it, you were more of a legitimate participant in things, you were watching and learning from the teacher as you were teaching, so if there was something you thought could go differently you could just intervene and that would be OK.

Our initial model of coteaching in a primary science context, which illustrates the sharing of expertise, is illustrated in Figure 1.1.

The benefits for pupils from coteaching have been highlighted in large research projects, and include significantly higher attainment scores in mathematics and reading on national tests in the USA (Bacharach, Heck and Dahlberg, 2010b) and significant improvement of attitudes to science lessons and problem solving (Murphy and Beggs, 2010).

Coteaching is now an established practice in teacher education globally, most widespread in the USA. Research evidence shows multiple benefits for all participants in coteaching, which are considered in more depth in Chapter 6, and include:

* PSTs involved in coteaching are typically more confident and agentic (proactive, self-reflective), attain higher school experience grades, enjoy teaching more and exhibit better decision making (eg Scantlebury, Gallo-Fox and Wassell, 2008; Murphy, McCullagh and Doherty, 2014);

* coteaching ISTs are still involved in teaching their own classes during the coteaching lessons; no longer spectators in the room;

* coteaching presents ISTs with excellent, embedded professional development opportunities (eg Nilsson, 2015; OECD, 2016);

* coteachers can exploit opportunities to experiment with new instructional strategies, monitor pupils more closely and gain from the teaching conversations which take place at all stages of coteaching (eg Gallo-Fox, 2010);

* improved pupil learning (as measured by scores in externally administered tests), improved attitudes to subject learning and to school in general (Bacharach et al, 2010b; Murphy and Beggs, 2010);

* teacher educators get the opportunity to teach alongside PSTs and ISTs, and to learn more about putting theory into practice (Carlisle, 2008);

* significant whole-school impact of coteaching in terms of culture, teacher morale and increased enthusiasm to engage in outside initiatives (Kerin and Murphy, 2015).

Coteaching is now a growing practice in several other fields, such as between school librarians and teachers, parents and teachers, teacher education colleagues with different specialisms, professional musicians and teachers, teacher educators and teachers, and two teachers.

Coteaching in the classroom

Coteaching comprises three phases: coplanning, copractice and coreflection, which are interdependent. Each phase is discussed in depth in Chapter 4.

1. Coplanning is an essential aspect of coteaching. It provides opportunities for joint responsibility for the lesson and facilitates coteachers in clarifying their individual roles in relation to the particular lesson. In coplanning, coteachers plan 'ideal' lessons that aim to enhance learning for all pupils, instead of focusing on resources and their use.

2. Copractice describes coteachers' roles in the classroom. During the lesson, it would be rare for both teachers to be 'on the stage' throughout. More commonly, they move between roles during the lesson, depending on the activity. When copractice is fully attained, the praxis of teaching (teaching as consciously linking theory and practice) is mutual and coteachers are able to anticipate each other's moves.

3. Coreflection is required to guide coplanning for the next session using lessons learned. Coteachers reflect in the 'ideal plane', whereby they seek tools (perhaps advice from colleagues, books, online references, etc) and model solutions to episodes in the lesson that were not as successful as they had hoped (see Chapter 4 and Appendix 4 for more details on coreflection).

It is when coteachers are copractising in the classroom that we get the best illustration of how coteaching works. During a single lesson, there are many different ways that coteachers work together (see Figure 1.2).

One coteacher leading, the other assisting

Depending on the content and/or activity, it is best that one coteacher leads, for example, by giving a set of instructions and watching the pupils, while the other is using props or illustrations to assist. This arrangement suits a range of activities which require more than one set of hands to set up a more ideal learning environment.

One coteacher leading, the other observing

This approach is used when one coteacher might be trying something new or unfamiliar and the other watches the pupils to assess how it is working out. Observation during coteaching focuses on the pupils, rather than on the teachers. It is frequently employed early in coteaching when the PST might value the IST's advice. But as coteachers become more comfortable with each other, they both ask to be observed trying out new resources or teaching methods.

Coteachers working separately with small groups

During practical activities, it is often valuable for teachers to pay attention to small groups. Having two teachers doubles this opportunity!

One coteacher leading, the other guiding

This approach provides an excellent example for pupils, when they observe the 1ST taking verbal guidance from the PST and vice versa, as they try something new. Pupils see good collaboration in action as the coteachers model taking and using advice – and their responses when the outcome is not as planned. For coteachers, this approach enables them to develop their teaching while 'in the act'.

Coteachers teaching together

This approach is most successful when coteachers have got used to working together. A huge advantage of this method is that pupils can benefit from two perspectives at the same time, and thus experience learning more fully. Coteachers plan lessons that are sufficiently flexible to enable each to 'step forward' or 'step back' accordingly to maximise the contribution of their expertise to the learning environment.

You can see video clips of these different forms of copractice online at: uk/ext/cpd/coteaching/8.html. The blend of coplanning, copractice and coreflection is one feature that distinguishes coteaching from many other collaborative forms of teaching. The next section compares coteaching with some other popular collaborative approaches.

Comparing coteaching and other collaborative teaching models

Perhaps the major difference between coteaching and other forms of collaborative teaching is that coteaching is specifically developed for improving the school experience element of initial teacher education. Most other forms of collaboration in teaching involve ISTs working together in the classroom, sometimes with non-teaching specialists.

My own experience of teaching in a wide variety of contexts suggests that there is no single 'one-size-fits-all' approach for classroom collaboration. Table 1.2 shows some forms of collaboration which are frequently compared with coteaching.

Team teaching

The term team teaching embraces most forms of collaborative teaching (O'Murchu, 2011). The most common forms of team teaching are as follows.

* Traditional team teaching: both teachers actively share the instruction of content and skills, both teachers accept equal responsibility for all pupils and both teachers are actively involved throughout the class.

* Lead and support teaching: one teacher leads the lesson assuming responsibility for teaching the content, the other teacher provides support and follow-up activities.


Excerpted from Coteaching in Teacher Education by Ian Menter. Copyright © 2016 Colette Murphy. Excerpted by permission of Critical Publishing Ltd.
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Table of Contents


Acknowledgements, vi,
Foreword, vii,
About the series editor and author, ix,
Chapter 1 What is coteaching?, 1,
Chapter 2 What is the theoretical basis of coteaching?, 13,
Chapter 3 How does coteaching work in practice?, 23,
Chapter 4 Preparing for and implementing coteaching, 32,
Chapter 5 Coteaching as continuing professional development, 41,
Chapter 6 What are the outcomes of coteaching?, 52,
Chapter 7 How can coteaching support twenty-first century pedagogy?, 61,
Appendix 1 Exemplar coteaching code of practice for PSTs and ISTs, 68,
Appendix 2 Possible coteaching scenarios, 69,
Appendix 3 Reflection in coteaching: an adaptation of Larivee's (2008) levels, 70,
Appendix 4 Coreflection, one cycle: adapted from Lampert-Shepel (1999), 71,
References, 72,
Index, 77,

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