Everything You Need To Know About Co-Teaching Models In Special Education

Last Updated on October 4, 2023 by Editorial Team

Co-teaching is the practice of pairing teachers together in a classroom with shared responsibilities of planning, instructing, and assessing the students. Generally, regular and special education teachers are paired together for the purpose of nurturing an inclusive classroom where students with learning difficulties are also placed along with their peers.

This can be beneficial for an inclusive classroom as just one teacher may be burdened with the responsibilities to provide learning to the entire class which includes children with special needs. If there is another teacher who specializes in learning difficulties, the quality of the education will be much better as the workload will be divided and there will be expertise for special students. There are many models for co-teaching that can be adopted, and teachers may choose what suits them.

Co-teaching model: The What and Why

Co-teaching is pairing teachers together in a classroom to share the responsibilities of planning, instructing, and assessing students equally. In a co-teaching model, the teachers involved are all responsible and accountable for the classroom. 

Co-teaching is often implemented with general and special education teachers together as part of an initiative to create a classroom that creates a learning atmosphere for all students. 

  • Co-teaching allows for greater efficiency, which can mean more time spent on students’ academic needs, as opposed to administrative or clerical tasks.
  • CoTeaching (or Collaborative Teaching) involves two teachers working together and sharing responsibility for an individual child’s educational program, It requires both parties to share information about the student’s progress. This helps them provide appropriate instruction based on their needs at any given time.
  • In this method of teaching, it could mean that one teacher focuses primarily on the student. At the same time, another specializes in providing enrichment activities for all members of the class or working with one or two other students with similar needs. The main goal is to ensure that each individual receives optimal instruction from both teachers and is therefore satisfied. 

Co-teaching models: Explored

1. One teach one assist

One Teach One Assist is a model that allows the teacher to teach and provide direct instructional support while the assistant provides independent learning activities. The two are not required to work together at all times, but they can if they choose.

This model allows for the best possible learning environment for students with special needs by providing them with specialized instruction from an experienced educator who knows how to work directly with these individuals based on their individual needs. It also helps teachers who may be more comfortable working alone because it gives them more time for planning purposes. 

2. Station model

Station teaching is a model that uses a teacher and an aide to work in separate areas of the classroom. The teacher works with one group of students, while the aide works with another group of students. Because station teaching involves two people working together, it can be more efficient than other models of special education teaching because there’s less need for communication between them as they work on different parts of their tasks simultaneously.

Aides may also help students with tasks that teachers cannot do by themselves because they lack knowledge or expertise in certain areas. For example: helping with writing activities.

3. Alternative teaching

The alternative teaching model is one small group of students receives intensive instruction from one teacher, while the rest of the students are instructed by the other teacher. Alternative Teaching is used when a handful of students may have different needs than the rest of the class, whether they need more support or an extension of the lesson. 

For example, the general education teacher leads a small group, rather than the special education teacher. Both teachers take turns leading the groups so that it is not just one teacher becoming prominent in that role to the students. This also provides both teachers the opportunity to know all of the students well and to provide updates on each child’s individual goals.

4. Parallel teaching

Parallel teaching is another model used to help children with learning disabilities or other special needs. A teacher and specialist are in the same classroom, but they work separately on their subjects. The specialist may teach a different group of students than the teacher, or even a different subject altogether. 

 In this case, the child will learn from both teachers at once and have a better chance of understanding what’s being taught because they can compare notes between each other and themselves.

5. Team teaching

Team teaching is a good way to ensure students have access to high-quality education. In this model, teachers share responsibility for their student’s learning and work together to plan lessons. Teachers may be in the same classroom but share different roles: some may teach all subjects while others teach only one subject at a time.

Teachers also work together on assessment tasks and goals for each student—so that everyone has an opportunity to contribute as much as possible.

Co-teaching models; What does the research say?

Co-teaching is a strategy that can be used to provide extra help and support to students who are struggling in the classroom. It also offers an opportunity for both teachers to develop their own professional development skills as they work collaboratively with each other. However, while co-teaching can be a valuable tool for improving student learning outcomes, it requires careful planning and implementation in order to be successful. 

Co-teaching has gained a positive perspective[1] from teachers and students who adopted it and significant improvements in academic and behavioral aspects were found in comparison to previous years when co-teaching was not put to use.

Co-teaching appears to be an effective option for inclusive classrooms, to meet the needs of students with difficulties placed in general classrooms as the presence of a general education teacher along with a special education teacher fulfills the needs of all students. Both teachers assist one another on various matters and complement each other’s expertise. This ensures that along with meeting the needs of special students, the needs of other peers and the environment of the classroom as a whole flourish. 

Co-teaching has produced many positive benefits[2] for educators and students as it generates more student and teacher engagement as well as creates a support system. The general education teacher contributes with their grade-level knowledge and the special education teacher puts in the content knowledge needed to meet the requirements of students with disabilities. In addition to that, teachers develop a positive relationship of support and companionship and this collaboration works best for both teachers and students.

Although co-teaching seems like a smooth way of delivering learning in an inclusive classroom by facilitating general and special education, it requires a great deal of support, partnership, and compatibility. For co-teaching to work in an efficient manner, planning, and preparation for lesson plans, roles, and responsibilities of both the teachers and common ground on teaching approaches. Considering each other’s viewpoint and reaching a mid-way during times of disagreement is very crucial for this method of teaching as it can go south if both teachers do not work as a team. 

Pros and Cons


  • The most significant advantage of this method is the lesser student-to-teacher ratio. This ensures more attention is paid by the educator to the learners. 
  • There is an inclusive classroom where the child with special needs feels comfortable.
  • The children benefit from the knowledge and experience of both the teachers.
  • The teachers have reduced workload which helps improve efficiency.
  • The children receive immediate feedback as the teacher has more time. 
  • No monotony because of one teacher


  • can lead to interference with a child’s ability to become an independent learner.
  • Both teachers must support the classroom environment equally for this arrangement to be useful.
  • There must be a factor of trust between the teachers without which it becomes difficult to implement this method. 
  • the cost of providing education can increase exponentially in communities that adopt this system as the staff has to be increased. 
  • Meticulous planning is required, without which there may be situations where the instructors might find themselves teaching different content on the same subjects. 

How do co-teaching models help students with LD?

Co-teaching provides students with learning difficulties, access to the general education curriculum by providing them with more opportunities for peer interactions and hands-on learning, thereby making the classroom more inclusive and sensitive to their needs. It allows teachers to create a positive classroom environment, teach social skills, and promote friendship between children with special needs and their classmates. It fosters an environment of mutual respect and friendship.

Through co-teaching students with learning difficulties receive specialized instruction. They will have the opportunity to be taught in an intense manner. Being in a classroom and learning helps the child with special needs to improve social skills as well. Interacting with peers, and teachers adds to self-confidence. 

Co-taught lessons help all students learn from each other, regardless of ability. Students with difficulties can serve as role models, leading their classmates in study groups, team projects, and cooperative learning activities. They may serve as a source of motivation to their peers. The co-teaching model provides a setting that promotes maturity and an understanding of each other. It helps to build trust with the educators and peers and instills a sense of confidence in the child. 


To sum it up, although teachers, parents, and schools do their best to ensure that all students participate in the same learning environment, it is difficult to provide a resource custom fitting every student’s needs. Co-teaching models provide a lesser teacher-to-student ratio, allowing teachers to provide specialized instruction to meet the unique needs of each child. 

Many parents face one issue when enrolling their child in school the lack of accommodation for their child’s special needs. In addition, the diversity within the student population is changing so rapidly that most schools struggle to develop curricula to accommodate learning differences adequately. This is where co-teaching can play an important role; in providing an inclusive environment for all.


  1. Hang, Q., & Rabren, K. (2008). An Examination of Co-Teaching. Remedial and Special Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741932508321018
  2. Stortenbecker, J. (n.d.). The effectiveness of the Co-Teaching model. NWCommons. https://nwcommons.nwciowa.edu/education_masters/369/

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