Sunday, August 23, 2009

Co-teaching in the Role of Coach

Recently I attended a two day workshop on coaching. The workshop was valuable and informative. It has also left me with serious doubts about my plans for this fall. In discussing the coaching model that includes cycles of modeling, collaborative planning, observing, and providing feedback, the presenter said that the modeling phase should not be confused with co-teaching. He said that the research indicates that co-teaching as a form of coaching, where the coach will eventually leave the co-teaching situation is not effective. The classroom teacher would revert back to their old way of teaching because they lack the partner in the room.

I have plans to co-teach this year with a 6th grade teacher in her boys only reading class. The reason we had decided to give this a go was due to a workshop led by Laura Robb that I attended at the Michigan Reading Conference last spring. Led by the ideas in Robb's book Differentiating Reading Instruction, we want to implement a differentiated way of teaching strategic reading in our school. We are planning to implement Robb's methods and then report to staff and have the methods and strategies spread through the school.

The presenter's statement leaves me wondering if I have chosen the best method for creating change. Unfortunately, it is too late for me to "back out" of co-teaching. We've already begun planning and my co-teacher does not feel confident about pulling this together alone. And really, I'm not convinced that the presenter or his research were correct. I do think that it provides new questions for my co-teacher and I to discuss. I need to remember that this is really HER classroom, not OURS. We need to develop strategies for her to be able to run this new style of classroom on her own at some point, and I think we need to determine what that point should be.

If I consider our work together in terms of the gradual release model of instruction, I still believe co-teaching is the best option. The changes we are seeking are not ones I can simply model, as I've never taught this way. These changes are a whole new process for designing and implementng a reading curriculum. They will require both my co-teacher and me to shift our paradigm. But I think if the rest of our thinking follows the gradual release method, always reminding ourselves that at some point it will be she alone in the classroom, we can make co-teaching work.


  1. I am so interested in your thoughts about co-teaching versus modeling. I think that, all too often, literacy coaches are placed in the position to help others do things that they themselves have never done. This really undermines the coach's credibility! I think that your co-teaching experience will inform your future coaching in a way that just modeling a lesson will not. Where do you see the release of responsibility happening--one month, two months, more?

  2. You are so right about being asked to help others do things we haven't done ourselves. And the last thing that I want is to be placed in the role of expert!

    I think the timing for release of responsibility will have to be a decision that the co-teacher and I make together based on her level of readiness and comfort. We have set the curriculum into 6 week themes. I would hope that we would have true co-teaching in the first 6 weeks, and then in the second and third 6 weeks maybe we would plan collaboratively with model lessons for strategy instruction. Beyond that I would hope she is ready to plan on her own and I would still model when necessary, but do more observing and providing feedback. I think it is going to be a delicate balancing act.

  3. It may not be "right" but I sometimes use "modeling" & "co-teaching" interchangeably, especially if it's going to be more than a fly-by, 1-time-only modeling (I service 3 buildings!) because it sends the message that the teacher and I are working together. Plus, it helps keep the teacher engaged in the process. I may use different words for strategies, etc. than the class uses, and the teacher can say "boys and girls, do you remember when..." and help to make the connections. I may have a little more background knowledge or training in a strategy or technique, but I'm often doing things I never did as a classroom teacher, so we are learning together in that respect too.

    If you have/develop a good relationship with this teacher (it sounds like you already have similar philosophies in that you are willing to implement the instructional design) in your coaching dialogue you can find out what she is thinking, how she is feeling, etc. and plan for the scaffolding of your support. Your 6-week chunks sound reasonable in terms of that. The coaching conversations are going to be very important. I'd love to talk more about this with you. :)

  4. My take on this is that as long as the two of you keep in mind that the strategies and methods that you are using (especially after the first six weeks) will ultimately be implemented by individuals and not teams, that this is an effective way to collaborate and model (for the rest of the staff). I like your thinking about the gradual release model, and I think that the timeline you laid out makes sense, although co-planning might still be beneficial later in the cycle. I'm interested to hear how this goes!