The Promises and Realities of Implementing a Coteaching Model of Student Teaching

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Published: 
May 1, 2019

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume: 70 issue: 3, page(s): 265-279

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study of coteaching examined opportunities afforded for teacher candidates’ development of growth competence, adaptive teaching expertise and collaborative expertise.
The authors examine opportunities for teacher candidate learning afforded by coteaching during student teaching, posit recommendations on using coteaching, and discuss the model’s current limitations.
Coteaching is when two or more teachers share responsibility for pupils’ learning.
When used as a model for student teaching, one or more of the coteachers are experienced teachers who work with one or more teacher candidates to coplan, coinstruct, and coevaluate.
The authors note that coteaching affords opportunities for feedback in situ, aligning the coteaching model more closely with sociocultural theories where learning opportunities are afforded during an authentic context.
As they are continuously adjusting and reflecting together, coteachers begin to develop deep understandings of practice.
This coconstructed learning leads to changes in how coteachers think about and enact teaching decisions, and develop shared expertise resulting in a model that centers on pupil learning, while promoting professional development opportunities for both candidates and clinical educators (Gallo-Fox, Soslau, Scantlebury, & Gleason, 2015).
The authors say that following sociocultural learning theories, coteaching supports contributions of knowledgeable others within collaborative learning models, which differs from gradual release models in that candidates and clinical educators remain active on-site partners for the duration of student teaching, sharing responsibility for pupil learning and distributing power by acknowledging both coteachers’ contributions and areas for self-improvement.
Coteaching explicitly makes collaborative problematizing of practice a normal part of teacher learning.
During coplanning, coteachers generate lessons to support pupil learning and coordinate teaching responsibilities (Gallo-Fox & Scantlebury, 2015).
Coplanning affords opportunities for learning as coteachers discuss rationales for planning and assessment decisions, make suggestions, and answer questions.
This external articulation of thinking supports candidate learning (Dewey, 1938; Sawyer, 2006) while also functioning to eliminate the potential of mimicry without full understanding seen in gradual release models where candidates observe clinical educators teach but are not necessarily privy to the teachers’ planning and rationale processes.
Most noticeably, coteachers teach alongside each other from the first day of student teaching, teaching and learning in situ.
Huddling, an impromptu meeting of coteachers before, during, or after lessons, provides a unique context for candidate learning (Tobin, 2006).
During huddles, candidates work with clinical educators and learn how to improve instruction based on pupil cues, contextual shifts, and in situ teacher reflection and decision making.
Again, as student learning is paramount in coteaching, huddles provide a structure for coteachers to make instructional decisions, while allowing candidates to learn how to adjust their instruction in real time.
Coevaluation is similar to field-instructor-led debriefing sessions.
However, unlike debriefing sessions, which may focus solely on candidates’ practices, coevaluation examines pupil learning.
These coteaching conversations allow for reflection on the lesson and include planning for future instruction.
Coevalution allows coteachers to expose, explore, and challenge their own thinking and corrective feedback, or retrospective coreflections, and is based on examination of coteachers’ articulated intent, rather than an assumed intent based on observed actions.

Methods and Data Sources
Method
Twelve clinical educator and candidate dyads provided three video and/or audio recordings each of coinstruction, coplanning, and coevaluation meetings.
Researchers conducted clinical educator and candidate end of semester interviews.
In summary, 108 recordings of coteaching informed the study (36 recordings, each of coinstruction, coplanning, and coevaluation meetings).
The purpose of this study was to examine whether the coteaching model was functioning as theorized, thus affording opportunities for candidates to develop their adaptive teaching expertise, growth competence, and collaborative skills.
Three types of teacher learning were mapped onto specific observable coteaching behaviors of coplanning, coinstruction, and coevaluation.
Recordings of coplanning, coinstruction, and coevaluation data were transcribed verbatim.

Results and Discussion
Is the Coteaching Approach Functioning According to Theory?
The authors explored how the theoretical model of coteaching was functioning in practice and examined participants’ implementation against the anticipated learning affordances including growth competence, adaptive teaching expertise, and collaborative expertise.
Missed opportunities indicated areas of improvement for the model that, if strengthened, may lead to improved candidate learning.
They note that programs implementing coteaching should focus on learning affordances within a coteaching model such as
(a) positioning, power, and agency building;
(b) focus on pupil learning; and
(c) embodiment of dual roles as teacher and learner of teaching.

Positioning, power, and agency building
The authors found that less than optimal positioning and power sharing weakened coteachers’ learning affordances during coteaching.
Candidates did not consistently perceive themselves as agents in their own learning and relied on clinical educators to initiate changes during teaching, hindering opportunities to develop adaptive expertise.
Similarly, during postlesson debriefing conferences, clinical educators assumed roles as lead reflectors and pointed out areas of improvement, while candidates remained passive receivers of feedback.
The authors emphasize that these types of exchanges run counter to purposes of coteaching, which explicitly attempt to position coteachers as active contributors in classrooms, with different expertise and abilities to support coteacher and pupil learning.
The dominance of clinical educators’ voices and lack of occurrences where candidates took initiative to self-select areas for improvement or suggest changes hinder opportunities for development of collaborative expertise and growth competence.

Lack of focus on pupil learning
The authors found that both clinical educators and candidates focused on evaluating lesson enactment in relation to candidates’ observed behaviors.
Often candidates shared that they “felt” the lesson “went well.”
Clinical educators did not push candidates to support self-judgments based on evidence of pupils’ learning.
The majority of postconferences included dialogue about lesson pacing or classroom management. Seldom did coteachers analyze pupil work or discuss learning goals and related outcomes.
The authors note that this lack of focus on pupil learning weakens the power of the model, which seeks to center student learning and wellbeing.

Failure to embody dual roles: Teacher and learner of teaching
Clinical educators can improve practice through coteaching; thus, the model also functions as professional development (Gallo-Fox & Scantlebury, 2016; Guise et al., 2016).
However, it was found that clinical educators did not take opportunities to talk about their own learning.
The authors emphasize that teachers must perceive themselves as both teachers and teachers of learning to capitalize on promised benefits of coteaching.

How Can Conditions Be Strengthened?
The authors note that coteaching provides rich opportunities for learning, but these opportunities were inconsistent across dyads suggesting insufficient understanding of how to enact coteaching.
They suggest that one way to improve conditions and understanding of coteaching is to involve university-based field instructors as coaches of coteaching dyads.
This requires reconceptualizing roles of university-based field instructors such that field instructors serve as both instructor of candidates while also supporting the model’s implementation.

References
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York, NY: Macmillan
Gallo-Fox, J., & Scantlebury, K. (April, 2015). “It isn’t necessarily sunshine and daisies every time”: Coplanning opportunities and challenges when student teaching. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 43(4), 324-337. doi:10.1080/13598 66X.2015.1060294
Gallo-Fox, J., & Scantlebury, K. (2016). Coteaching as professional development for cooperating teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 191-202. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2016.08.007
Gallo-Fox, J., Soslau, E. G., Scantlebury, K., & Gleason, S. (2015). Opportunities for learning in a coteaching model: Implications for university-based field instructors. Paper presented at the American Education Research Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL
Guise, M., Habib, M., Robbins, A., Hegg, S., Hoellwarth, C., & Stauch, N. (2016). Preconditions for success and barriers to implementation: The importance of collaborative and reflective dispositions to foster professional growth during a coteaching clinical experience. Teacher Education Quarterly, 43(4), 55-76
Sawyer, R. K. (2006). The new science of learning. In R. K. Sawyer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 1-6). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Tobin, K. (2006). Learning to teach through coteaching and cogenerative dialogue. Teaching Education, 17(2), 133-142. doi:10.1080/10476210600680358 

Updated: Feb. 13, 2020
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