Co-teaching while students are learning from home presents unique challenges and opportunities. It may be more challenging to share feedback and in-class comments with your co-teacher online. However, co-teaching online can also present teachers with valuable opportunities for collaboration and mutual support while students are learning from home.
Scribner-MacLean and Miller (2011) articulate the potential opportunities presented by co-teaching while students are learning from home:
Co-teaching online is a potential solution to provide the chance to collaborate with colleagues and provide students the support they need to be successful. In addition, co-teaching can build professional and supportive relationships between faculty and can result in a richer learning experience for the both students and teachers. (Scribner-MacLean & Miller, 2011, p. 420).
The following strategies for successful co-teaching are synthesised from recent research on co-teaching strategies in both blended and fully online learning environments.
- Territorial understanding — in planning sessions, encourage teachers to have a clear understanding of each other’s place and purpose within the course.
- Provide students with differentiated feedback — individual co-teachers can focus on different aspects of the work through the same online channel.
- Look for opportunities for teacher-learner partnerships — for example, have students work with a dedicated buddy, especially on longer-term projects
- Emphasise and leverage individual teacher expertise — for example, through collaborative demonstrations where teachers focus on specific areas of expertise.
- Make sure there is clear and frequent communication, both teachers-to-teachers and teachers-to-students, especially so that teams of teachers can “speak with one voice”. As a rule, keep communication frequent and short, making use of time to check in with students and clarify goals. Aim to establish a supportive online community with strong social presence where support can be offered by all co-teachers as well as other students.
- Develop a plan for how to deal with potential conflict and build a shared understanding of learning goals.
- Have structured online sessions where students can choose what to learn and/or connect to teachers and/or students with specific expertise — for example, online seminars, panel discussions, demonstrations, study groups, mini-conferences, and/or guest presentations.
- Use synchronous sessions strategically — for example, to clarify goals, debrief an activity, to deliver collaborative team teaching, or facilitate a planning session.
- Establish clear communication protocols — for example, students might be asked to always email co-teachers and the first one who can reply, does so. Co-teachers might alternate the checking of email at different times.
- Utilise cooperative structures such as station rotation — where students rotate through a variety of activities with input from different teachers — or rotational teaching, where each teacher delivers different parts of the course, only being present when it is their time to teach.
- Consult with outside experts and look for opportunities to bring them into the virtual classroom. Also consider involving parents with specific areas of expertise where possible.
- Utilise online journals: suitable for documenting independent learning and facilitating feedback — shared teacher-to-teacher as well as teacher-to-students
- Always ensure consistency in co-assessment; avoid perceptions of there being an “easy marker” or a “better teacher” in terms of quality and timeliness of feedback.