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Coaches' Corner: March 2017

Coaches' Corner: March 2017
Posted on 03/02/2017
Co-Teaching and Co-Planning at VLUS
By Matt Dunkel and Sarah Foleno, 
the VLUS Instructional Coaches

In this edition of the Coaches’ Corner we’ll focus on co-teaching and co-planning, two emerging forms of collaboration and professional learning at VLUS.

As you might know, the district’s Office of Student Services (OSS) has selected VLUS to implement new methods of co-teaching collaboration between general educators and special educators. With the support and guidance of Dr. Marilyn Friend, a national expert on co-teaching, our teachers are implementing a wide range of research-based co-teaching strategies to benefit students.

Co-teaching is a service delivery option in which two teachers – in this case, a general educators and a special educator – share responsibility for a classroom and make joint instructional decisions characterized by parity.

As described in Dr. Friend’s research, co-teaching has a wide range of potential benefits. It allows students with disabilities to access the general education curriculum in the “least restrictive environment.” And studies indicate that it supports better outcomes for all students, since all students in a co-taught classroom:

–Benefit from special educators’ expertise in learning styles and strategies;
–Receive additional attention from teachers;
–Receive additional opportunities to engage and participate; and
–Receive additional opportunities for differentiation and in-class intervention.

This year, our co-teachers are implementing strategies that include:

Stations Teaching, in which students rotate between stations for targeted learning experiences with each teacher;
Parallel Teaching, in which both teachers present the same material, but the class is divided in half to reduce student-to-teacher ratio; and
Alternative Teaching, in which one teacher works with a small group in the classroom to provide targeted instruction that is different from what the large group is doing.

Of course, new teaching strategies require professional learning. Teachers are investing heavily in this learning, and we (the instructional coaches) are supporting them by facilitating weekly (or bi-weekly) co-planning sessions. In any given co-planning session, a special educator and a general educator might be:

–Designing a lesson together;
–Analyzing upcoming curriculum to identify possible challenges; or
–Analyzing student work to inform a differentiated lesson.

Ultimately, our goal for 2016-17 is to “find new ways to develop and combine general educators’ and special educators’ unique perspectives and expertise to improve all students’ learning.” We’re proud to be working alongside VLUS teachers as part of this important professional learning endeavor!