By Terry Funk
DelColle, J. & Keenan, C. (2014). Co-Teaching partnerships for excellence in the age of accountability: A preliminary study of the effects of co-teaching in student teaching” (2015). NERA Conference Proceedings 2014. Paper 5. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/nera_2014/5
Summary: This article reports the findings from a pilot study in New Jersey at Richard Stockton College and sets the stage for continued research on Co-teaching with student teachers and host/master teachers. Traditionally, student teachers in New Jersey complete a third semester in a take-over model (in which they teach a class for 14 weeks by themselves). With the current State and National accountability standards emphasis on student test scores and the use of those scores to determine teacher performance, classroom teachers have been reluctant to have student teachers take over their classes. With this model the student teacher is an apprentice rather than peer of the master teacher. The master teacher makes explicit the workings of the classroom in an ongoing dialog, providing guidance and encouragement. In the present study, a control group of 32 students were assigned the traditional take-over model while the experimental group consisted of 15 students in the Co-teaching model. Host teachers in the experimental group had initial training about co-teaching and the option to complete an additional 3 unit Coaching and Mentoring graduate course tuition free. Measures were taken by survey, observation evaluation of host teacher (4 formative, 1 summative), and supervisors. Additionally in the experimental group, elementary reading scores and middle and high school teacher grades were collected. Similarities and differences between the groups were documented. Modest to significant gains for the experimental group included self-reported satisfaction levels among Co-teaching pairs, learning gains of varying magnitudes among students, degree of professionalism observed by supervisors, and host teacher growth.
Evaluation: The article is particularly important in a time when schools are challenged to increase the quality of their clinical partnerships. Student teaching experience is one of the most critical parts of teacher preparation and is where theory meets practice. As a retired special educator, I have some reservations about tying student grades to teacher performance. Indeed, some of the neediest children may not even be graded on State tests and if they are, then they are automatically considered performing below standard, even when they are making progress. To attract very qualified teachers to underperforming students is a challenge too. Aside from the politics, Co-teaching may be better for all concerned, including special needs students. There were limitations in this pilot that are being worked out in subsequent studies with new and better design/instruments. If research can show that students are performing well with this model then master teachers will be less anxious about State assessments and better partners in clinical practice.