It sometimes takes two: Making coteaching work in practice

Clare Gormley and Rob Lowney, Dublin City University.

Educators are constantly being challenged to develop their teaching expertise. With class sizes growing and new teaching competencies emerging, the need for dynamic professional learning has never been greater. Drawing from the literature and experiences from a cotaught HE module, this paper will explore the potential for coteaching to support educators’ professional learning and enhance innovative practice.

Coteaching can be considered as two or more teachers sharing responsibility for student learning at the same time (Murphy & Scantlebury, 2010). Different models of coteaching exist, ranging from those where teachers adopt either supporting or parallel roles, to models of team teaching ‘where lessons flow between both instructors during a class’, (Rooks et al., 2022, p.1). It is this latter conceptualisation of coteaching which is the focus of this paper. This concept is well captured in the words of Salifu (2021, p.150) who writes that ‘As an instructional approach, coteaching emphasises collaborative teaching such as coplanning, copractice, and coreflection which require teachers to plan together, teach together, and evaluate lessons together’.

The benefits of coteaching are many. It can enable conversations about teaching strengths and weaknesses while modelling collaboration for students (Rooks et al., 2022). Coteaching can also offer the potential to bring together diverse strands of expertise, make lessons stronger and more creative, and enable mutual support and complementarity (Salifu, 2021). It has even been said to allow new educators the opportunity to observe and experiment with new teaching strategies while learning from a more experienced colleague (Scherer et al., 2020).

Given these benefits, it might be asked why is coteaching not a widespread approach in HE? This may be due to a culture of individual-level disciplinary expertise where academics may want full control over course content (Rook et al., 2022). Furthermore, coteaching may be problematic where those teaching do not share compatible teaching philosophies or the same level of commitment (Salifu, 2021).

This paper focuses on the experiences of an academic developer and a learning technologist who co-taught a 5 ECTS blended module on teaching and learning principles and practices. The authors argue that not only was coteaching an innovation itself within this module comprising multidisciplinary learners, it also enabled the introduction of other innovative approaches, thus realising the potential of coteaching to ‘make lessons stronger and more creative’. Innovative approaches included the co-creation of an assessment rubric with participants, peer review of class plans, and the modelling of debates and controversies through technology. The presenters also consider the challenges they experienced with coteaching such as the additional time required for planning, the temptation to overpack classes, and the effort required to model blended teaching and accessibility to the highest standard possible.

This paper aims to contribute to the coteaching literature by sharing reflections on the coteaching experience: what was involved, what was surprising, what worked well and not so well. It will aim to discuss a range of examples and insights to support the ICEP community in potentially adopting this approach in their own context.