|Friday's Keynote at the 2016 MELED Conference|
Because of the frequency with which these words are used together, I have often seen the terms 'collaboration' and 'co-teaching' used interchangeably. In fact, the co-taught class sections at my school are informally referred to as the 'collab' sections. Having spent a significant amount of time co-teaching over the last several years, however, I think it is worth creating a clear distinction between these two terms. While the terms are closely related, there are some significant differences.
|Brainstorming Station Teaching ideas at MELED 2016|
Collaboration, on the other hand, can be more broadly defined as two or more educators working together towards a common goal. As an EL teacher, I can collaborate with teachers across multiple subject areas without being actively involved in their classrooms. Collaboration may involve aligning curriculum so that my Academic Language class reflects the linguistic needs of a particular subject area or helping to scaffold assignments and assessments for a mainstream teacher. At its core, collaboration means working with other educators to support student needs together.
Co-teaching, therefore, is an example of teacher collaboration, but it is not the only way that teachers can collaborate with each other. Some teachers have created a distinction between vertical and horizontal collaboration. Vertical collaboration generally refers to efforts to align curriculum and instructional strategies from one grade level to the next. Horizontal collaboration describes collaboration that occurs within groups of teachers of a particular grade or content area. It is also sometimes referred to as teacher teaming, but should not be confused with the co-teaching model of Team Teaching mentioned above. Along with co-teaching, each of these types of collaboration can positively impact the educational outcomes.
Simply placing two teachers together in a classroom, even two experienced and effective teachers, is no guarantee that co-teaching will be effective. It takes time and energy for two teachers to co-plan, co-instruct and co-assess. The ACSD Teacher Impact Grant I received this year is helping to focus attention on professional learning opportunities for co-teachers, including dedicated time for peer observations and partnership planning time. For more examples on how my grant is being implemented, along with examples from grant recipients across the nation, you can follow along on Twitter under the hashtag #ASCDTIG.