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Comprehensive co-teaching

A model where shared responsibility brings prosperity

Comprehensive co-teaching is a modern way for teachers to pool their strengths and skills, and plan, carry out and evaluate instruction and learning of two classes at once. In this new, bigger class students will recognize their own strengths and learn from each other.

Finland 100


HundrED has selected this innovation to

Finland 100






Target group
March 2017
Co-teaching highlights the strengths of both teachers and students, and causes stress levels to plummet.

About the innovation

What is it all about?

Co-teaching is one of the more interesting forms of 21st century teaching. It is not a new phenomenon, but the way it helps with stress management and teacher development makes it all the more useful today. Co-teaching supports efficient differentiation, helps make more interesting and varied lessons and makes it easier to react to changing circumstances.

Comprehensive co-teaching is a model in which two classes are taught together by two teachers. In this model, teachers brainstorm, plan, and carry out instruction together. It helps the teachers take advantage of their strengths and put student strengths into the spotlight.

Peer support, trust, and shared teacherhood is crucial so that both teachers’ strengths and skillsets are used to their full potential. Through collaboration, ideas turn into good lessons and the responsibility for educating children, evaluating them, lesson planning and teaching lessons can be shared. Co-teaching at its best can promote the growth of students and student co-operation.

Teachers Paula Vorne and Kaisa Loponen, who have collaborated for eight years at the Oulujoki school, have created a comprehensive model for co-teaching. They share a similar perspective on learning and a desire to grow and develop themselves. This creates a natural foundation for co-teaching.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


Teachers are under strain everywhere. The aim of co-teaching is to turn the school into an inspiring learning community, where teachers can also learn.


The strengths of both teachers and students are brought into the spotlight when collaboration takes the center stage.


This model can be implemented without any extra resources and tackles the common problem of teachers becoming exhausted.

Implementation steps

Shared goals are a vital part of getting starting with co-teaching.

Dedicating oneself to co-teaching requires finding a suitable partner to work with and commitment from the school leadership. It is best to start before the beginning of the next school year to adjust timetables to work with the co-teaching.

It is a good idea to start with a healthy discussion with your colleague. Familiarize yourself with each other’s work, strengths and teaching philosophy. It is important that even when you have different ideas (which will happen), you share the will to grow and develop your skills and you have similar teaching philosophies. Remember to document your discussion.

At this phase, recognizing your strengths is crucial so that you can use both partners’ skills and knowledge in a broad and complementary way.

It is smart to discuss the idea of combining classes and expanding the co-teaching into something deeper with the leadership. To change the school culture, you will need the support of the leadership, as the new way may affect school timetables and other things. You can also gain valuable support from other leadership sources, such as communicating and collaborating with parents.

Defining values, roles and responsibilities
Integrating two classes into one requires organizing your work: defining values, setting goals, and having a clear picture of both teachers’ role and responsibilities.

These can be naturally built on the first discussion, which will help you to take both teachers’ strengths and skillsets into consideration.

Values and rules of conduct

Talk and agree about the values and rules you want to have in your classroom while you collaborate. Document them on a shared web-based document, so that you can return to them if the need rises and when your collaboration moves forward.

The defined values will help you prioritize things and will serve as your reasoning for everything that you do. If, for example, you value creating a good group dynamic within your classroom, you should of course choose methods that support that goal.

Rules of conduct can include:

  • How to act in different situations

  • What actions are not acceptable

  • When you will do lesson plans and how much lesson planning is needed

  • How you will plan things

  • How you will collaborate with the leadership, other teachers and parents

  • How you will work with students together and on a personal level

Roles and responsibilities

Defining roles and responsibilities focuses on managing the instruction. Will you act as equals during lessons, or will the other one take charge while the other one helps with differentiation and observes the class? Will you create lesson plans together from scratch or will you assign areas of responsibility?

Work in a way that is natural for each content area and makes use of your skillsets and strengths. Remember that now you have your colleague to support you, you should challenge yourself with things that are out of your comfort zone. Trying out new things is easier with a partner.


Even if you are busy, remember to make time for conversation. Constant communication will remove the need for guesswork and will prevent misunderstandings. If it feels natural, have a weekly meeting. It might also be enough for you to keep talking about things and reflecting on your actions during other work.

A web tool is often helpful for communication. You can collect lesson and assessment plans, timetables, group divisions, and other things on the web and easily check it both at work and at home. For example Office 365 and the G Suite are tools that make it easy to collaborate.

Defining goals
What are your goals for co-teaching concerning your teaching, your well-being, and assessment?

In what ways will you differentiate instruction? Which things can you do with a multidisciplinary approach?

Set your goals for the semester and the school year, and stop to evaluate your progress every once in awhile so that you can continue to improve strategically.

Communication with parents
Introducing a new way of doing things to parents is extremely important.

Parents need to know how the school year will progress, who they can contact when the need arises, and how their child will benefit from the model.

In comprehensive co-teaching, parents need to understand what it means when classes are combined and two teachers teach and grade students together. You could have a parents’ night at the beginning of the school year, during which you can explain the way you will work, present your goals, and give parents a chance to participate in matters that concern them.

Decide on the rules for conduct and responsibilities concerning communication: how will you communicate, who will contact whom and can it change in the future. Often communication with parents will naturally divide equally between teachers, as parents will often contact both teachers or just one of them and might change who they contact in the middle of the year.

Creating common rules for the class and sticking to them
Students should have a say in the classroom rules.

The teachers must explain what it means to have two teachers in charge instead of one and how things will work with two teachers.

For example, it is not helpful if one teacher forbids something from a student, who then immediately goes to ask the other teacher about it. But if a student finds it easier to work with one of the teachers, the student can discuss their issues only with this teacher.

Have a healthy conversation with the students at the beginning of the year about what the class will be like as a working community, what the goals are for the year, what the class values are and what is good about having two teachers. Class rules will help students work as a group and participate in lesson planning, as well as maintain a good atmosphere.

The finalized class rules will be printed out to be signed by all students and teachers. The rules will be shown to parents at home.

Changing structure
Discuss what kind of structure helps you work.

The following examples will help your discussion.

Home groups

Home groups is a teaching method that supports pedagogical approaches such as project based learning, developing social and cooperation skills, and building a good atmosphere.

Students will have the same randomized home group for 1–2 months. About four students per group is usually a good number. When new groups are formed, it is important to have group exercises that build trust and familiarity so that the group will learn how to work together and trust each other.

Mutual trust will grow as the group collaborates. Students will learn to do self-evaluation, peer evaluation and group evaluation. Students will have to assess their own and their group’s strengths and weaknesses, and ways in which these can be used to benefit learning.

Changes in the learning environment

A bigger group requires new kinds of learning environments. Instead of traditional classroom work, you could start in your traditional classroom and after a short introduction, spread out around the school.

When other spaces in your school are used as a learning environment, the rules need to be very clear and students need to understand how to focus on learning. This means only students who can be trusted to work independently can be allowed to work without supervision.

Pedagogical choices

Carefully considered pedagogical choices make flexible learning possible with co-teaching. For example, in mathematics individually paced learning is a great way to differentiate instruction and focus on understanding mathematics.

The students that require more help will get the support they need from the teachers, while the more skilled have the opportunity to challenge themselves. This flexible model will take care of a lot of the stress and frustration that is often associated with mathematics.

Student assessment
Students can develop their independence and take ownership of their learning, if they know what the goals are and what the criteria used for grading are.

The grading scale can be demonstrated by showing what a beginner’s skills look like and what a proficient learner’s skills look like.


The students use the Me-notebook as a tool for self-evaluation. Students will note their strengths and progress in the notebook with space for parents’ comments.

Homegroup evaluation

At the beginning, middle and end of the process, students will do self-evaluation, peer evaluation and group evaluation in their home groups. The evaluations will be compared to the goals set in the beginning. The students will gain a concrete idea of their own skills and development both as individuals and group members.

Teachers working in unison

The teacher's’ responsibility is to make observations on how the students are learning, growing and developing throughout the year. During assessment, co-teaching makes it possible for each teacher to notice or observe different things in students at different times. Remember to write down and share your observations with each other.

Reflecting on your teaching
Co-teaching requires continuous self-development and putting yourself out of your comfort zone.

To develop yourself, it is important to reflect continuously, evaluate your work, and tolerate the feeling that everything is always unfinished.

Though you will talk daily while collaborating, it is smart to reserve extra time to discuss your goals every once in awhile, so that you have a clear picture of what is going on and what both of you can do to improve your work. During the school year, it is best to stop and reassess the practices and goals of co-teaching, for instance by meeting once during the fall and once during the spring for a thorough discussion for self-improvement.

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