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Co-teaching roles and responsibilities

In co-teaching, the pair (teacher candidate and cooperating teacher) are encouraged to co-plan and quickly incorporate the co-teaching strategies in their practice, providing more opportunities for the students to engage with both adults in the classroom. The mentor teacher remains engaged, using the strategies to support student learning and engagement. The co-teaching pair collaborates throughout the experience, with leadership in responsibility and decision-making shifting over time to the teacher candidate.

Ultimately, the teacher candidate assumes leadership in all aspects of the classroom, including directing the activities of the cooperating teacher and other adults working with the students, for a pre-determined* amount of time.

It is important that the teacher candidate does have opportunities to solo teach too, but the goal is to co-teach once the candidate has established classroom leadership skills and students interact with both adults as their teachers. The following chart describes the typical flow of responsibilities from cooperating teacher to teacher candidate experienced while mentoring with co-teaching.

The timing of when the teacher candidate fully assumes the role as lead teacher is negotiated by the triad (cooperating teacher, university supervisor, and teacher candidate) and varies by classroom, program, and situation. The cooperating teacher and university supervisor work together to gradually scaffold the teacher candidate into assuming the lead role in co-teaching. The triad also pre-determines in advance the length of time that the teacher candidate serves as the lead teacher. Licensures in elementary and secondary programs may have different requirements as to how long the candidate should serve as the lead teacher.

The diagram below describes the roles of the cooperating teacher (CT) and the teacher candidate (TC) during the co-teaching process.

Phase I: Beginning

CT is the "instructional lead"

  • Determine content to be taught
  • Plan lessons and share materials with TC
  • Decide what co-teaching strategy to use, with TC’s input
  • Communicate with families to welcome your co-teaching TC

Phase II: Middle

TC is the instructional "lead"

  • Plan and lead lessons in the co-teaching team for the period of time the licensure program requires
  • Communicate with CT to pre-determine which co-teaching strategies will be used in the classroom
  • Complete TPA and other

Phase III: End

TC shares/phase out the instructional "lead"

  • Share or slowly give up the lead instructional role in the co-teaching relationship
  • Co-plan and co-teach using the strategies
  • Complete other university requirements
  • Provide feedback to the university supervisor

Phase I: Beginning

TC is to:

  • Communicate and co-plan daily with the CT
  • Engage students in learning by trying out each co-teaching strategy at least twice with your CT
  • Build relationships within the school community
  • Balance coursework requirements with the school’s expectations

Phase II: Middle

CT is to

  • Provide guidance regarding content and standards to be addressed
  • Co-plan and support TC in their adoption of the role of instructional leader
  • Engage students using pre-determined co-teaching strategy
  • Provide feedback

Phase III: End

CT is to

  • Share or slowly take back the primary responsibility of instructional lead in the co-teaching relationship
  • Continue to co-plan and co-teach using the strategies
  • Provide feedback to the TC and to the university supervisor

Print out the Co-Teaching Phases diagram.

For more information about co-teaching roles and responsibilities please see:

Next: Frequently Asked Questions

© 2012, St. Cloud State University. Used with permission by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities’ Office of Teacher Education (OTE) for the CEHD Partner Network