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Frequently asked questions

1. Are all student teaching placements from the University of Minnesota "year-long"?

Due to state requirements for a variety of experiences at multiple levels, most secondary and K-12 programs cannot dedicate a teacher candidate to a single site for the full year placement. A pre-service math teacher, for example, must have experience at a middle school and a high school level. Therefore, most secondary and K-12 placements are between 8-14 weeks in length and occur multiple times during the academic year (fall and spring).

"The Power of Two" article is about a professional development school (PDS) elementary site where the University of MN-Twin Cities places elementary and early childhood candidates for the entire school year in the same classroom.

2. Exactly WHEN does a teacher candidate assume the role of instructional lead?

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 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 supervisor, cooperating teacher, and candidates (called 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. In other words, this is a shared decision between the members of the triad and will be different for each candidate.

3. Does agreeing to co-teach mean that I will have two teacher candidates from the University of Minnesota in my classroom?

Only one teacher candidate is placed in the classroom with a cooperating teacher for the co-teaching field experience. The co-teaching occurs between the cooperating teacher and one teacher candidate. Some UMN-TC programs place practicum (pre-student teaching) students in pairs with willing cooperating teachers for short field experiences. However, pre-student teaching placements are not co-teaching placements.

4. How do new teachers learn to sink or swim if they aren’t left entirely on their own in a classroom?

Teacher candidates in co-teaching settings are mentored using co-teaching strategies to become a licensed professional who will more likely stay in the profession. As the co-teaching findings indicate, leaving all classroom responsibilities and instruction to a student teacher without employing co-teaching as a mentoring model can not only be detrimental to the P-12 students learning and engagement, but it can frustrate the novice teachers so that they leave the profession. The cooperating teacher should work to scaffold the teacher candidate’s induction into teaching, assuring that the TC takes on more of the instructional lead role as the s/he gains confidence and skill with P-12 students. As a profession, we must work to dispel of the idea that pre-service teachers must be left entirely on their own to sink or swim in student teaching to prove that they can teach.

5. How will the teacher candidate develop classroom management skills if the cooperating teacher is in the classroom most of the time?

It is important that the cooperating teacher works to mentor and model how to lead, build relationships, and manage classrooms rules and routines. In co-teaching, the researchers found that TCs had more opportunities to become more effective classroom leaders than they did in traditional student teaching settings. The cooperating teacher will need to make room for the teacher candidate to implement effective classroom management strategies and build confidence by creating a classroom space that assures sharing leadership of the classroom. HINTS: Discuss, as a co-teaching team who will have management responsibilities each day, so as new situations arise there are many opportunities for the teacher candidate to gain confidence with clarity about whose responsibility it is to handle the issue at that moment. Have a signal (e.g. stand under the clock, pull your earlobe, or flip over a visible item on the desk) when you or your co-teacher needs the other to step in.

6. Will the teacher candidates get enough solo teaching time with co-teaching?

Teacher candidates must have opportunities to teach alone. The amount of time a candidate is left totally alone varies and is based on his/her skills in managing a classroom, the type of instruction/lesson designed for the students that day, etc. It is important that the teacher candidate demonstrates that they can handle a classroom all by themselves. Drs. Bacharach and Washut-Heck recommend a 70-30 ratio with 70% of the time spent with students using co-teaching strategies to utilize both teachers’ expertise in facilitating student learning and 30% of the time spent with the TC or CT solo teaching.

7. How much time and how often do we need to take to co-plan?

In order to co-teach effectively, the cooperating teacher and teacher candidate must have shared planning time. Early in the co-teaching relationship, we recommend setting aside 1 hour a week to co-plan to co-teach. During this time co-teachers often review the curriculum and instructional goals for the upcoming week, determine which co-teaching strategies will best support students to meet the learning objectives, and decide who will be instructional lead or supporting co-teacher for each co-taught lesson. NOTE: It may take more time to co-plan in the early stages of co-teaching. However, the benefits of spending time to co-plan are exciting. Teacher candidates get a much deeper understanding of the entire curriculum through co-planning, cooperating teachers have an opportunity to share the work load with another adult, and the co-taught lessons lead to increased academic performance and engagement of P-12 students.

8. Is it true that in a co-teaching classroom, the teacher candidates will never have full responsibility of the classroom?

No, that is not true. For a period of time, each teacher candidate will lead the planning, organization, delivery, and assessment of instruction in a co-taught classroom. The teacher candidate will also be responsible for directing other adults, including the cooperating teacher, thus learning the skills necessary for effectively managing the human resources in a classroom. The teacher candidate will be the instructional lead but the cooperating teacher will be available to support learning during co-taught lessons using the strategies to improve student learning and engagement.

9. Co-teaching is not the “real world.” When a teacher candidate earns licensure and gets a job, they will be alone in the classroom. Correct?

In many schools today, very few teachers are the sole adult in the classroom. To accommodate large class sizes, students with special needs, English Language Learners, and the push in model of Title 1 and special education, today’s classrooms will often have special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and volunteers working alongside the classroom teacher. It is rare to find a classroom where the assigned teacher is always working solo. The need to collaborate with other adults in the classroom is a necessity in our schools. Experience is co-teaching, whether as a cooperating teacher or candidate, is an important and attractive professional experience for current and future potential employers.

10. Will the teacher candidates be required to write lessons plans for co-teaching after they co-plan with the cooperating teacher?

Co-planning takes place before the formal lesson plans are written. Once a cooperating teacher and a teacher candidate co-plan, the instructional lead takes the information and writes up lesson plans, which will be reviewed by their co-teacher prior to instruction. If the candidate is the instructional lead, then the teacher candidate writes the formal lesson plans and submits them to their cooperating teacher.

11. Is it a problem if the teacher candidate and the cooperating teacher have very different learning or teaching styles?

It is not a problem; it is a benefit. We are all uniquely different. Teacher candidates entering the workplace must be able to work with a variety of learning and teaching styles. Through workshops, teacher candidates and cooperating teachers are made aware of many different types of learning and teaching styles, how they work, and how to work together with individuals who have different styles.

12. Should the university supervisor only observe a teacher candidate when they are solo teaching?

When a supervisor observes a teacher candidate co-teaching with a cooperating teacher, they focus the observation on what the candidate is doing. If the candidate is leading a small group, it may be helpful to move closer to that group to observe him/her. If the teacher candidate is teaming with his/her cooperating teacher, the university supervisor will focus the observation on the candidate’s teaching skills, ability to collaborate with the cooperating teacher, management skills, organizations, etc.

13. I was told that I need to attend two professional development workshops in order to accept a co-teaching teacher candidate from the University of Minnesota. How much time will these workshops take and when are they offered?

All involved in co-teaching are asked to attend a face-to-face sessions or take the two online workshops—each taking 1½ to 2 hours.

  • The “Foundations Workshop” is only required once for cooperating teachers, teacher candidates, and university supervisors.
  • When a teacher candidate is placed with a cooperating teacher, a second 1½ to 2 hour “Pair’s workshop” is provided early in the semester so that both can begin the co-teaching collaboration with shared expectations. The Pair’s workshop needs to be repeated each time a cooperating teacher accepts a new teacher candidate as a co-teacher.

Download FAQ file for you records.

The University of Minnesota- Twin Cities will make every effort to partner with school districts to offer these co-teaching professional development opportunities at a time that is convenient for all involved. Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be made available to all participants who complete the workshops.

Next: Completion and Certificate