Skip to main content

Training students to be active co-teachers

image of a younger and older teacher

Image from Depositphotos--alexraths.

The old adage that two heads are better than one has become a driving philosophy for Ellis Hurd and Gary Weilbacher.

Both associate professors in the College of Education, Hurd and Weilbacher are integrating the ideas of co-teaching into training for middle school teacher candidates.

Middle schools across the country have been using the effective co-teaching method for many years, and this instructional strategy allows two or more teachers to collaboratively teach across multiple curriculums by co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessing as a team.

Hurd and Weilbacher are taking co-teaching to another level by stepping into the classroom with teacher candidates. “Instead of just teaching my students, then sending them to a school for their student-teaching experience, I am able to say, ‘Let’s go in together,’” said Hurd. “Let’s look at how teaching is operating. Now watch me teach the middle school kids.”

The opportunity to co-plan with student interns is very powerful, noted Hurd, because it allows for sharing of ideas with a very hands-on approach. “The student teachers feel like they gain a lot because they can tap into my brain when it comes to planning,” said Hurd.  “And I can see how they think about a lesson, how they plan it, how they find their resources, and how they execute it.  And at the end, we get to talk about how it went.”

Along with working alongside student teachers, Hurd and Weilbacher are partnering with local public school teachers and administrators, participating in workshops, and encouraging other university faculty to participate.

“What is happening is that more and more university professors are spending time—extended periods of time—in public school classrooms,” said Weilbacher. “Rather than just telling students about their classroom experiences—which could be recent or 30 years ago—university faculty are inside those classrooms seeing what’s going on.”

While the old student-teaching model was to watch the student teacher for a week or two before handing over the classroom keys, Weilbacher and Hurd are encouraging the teachers to co-teach along with the student. This effort also helps to assuage teachers who are reluctant to have students take over the classroom. Weilbacher noted that with the current standardized testing requirements, up to 30 percent of the way classroom teachers are evaluated depends upon their student test scores. “However, with this new co-teaching model, more cooperating teachers are willing to take a student intern, because it allows them to stay in the classroom,” he said.

Hurd said the teachers, students, and university faculty are benefitting from the co-teacher training. “The important part is the relationships and the professional growth that takes place while you’re doing this,” said Hurd. “It also allows more one-on-one time with middle school students, and gives them the opportunity to interact with university professors.”

Hurd and Weilbacher have implemented this co-teaching model with student interns hoping to carve a new path for the future of education. “We said that if we are going to make any significant change for the future, we’re going to have to do something different,” said Weilbacher. “Being different and what we are starting to do at ISU is just a step in the right direction.”

Hurd and Weilbacher also have a recent publication on co-teaching which appears in Middle Grades Review, and another co-teaching publication forthcoming in Education in a Democracy: A Journal of the National Network for Educational Renewal.