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Inclusive Bilingual Education Through Co-Teaching

Co-teaching and bilingual education

We live in an increasingly globalized world. As a result, the importance of creating a more diverse and inclusive environment has become a priority. Co-teaching is a model that allows students to become culturally and linguistically plural, in turn, it enriches their self-confidence, and gives them a competitive advantage for the future.
In this post, we will explain how this model is adapted for bilingual education and the different ways to implement it. We will also review the benefits students receive from this teaching model.

What is Co-Teaching for Bilingual Education?

Bilingual Education

Co-teaching is traditionally defined as the collaboration between a general teacher and a special education teacher that share responsibility in the classroom. This model has been successfully adapted for bilingual education, where two teachers, an English speaker and another one of a second language, are placed in the same classroom. In this model they also work together and are equally responsible for planning, instructing, and assessing students. 1

The bilingual co-teaching model goes further than the traditional ESL model. In the latter, students receive resources to level their English skills to their classmates, whereas co-teaching intends to educate learners in both languages and uses their native language as a resource and an asset.2

In this way, language is not the end goal, but rather the means to an end: allowing the learner to follow and comprehend the grade-level content. This model acknowledges the importance of sustaining the students’ native language in addition to building their English skills.3

The Seven Co-Teaching Models Explained4

The models of co-teaching can be divided into three primary groups. In the first group, teachers work with the entire class, which includes English learners and mainstream students. The second group divides students into two sections, where two scenarios can occur. First case scenario, the section is homogeneous as there is an equal number of English learners and mainstream students. Second case scenario, the distribution of students is heterogeneous but also includes both types of learners. The last group divides students into small groups.

Bilingual Education in the classroom

One Student Group

  1. One lead and one purpose teacher: Teachers rotate their leading roles. The student leads the lesson while the other provides smaller lessons to individuals or groups to explain concepts or pre-teach the content.
  2. Two teachers and the same content: Both teachers collaborate to teach and lead the same lesson simultaneously. In this case, they agree on content and language objectives and tackle the lesson from each of their strengths.
  3. Teach and assess: Two teachers engage in the same lesson. One takes the lead and the other goes around the classroom to casually observe and assess if non-native learners are mastering the content.

Two Students’ Group

  1. Same content groups: Students are divided into two learning groups while teachers parallel teach the same content with different learning strategies.
  2. Pre-teaching and alternative content: students are assigned to a group based on their level concerning a topic or skill. Those with a lower level, receive instruction to bridge the gap.
  3. Re-teaching and alternative content: Students are divided into flexible groups and instruction is adjusted to different proficiency levels based on specific content.

Multiple Groups:

  1. Both monitor and teach: The two teachers monitor and facilitate instruction to learners and provide assistance with their specific learning needs.

Benefits for Native and Non-Native English Learners: Bilingual Education

Without a doubt, the main benefit from the co-teaching model is that it contributes to the creation of a more inclusive and diverse environment. Non-native English students feel that they are as much part of the classroom as their peers. Because they are not pulled out from the classroom, they don’t miss any instruction and can actively engage in academic discussions on common content with their peers. This creates a setting where students can feel free to learn in a friendly environment, acquire new formal and informal language, develop social skills, and improve communication5 which opens up a space for them to share diverse perspectives.

Non-native English learners are not the only ones who benefit from this model, as native students are continuously exposed to the second language. They also develop transferable skills and a deep understanding of both languages and their features.6

It is safe to say that collaboration is at the center of a co-teaching model, that it is about working together towards the same goal. Guaranteeing that learners have the most positive, inclusive, and diverse learning experience. To achieve this, collaboration is not limited to the teachers, but also the students. This model allows them to contribute to each other’s learning experience, and jointly be successful in their learning.

1 Gauthier (2021), Co-teaching a successful bilingual model
2 Maxwell, L. A. (2012). ‘Dual’ classes see growth in popularity.
3 Lauren Schneider (2020), Co-Teaching For Emerging Bilingual Learners: Theory And Practice.
4 Dove and Honigsfeld (2010) ESL Coteaching and Collaboration: Opportunities to develop Teacher Leadership and Enhance Student Learning.
5 Hatheway, Shea, and Winslow (2015), Dual language Program Meets Integrated Collaborative Teaching.
6 Gauthrier (2021), Co-teaching. A successful bilingual model

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