Co-teaching: An Evolving Role for
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) have long recognized the importance
of reducing fragmentation of service by collaborating with families
and teachers. Simply put, children, youth, and young adults make
more substantial gains in their communication skills when programming
efforts are coordinated and when they relate to the academic and
social contexts of school and home. Within schools, co-teaching
offers flexible approaches for SLPs to collaborate with team members,
particularly general and special education teachers.
SLPs face unique challenges when they adopt a co-teaching framework.
They are usually responsible for large caseloads of both general
and special education students, and their work is frequently divided
across two or more schools. Within a single day, an SLP’s
co-teaching roles can be in response to a kindergarten phonemic
awareness lesson, a grade 4 science experiment, and a grade 8 social
studies debate. Each of these co-teaching experiences requires planning,
implementation, follow-up, and reflection. Each also requires SLPs
to link their efforts to classroom demands, including curricular
expectations and individual teacher’s instructional styles.
As SLPs co-teach with different partners they may experience varying
levels of interpersonal comfort. Also, SLPs typically have more
experience with certain content areas, topics, or grade levels,
each of which can impact the effectiveness of the team. In order
to avoid frustration, and the potential abandonment of co-teaching
alternatives, SLPs can be mindful of the Dos and Don’ts of
• Do accept lower levels interactions as foundations for
• Don’t expect to be a collaborator with all people
with whom you work.
• Do begin the collaborative process with people with whom
you already have a comfortable, informal relationship.
• Do concentrate your collaboration building efforts on just
one or two people to be sure to have sufficient time and energy
to invest in the working relationship.
• Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
• Do recognize that initial success will build your expertise
in collaboration and your reputation as a collaborator.
• Do expect that success will pave the way for working with
others and make more people receptive to collaboration (DiMeo, Merritt,
and Culatta, 1998).
offers many opportunities for enhancing student learning. These
guidelines, practiced within a commitment to developing professional
relationships, can be a cornerstone for personal growth, improved
student outcomes, and a collaborative spirit within schools.
DiMeo, J.H., Merritt, D.D., & Culatta, B. (1998). Collaborative
partnerships and decision-making. In D.D. Merritt & B. Culatta,
B. (Eds.), Language intervention in the classroom. San Diego,