In a modern diverse and inclusive learning environment, it is crucial to utilize teaching strategies that address the specific requirements of each pupil. This can be done through the use of two common strategies, namely co-teaching and collaborative teaching. Despite the fact that both approaches target to foster inclusive education, the structuring, targets and modus operandi vary. 

This article provides an overview of the difference between co-teaching and collaborative teaching with emphasis on notable strengths and weaknesses.

Understanding Co-Teaching

Co-teaching is a specific type of inclusion that consists of two or more teachers working together in the same class and taking turns to undertake tasks such as planning, instruction, and assessment. Co-teaching aims at providing more assistance to the students who require it without removing them from the mainstream program. 

Here are some essential aspects of co-teaching:

1. Roles in Co-Teaching
In a co-teaching setting, there are typically two primary roles: the general education teacher and the special education teacher, respectively. Special education is provided by a specialized teacher who modifies materials and instructional methods to cater for individual differences.

2. Advantages of Co-Teaching

  • Increased student support: Co-teaching enhances individualized instruction so that all students’ different needs are catered for.
  • Diverse perspectives: The teachers are also from different backgrounds thus, they can share ideas and make teaching interesting by using different teaching methods and strategies.
  • Promotes inclusive education: Co-teaching provides students with special needs inclusive access to the mainstream classroom environment where they also feel a part of other students without labels or stigmatization.
  • Professional development: In doing so, teachers can share ideas, enhance their teaching skill and deepen their understanding.

3. Challenges of Co-Teaching

  • Time-consuming: Collaborating is effective because it needs some planning and communication that will take a lot of time.
  •  Different teaching styles: However, there may be differences in pedagogical approaches by the co-teachers, which may cause conflicts or pose difficulties in maintaining coherent teaching environment.
  • Limited classroom space and resources: In some classroom situations, it might not be possible for two teachers and their resources to fit in.

Image alt text:collaborative teaching

Author credit: By Eric Garcetti – Porter Ranch Community School, CC BY 2.0,

Exploring Collaborative Teaching

Collaborative teaching, on the other hand, is a broader concept that extends beyond the partnership between general and special education teachers. It encompasses a variety of approaches where educators work together to provide an inclusive and supportive learning environment. Collaborative teaching can involve partnerships between general education teachers, special education teachers, support staff, and even other specialists like speech therapists or counselors.

1. Types of Collaborative Teaching

Collaborative teaching can take various forms, including:

  • Team teaching: Two or more teachers share equal responsibility for planning, instruction, and assessment, similar to co-teaching.
  • Parallel teaching: Teachers divide the class into two smaller groups and teach the same content simultaneously, allowing for more individualized attention.
  • Station teaching: Teachers set up different learning stations within the classroom, and students rotate through them, receiving instruction from different educators.
  • One teaches, one observes: One teacher takes the lead in instruction, while the other observes students’ engagement and learning, providing feedback and support as needed.

2. Advantages of Collaborative Teaching

  • Flexibility: Collaborative teaching offers a wide range of possibilities to meet students’ diverse needs and preferences.
  • Enhanced expertise: Collaborative teaching allows educators with different skills and knowledge to contribute, leading to a richer educational experience.
  • Effective problem-solving: Collaborative teams can quickly address challenges and adapt instruction to meet students’ changing needs.
  • Improved classroom management: Having multiple educators in the classroom can help maintain order and provide timely support to struggling students.

3. Challenges of Collaborative Teaching

  • Communication and coordination: Effective collaboration requires open communication and careful planning to ensure that all educators are on the same page.
  • Resource allocation: Collaborative teaching may require additional resources, including materials, space, and time, which can be a challenge for schools with limited budgets.
  • Teacher buy-in: Not all educators may be comfortable with collaborative teaching, and some may need professional development to fully embrace this approach.

Key Differences Between Co-Teaching and Collaborative Teaching

Now that we’ve explored the concepts of co-teaching and collaborative teaching, let’s highlight some of the key differences between the two:

1.  Structure and Roles

  • Co-teaching primarily involves two teachers: a classroom teacher, i.e., general education teacher and a special education teacher. The roles are usually different from each other while the special education teacher will be offering a focused help.
  •  Such collaborative teaching can involve different groupings of educators like general education teachers, special education teachers assistants or specialists. However, it depends on the particular approach, because roles may be more open and changing.

2. Focus and Objectives

  • In addition, co-teaching provides assistance for children with special needs in the general education room yet keeping an inclusive placement.
  •  Collaboration in teaching can look broader than that, covering various ways of meeting the different abilities of the learners and not only the disabled ones.

3. Implementation and Approaches

  • Co-teaching is usually two teachers working as coequal partners in the planning and instruction with specific roles assigned to each.
  • Moreover, there are various forms of collaborative teaching such as team teach, parallel teach, station teach and so on.

4. Adaptability and Resource Requirements

  • Co-teaching is likely to demand fewer supplementary resources and is suitable for more diverse classrooms.
  • The more costly resource-demanding collaborative teaching approaches would be more suitable for large schools which are well endowed with the various necessary learning materials and sufficient manpower.

Choosing the Right Approach

The choice between co-teaching and collaborative teaching depends on the peculiarities of the students, school facilities and the professional skills of teachers. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the right approach:

  • Student needs: The needs of your students with special needs such as people living with disabilities or students with learning difficulties like language learners also require attention. Find out the method that suits with these requirements.
  • Educator expertise: The educators’ knowledge, skills, and method of instruction. The chosen approach should ensure they play to their strengths.
  • Resource availability: Assess the resources such as staff, facilities, and instructional aids that will be needed in implementing your strategy.
  • School culture and support: Evaluate the school’s involvement in an inclusive and supportive collaborative teaching.


The best strategies that promote inclusive education and serve different learners’ needs include co-teaching and collaborative teaching. Collaborative teaching involves teamwork among general and special education teachers as well as other educators.