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Teacher Collaboration

How Simple Reflection Activities Can Bolster Your Co-Teaching

Reflecting together might feel uncomfortable at first, but establishing the habit is essential to a successful co-teaching collaboration.

March 7, 2022

Reflection and feedback are key components of any successful teaching practice, writes social studies teacher Tan Huynh for MiddleWeb. As part of a co-teaching team, Huynh regularly carves out time with his teaching partner to evaluate and think critically about a variety of topics: the effectiveness of their instruction, for example, or how well they’re communicating with each other, with students, or with parents.

“Co-reflecting is an essential aspect of teacher collaboration,” Huynh writes, and while it can happen quickly in the moment, or be a more formal and structured process, it’s an effort that requires sensitivity and care. “I have found the toughest reflection is a reflection about my work with others because it feels personal and evaluative. Yet we must have conversations about our collaboration if we are to strengthen it.”

Pausing for a few minutes of reflection during the school day, or after wrapping up a unit, Huynh acknowledges, might feel like a luxury during a busy week. But the effort can lead to stronger instruction and a more affirming, sustainable co-teaching relationship.

The benefits of co-reflection: Co-reflection involves mutually exchanged input and feedback between two colleagues—this isn’t a classic teacher evaluation and it’s meant to feel productive and supportive. The aim is not to criticize each other, or to prove that one teacher’s instructional style is superior. Instead, it’s about dedicating time together to examining various components of your co-teaching with the goal of uncovering areas that can be improved.

Determining what to reflect on can be a joint decision. Huynh notes that any number of topics can be fodder for co-reflection: lesson delivery, objectives and standards, resources and texts, even your co-planning, co-teaching, and co-assessment work can be topics to consider. “You can co-reflect on almost anything,” Huynh writes. “For example, if you just tried out a teaching model, you can talk it over informally right after for a few minutes, reflecting on how that process went.”

Co-reflect in the moment: Informal co-reflection tends to be casual and might be a comfortable entrypoint for co-teachers who are new to the practice. Because it requires no prep time, it’s a good option for quickly sharing feedback on the fly. “I might ask ‘how did that template work for our planning?’ or ‘what did you think about how we scaffolded that lesson?,’” Huynh writes. “Co-reflecting does not have to be complex to be effective.”

To avoid making it feel overly evaluative or negative, he suggests using a simple reflection formula to loosely guide the conversation. Start by sharing something you noticed that's positive and then ask an open-ended question, so your co-teacher’s perspective can be heard as well as affirmed. “Your positive noticing invites your colleague into the conversation and makes them more willing to reflect,” Huynh writes. “‘Ms. Baker, I noticed the students really responded to the mind mapping activity. What do you notice about it?’”

When to make co-reflection more formal: The end of a unit, however, might be better suited for more structured, formal co-reflection. This will happen less frequently and can require co-teachers to spend a bit of time reflecting prior to having the conversation. A simple three-column chart with one column that identifies the topic you’ll be discussing, another for noting “things to keep,” and a third for “things to consider,” can help guide the exercise.

Formal co-reflection can sometimes feel uncomfortable, so ease into the process by mentioning something that you appreciate about your partnership first, then move on to sharing something you yourself did well, for example a practice that “contributed to student learning or the relationship” with your co-teacher.

Next, extend an invitation to your partner to share something that they need from you as a teammate. Try not to center yourself during this step, Huynh suggests. “I don’t recommend that you frame this item as a negative such as, ‘What is my weakness?’ or ‘What can I do to improve?,’” he writes. “Remember, it’s an invitation for them to share their needs, so the focus is on your co-teacher for this step.”

Lastly, you can share something that your partner might take into consideration, framed as a “Would you consider…?” question.

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