Study #2

Co-Teaching and Collaboration Models Serving Secondary English Learners

Co-Principal Investigator: Amanda Kibler  |  Co-Investigator: Martha Castellón Palacios

One of the systemic barriers that prevents secondary students classified as English Learners from full access to the general curriculum is a lack of adequately prepared teachers. The scarcity of teachers who are certified to teach core academic subjects and who are knowledgeable in developing students’ English proficiency in academic settings has led school districts to experiment with new program models. Co-teaching and related forms of collaboration between a content-area teacher and a certified ELD/ESL/ESOL teacher have become increasingly common models used to provide integrated content-area and language instruction for English Learners. Despite their growing popularity, the full extent of these practices—their prevalence, variations, and effectiveness—are not known. This study will describe how co-teaching and related forms of collaboration are implemented in several educational contexts across the nation and will document related challenges and successes that districts and schools have experienced.


The research questions to be asked in this study include:

  1. How prevalent are co-teaching and related forms of collaboration in secondary schools across the country?

  2. How do districts organize and assess co-teaching and related forms of collaboration?

  3. How do co-teaching and related forms of collaboration in secondary classrooms vary? How do specific characteristics of school and district settings relate to variation in co-teaching and related forms of collaboration?

  4. To what extent do co-teaching and related forms of collaboration reflect mutual engagement and a shared repertoire?

  5. What successes and challenges do teachers and/or school and district administrators experience in implementing co-teaching and related forms of collaboration?


Data collection will take place in three phases:


Phase 1. A stratified sample of district Title III directors across the country will be invited to complete an online survey. Survey questions will focus on: (1) the presence and prevalence of co-teaching and related forms of collaboration in their district, (2) policies guiding the use of these practices, (3) teacher professional development provided, and (4) the successes/challenges encountered. In those districts in which co-teaching and related forms of collaboration are an established practice, Title III directors will be invited to submit policy documents, guidance, and resources used in support of co-teaching.


Phase 2. Researchers will analyze survey responses from Phase 1 and select three districts that engage in co-teaching and/or related forms of collaboration and which differ in terms of implementation, geographic location, and percentage of English Learners enrolled. We anticipate the sample of English Learners across the three districts will include racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse subgroups of students who will vary in their levels of English proficiency and their length of time in U.S. schools. Phase 2 will address RQs 2, 3, and 5 and will involve focus groups with 5–8 school/district administrators and interviews with 3–4 district-level ESL coaches per district. Data collected from focus groups and interviews will provide insights into the ways in which co-teaching and related forms of collaboration are structured in each district, how and why these practices vary across the districts, and the challenges and successes experienced in each.


Phase 3. Two schools will be selected in each of the three districts. These schools will be sites for in-depth data collection. To address RQs 4 and 5, we will observe 2–3 ESL teachers per school, following them throughout an entire day as they teach, co-teach, collaborate, and engage in other professional responsibilities.


Findings from this study will help to describe the variety of forms of co-teaching and related forms of collaboration that take place in secondary settings across the country on behalf of English Learners. Findings will offer state and district stakeholders vital information about co-teaching and collaboration programs (e.g., how to organize these models, what professional development is necessary, etc.). The study will also assist states as they provide policy guidance to school districts in implementing co-teaching and collaboration models, in order to remove barriers that English Learners face in gaining access to the general curriculum. Results will also assist educational researchers in planning future studies to evaluate the implementation and effectiveness of co-teaching and related forms of collaboration.