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Collaborating and Co-Teaching: Strategies for English Learners

reviewed by Susan R. Adams - January 12, 2016

coverTitle: Collaborating and Co-Teaching: Strategies for English Learners
Author(s): Andrea Honigsfeld, Maria G. Dove
Publisher: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks
ISBN: 1412976502, Pages: 248, Year: 2010
Search for book at Amazon.com

When I metaphorically stumbled through the door into my high school ESL classroom in 2003, I quickly realized how little I knew and how urgently my students needed me to fundamentally rethink my prior assumptions about teaching and learning. To that end, I began searching for research and resources that would shape my thinking and practice. While I found little that did more than confirm how significant the challenge of teaching English language learners (ELLs) is, I eventually encountered Andrea Honigsfeld and Maria G. Dove through their 2007 publication, The Power of Two: Lesson Study and SIOP Help Teachers Instruct ELLs. Here, I was delighted to find Honigsfeld and Dove advocate for what I have always believed was the most overlooked, underappreciated, and underutilized component of the earliest Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) research (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2008): teacher collaboration.  

In Collaborating and Co-Teaching: Strategies for English Learners, Honigsfeld and Dove (2010) draw heavily on the work of Cook and Friends (1995) foundational work on co-teaching, creating a thoughtful, creative, and accessible framework for supporting authentic, engaging, and effective ESL and mainstream/content area teacher collaboration. It moves beyond ESL teachers as fixers of ELLs into ESL teachers as specialists poised to make essential contributions in mainstream classrooms.

As I prepared to write this review, I was delighted to learn that the ESL leadership of my local school district, Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), was using Collaborating and Co-Teaching as the framework for teacher professional development. The IPS ESL leadership team membersJessica Feeser, Meg Troxel, Sarah Hutchinson, and Adam Pittgenerously agreed to share with me their perspectives on the book as a resource; I am indebted to the wisdom and practical guidance their experiences contribute to my own understandings of the book and to my practice in teacher education. I collected their responses through a short survey, the responses to which will be summarized and unpacked in this review.  

I first asked how the leadership team became aware of the book. Jessica Feeser, IPS English as New Language (ENL) Coordinator, indicated that she first encountered Honigsfeld and Dove in an article and later met them during a conference presentation with several members of her ENL teacher leadership team. Adam Pitt, Sarah Hutchinson, and Meg Troxel serve as district ESL specialists. Adam and Sarah remember finding Honigsfeld and Doves work through conducting an online search for co-teaching methods and practices that directly benefit ELLs. The team selected Collaborating and Co-Teaching to purchase, inviting elementary ESL teachers to bring a mainstream teacher partner to participate in multi-session professional development, utilizing the text to provide shape and guidance for developing collaboration and co-teaching practices. Secondary ESL teachers who push in were also invited to sessions in which the group studied the book and designed in-class learning stations as a precursor to exploring co-teaching in mainstream secondary classrooms. Traditional pull out ESL teachers in secondary schools also studied the book to support ESL curriculum development.  

The ESL leadership team finds Collaborating and Co-Teaching concise, accessible, and user-friendly. When asked what she most appreciates about the book, Meg Troxel replied:

I find chapter 2 to be very helpful for teachers because it provides support for why collaboration and co-teaching is needed as a support for ESL students. Co-teaching is often a foreign concept specifically in secondary, so giving teachers some research to back up co-teaching is very helpful. Also, I like the models. The book provides teachers with examples of many different forms of co-teaching, which I think is powerful because I think people often feel like co-teaching has to be both teachers up in front of the room the entire time.

Adam pointed to the structure and organization of the book, stating that the organizers that are practical and applicable. They focus on everything from how to manage co-planning time to a checklist for self-evaluation. Sarah concurred, adding:

I really enjoyed the explanations about the rationale for collaborating and co-teaching.  The setup of the book is also very user-friendly in that it is divided in sections according to the where, how, why, and when of co-teaching. I also love the forms and checklists that are included and the summary of current ESL research in the back.  

Teachers participating in the professional development sessions have responded positively to Collaborating and Co-Teaching. I was pleased to see that each section includes case studies in which teacher practitioners from each level (elementary, middle, and high school) relate experiences from the field. Here, Honigsfeld and Doves structure and design choices reveal a deep understanding of and respect for the variety of research-based rationales, specific examples, clear models, and cross-disciplinary supports teacher practitioners need in order to adapt and adopt a new approach.  

My own experience of designing and delivering timely, relevant, and effective professional development also aligns with Sarahs explanation of the benefits of using Collaborating and Co-Teaching:

The setup of the book is very user-friendly in that it is divided in sections according to the where, how, why, and when of co-teaching. I love the forms and checklists that are included and the summary of current ESL research in the back. Teachers have been responding very favorably to the book so far! I think some of it has been the structure of the book, but some has been the way we are using it in professional development. We have been doing activities with different chapters of the book so teachers dont feel like they have to go and immediately read the whole thing. This has eased their stress about taking the time to read it all before they begin co-teaching. Instead we can use it as a guidebook to help us along the journey.  

Honigsfeld and Dove have struck a productive stance of not only explaining why and how co-teaching is effective, but also providing voices from the fieldboth ESL and mainstream teacher perspectiveand grounding the work in succinct, accessible summaries of current, reputable scholarship.

When asked what each member of the leadership team hopes is next from Honigsfeld and Dove, Adam replied that he would like more specific, detailed support on co-teaching for ESL teachers assigned to multiple schools. Sarah added that she would like to see new approaches developed for ESL instructional coaches. Jessica believes Honigsfeld and Dove should next investigate what is possible when all exceptional learner support educators (e.g., special education, ESL, and Title I interventionists) and their mainstream colleagues are trained in collaboration and co-teaching.  

Although Meg believes future work could be done to support secondary teacher collaboration, specifically at the high school level, where ESL and mainstream teachers rarely have shared planning times, she is optimistic about what she sees happening in IPS alreadythe secondary ESL co-teachers are excited about the book. I have offered to provide more copies for these teachers to share with their co-teachers. Right now, they are using the book to help support their desire to become true co-teachers rather than just helpers in the room. Its a slow process, but the book is helping them get more traction.

And this recognition that true growth is slow and requires a patient commitment to allowing teachers the time and space in which to learn from research and from one another encapsulates what I most appreciate about Honigsfeld and Doves contribution to the ESL field.  While others have sought the ever-elusive (and non-existent) silver bullet to fix both ELLs and their teachers, Honigsfeld and Dove have assembled resources carefully designed to allow local groups to make meaning of their own practice in light of their specific local needs and opportunities.  

Adam provides here a good summary of the strengths and efficacy of Collaborating and Co-Teaching:

Our on-going professional development (PD) series on co-teaching that uses Collaborating and Co-Teaching has been an open invitation to IPS teachers who would be co-teachingboth ESL and mainstream teachers. We encouraged ESL teachers to bring a general education teacher along with them in order to strongly take hold of the endeavor. We have had close to 100 teachers representing a variety of teachers across the district from different grade levels and roles attend at least one PD session. Honigsfeld and Dove address many of the challenges faced in the isolation of ESL teachers and students and provide the research and methodology behind why collaboration is necessary to bridge that gap between ESL and general education. Most importantly, of all of the different resources available, Collaborating and Co-Teaching was one of the few books to explicitly cite the effectiveness of co-teaching for the benefit of English learners.  

Indeed, this work draws deeply on scholarship from within and from beyond the field of ESL scholarship, acknowledging the approaches that will benefit all students but never losing sight of its focus on ELLs as the center of the effort.  

In 2015, Honigsfeld and Dove released a new companion book, Collaborating and Co-Teaching for English Learners: A Leaders Guide, which the IPS leadership team has already begun sharing with district leaders so that they can provide building-level encouragement and support for effective co-teaching. The Leaders Guide familiarizes building and district leaders with the fundamentals of ESL program development, implications of the most relevant and current research on teaching ELLs, ideas for leading activities that allow teachers to improve instruction through co-teaching, and sage advice collected from school leaders who have already begun supporting their faculty as teachers transition into new approaches, roles, and working relationships.

This is no cookbook, nor is it a roadmap. This book will not tell you how to quickly get ELLs passing your states assessment or how to move them more rapidly into grade-level English proficiency. Rather, Collaborating and Co-Teaching is a framework that not only helps ESL and mainstream teachers make collaboration and co-teaching decisions based upon current research and exemplary practices of other teacher professionals, but also encourages them to rigorously investigate local outcomes through lively, relevant teacher action research. This collegial approach and confidence in teacher capacity is indeed refreshing at a time in which teaching scripts and teacher fixing are de rigueur. Collaborating and Co-Teaching should serve as a deep resource and as the focus of professional learning communities in every school where ELLs are enrolled, whether in large numbers or in small populations.

NOTE: Many thanks to Jessica Feeser, Meg Troxel, Sarah Hutchinson, and Adam Pitt from Indianapolis Public Schools for their generous contributions to this review.


Cook, L., & Friend, M. (1995). Co-teaching: Guidelines for creating effective practices. Focus on Exceptional Children, 28(3), 116.

Echevarria, J., Vogt, M., & Short, D. J. (2008). Making content comprehensible for English learners: The SIOP model (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Honigsfeld, A., & Dove, M.  (2007). The power of two: Lesson study and SIOP help teachers instruct ELLs. Journal of Staff Development, 29(1), 2428.

Honigsfeld, A., & Dove, M. G. (2010). Collaborating and co-teaching: Strategies for English learners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Honigsfeld, A., & Dove, M. G. (2015). Collaboration and co-teaching for English learners: A leader's guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 12, 2016
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 19292, Date Accessed: 10/18/2021 10:32:03 AM

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About the Author
  • Susan Adams
    Butler University
    E-mail Author
    SUSAN R. ADAMS, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Middle/Secondary Education in the College of Education at Butler University. A former secondary ESL teacher and instructional coach, Susan's research interests include race, critical pedagogies, and equitable access to the curriculum and to academic success for all students. Susan is currently Editor of the INTESOL Journal. Her publications are included in Theory into Practice, English Journal, SAGE Sociology of Education, EBSCO Research Starters, The Brock Education Journal, Writing and Pedagogy, AILACTE Journal, Critical Literacy: Theories and Practices, and The New Educator. She is co-author with Jamie Buffington-Adams of a forthcoming book, Teachers Getting Real on Race and Education: Inside Job, scheduled to be published in 2016 by Lexington Books as part of Roland W. Mitchell and Kenneth J. Fasching-Varner's series, Race and Education.
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