Avoiding Co-Teaching Conflicts

Recommendation 1: Common Ways of Addressing Conflict with Definitions and Examples 



Co-Teaching Example


Think about what will happen, the consequence, if you allow a situation to remain unacknowledged. Are the consequences minor or major; how will they impact the co-teaching relationship? 

Erika frequently joked with students during the first few minutes of class, which upset Woody, who perceived this behavior as unnecessary and a complete waste of time. After reflecting on Erika’s behavior, Woody realized that joking with students actually produced a positive classroom environment and that the payoff was worth a few minutes of silliness


If the same teacher always accommodates, an uneven power situation may emerge Accommodate when maintaining the relationship outweighs other considerations, the issue is not critical, time is limited, or interpersonal harmony and stability are valued more than the issue.

Even though Paula wanted to start class with a video clip, she agreed with Laura’s idea of starting class with a role-play; similarly, even though Laura wanted to use an anticipation guide, she agreed to use guided notes, which was Paula’s suggestion.


Although commonly used, compromise is often a lose–lose situation as neither teacher gets what she or he really wants Compromise when individuals are equal in power and have strong interests in different solutions  or when important issues have no clear or simple solutions.

Because she wanted to assess students’ ability to apply their newly learned essay-writing strategy, Julie wanted to develop an essay test, but Greg wanted to use a multiple choice test to save time on grading because grades were due Friday. The team agreed to a test containing multiple choice items and one short answer question in which students could apply part of their writing strategy.


This can be a win–win situation, especially if both teachers openly express their needs and are willing to be creative (Copley, 2008) Collaborate when maintaining the relationship is important, time is not a concern, or when it is important to merge differing perspectives.

Jeff wanted to use a class period to teach students how to use their homework planner, but Sarah thought this was not an effective use of instructional time. The team decided to develop an instructional video clip on using planners, place the clip on their website, and have students study the clip as a homework assignment.


Seldom effective in co-teaching but may be needed if multiple reminders have been unsuccessful, or if student achievement or behavior is deteriorating Use forcing cautiously and only when personal differences are difficult to change, fostering supportive relationships is not critical, the partner may take advantage of noncompetitive behavior, a decision must be made, or unpopular decisions need to be implemented.

Toni stopped attending agreed upon co-planning meetings with Lynette, even when Lynette agreed to meet at other times and use other co-planning formats that Toni suggested. Finally, Lynette e-mailed Toni (and copied the administrator) and indicated that the lesson plan would be submitted on time to the administrator with or without Toni’s contribution.

Recommendation 2: Dos and Don’ts for Handling Co-Teaching Conflict



Consider whether the issue is the result of a misunderstanding or if there is a credible reason for concern.

Act out of anger or hurt.

Speak with your co-teaching partner during a time that has been specifically set-aside for conversation. (Conderman, Johnston-Rodriguez, et al., 2009)

Confront/ambush your co-teacher. Do not share confidential information with others, take part in gossip, or speak unprofessionally about your co-teaching partner.

Use non-confrontational communication techniques when speaking to your partner about your concern (Conderman, Johnston-Rodriguez, et al., 2009b). 

Be accusatory in your language, take a defensive body stance, wave your arms or point your finger while talking to your partner. 

Remain committed to the present issue. 

Focus on personalities, the past, or other non-related issues.

Choose the most appropriate conflict approach for the situation and the style and needs of your partner (Conderman, Johnston-Rodriguez, et al., 2009)

Avoid all conflict or use the same approach for every situation

Listen and use a calm voice when someone shares a concern with you and acknowledge what has been said (Dettmer et al., 2009)

Get defensive when someone shares their concerns with you; say “Calm down”; tell the person how they should behave or feel (Dettmer et al., 2009)

Ask, “How can we move forward together?"

Exit the situation without closure

Brainstorm for possible solutions. Make a list of non-negotiable terms but also make a list of resolutions that you consider acceptable.

Be unwilling to compromise

When feelings are strong, deal with the emotional aspects of conflict first (Bolton, 1979)

Ignore the feelings of your partner and rush to a solution

Select solutions that will best meet both teacher’s needs (Bolton, 1979)

Quickly and forcefully note the personal advantages of your suggestions.

Agree on a written plan with outcomes and dates for accountability 

Rely on your memory for details of the plan

Evaluate the plan 

Be satisfied with sharing your feelings and discussing options

Thank your partner listening to your concerns. Come to terms that things may not change or may change slowly. Your conversation with your partner may have little-to-no impact.

Just because you brought matters to your partner's attention, that doesn't mean that she will take anything you say into consideration. Don't take it personally. 


Conderman, G., Bresnahan, V., & Pedersen, T. (2009). Purposeful co-teaching: Real cases and effective strategies

Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Conderman, G., Johnston-Rodriguez, S., & Hartman, P. (2009). Communicating

and collaborating in co-taught classrooms. TEACHING Exceptional Children Plus, 5(5). Retrieved 

from http://escholarship.bc.edu/education/tecplus/vol5/iss5/art3

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